After attending the Musical Futures DJ Skills workshop at Fred Longworth High School, I stayed an extra day to observe the music classes at this Musical Futures Champions School. As soon as I walked into the music wing of the school, it was clear that musick-making is part of the school's ethos and students' identities. Photos of Fred Longworth students accompanied by inspiring quotes like these are hung throughout the school:
Three of the young gentlemen (posing in the photo below) enthusiastically shared many of the music classes that Fred Longworth offers: Find Your Voice, Just Play, Band Skills, Production, Songwriting, Film Music, Live Lounge, Music Performance, GCSE Music and DJ Skills. These boys are also part of a band that practices during lunch.
There is a purposeful buzz in the music rooms and practice rooms before, during and after school. Students want to be here and enjoy working on their projects whether it be songwriting, recreating a song of their choice, practicing an instrument or working on a digital audio workstation. A lot goes on in the different music rooms and practices rooms!
Clearly the staff here are a tour de force with Martin Ainscough, the Director of Creative Learning and Director of Musical Futures leading the arts faculty along with Helen Robinson, Head of Music, and Lucy Dalton. Their integration of new music technologies (and old) help students work independently, collaboratively and confidently both in the classroom and from home. A FREE social music platform that Fred Longwroth uses is BandLab, which enables students to make music and share the creative process with others. All of Martin's music modules have an online component, including success criteria, Youtube videos, and instructional videos that he has created. Martin also has helped create two new Musical Futures workshops: DJ Skills and Abelton Live.
To help students gain confidence, the music team at Fred Longworth encourages students to explore their voices through motivating and collaborative projects. For example, students work in small groups to build soundscapes using their voices, found sounds and digital sounds to create a setting or environment that the other students try to identify. They also create soundtracks to short video clips and explore how film soundtracks can change the mood of a piece. Fugu is used throughout UK music production classes. The audio is deleted and students are asked to create their own soundtrack to accompany it.
The class is then tasked to recreate the backing tracks to popular songs using the Musical Futures Find Your Voice resources, which is packed with so many wonderful videos and engaging practices that I had to dedicate a separate blog to it. Students at Fred Longworth High School, a Musical Futures Champion School, use Loopy, Acappella and Garageband to create their own vocal back-ups, using only their voices. Martin shared some video clips that show these apps in action and engage kids.
Finally students progress to working in rock bands comprising of drums, keys, bass guitar, guitar and vocals. This leads to a performance on stage in front of the class in a ‘Battle of the Bands’ context. Here is a group rehearsing in one of the practice rooms.
As a thank you to the young gentlemen who welcomed me in the morning and invited me to sit-in on their lunch band practice, I gave each an Alaskan flag pin and shared the story behind the flag's design and its creator, Benny Benson. The band responded with a video postcard to my students and home state of Alaska. I hope this will be the start of an ongoing video dialogue with the students at Fred Longworth and Glacier Valley Elementary School. Here's that they had to say:
In fact, Fred Longworth and its students are so passionate about the arts as part of their school curriculum that they created this film called Where Did All the Art Go? to advocate for the arts as school funding, English Baccalaureate and Progress 8 performance requirements squeeze out school music and arts programs. Here is the link to the long version of Where Did All the Art Go?
Thank you to the entire Fred Longworth High School community for welcoming me so warmly into their school, sharing their music programs and student voices so openly and teaching me how to make a proper cup of tea! My cup runneth over with so many inspiring ideas to take back with me. It's exciting to think of Glacier Valley becoming a Musical Futures Champion School someday.
As part of the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching program, a faculty advisor from my host university, the University of Strathclyde, was selected to serve as my main point of contact, provide feedback and guidance throughout my Fulbright tenure, and connect me with people and resources who can help me with my Inquiry Project. Paul Wickham, Music Teaching Fellow at Strathclyde, has been that mentor and good friend to me!
Paul was a secondary music teacher on secondment, which means he had been released from his secondary school teaching duties for two years to teach music courses for Strathclydeʼs music education teacher program. This arrangement allows school teachers to bring practical experience and application to college courses, while giving time for them to engage in scholarly work before returning to their school assignment. Through this arrangement, both institutions and their students can benefit. Paul has been such an asset to the University of Strathclyde and beloved by his university students that he was offered a full-time position at the University, which began shortly before this April.
I have had the honor of participating in his Professional Graduate Degree in Education (PGDE) courses in music and have witnessed the support he provides his students, the rapport he has established with them, the varied, well-organized and practical music approaches he provides and his incredible sense of humor! In particular, I would like to share his presentation on Creativity as part of the national curriculum for Scottish schools, the Curriculum for Excellence. The resources that he provided as part of his presentation opened a wealth of documents and tools that I can use in my classroom back in Juneau, Alaska. I know I have just touched the surface on all that the Scottish government has produced to support Creativity in all aspects of a childʼs education, but will highlight some here.
The Education of Scotland has defined " Creativity is a process which generates ideas that have value to the individual. It involves looking at familiar things with a fresh eye, examining problems with an open mind, making connections, learning from mistakes and using imagination to explore new possibilities" (p. 3).
In particular, educators are tasked to develop these creativity skills throughout all areas of the curriculum:
Education Scotland draws a clear distinction between creativity skills, creative process, creative learning and creative teaching, which is an indicator of how highly creativity is valued by the Scottish government. These definitions, along with a wealth of other information related to creativity in the Scottish education system, can be found in the document below: Creativity Across Learning 3- 18. Just click on the image to access the document.
According to Ruth Wishart, Chair of the Creative Learning Plan Strategic Group, "The ambitious aim is to allow our young people to be the best they can be in a new curricular environment where innovation is cherished, change is embraced and we celebrate the fact that every child is a creative child" ~ (Creative Scotland p. 7).
Creative Learners will be:
Education Scotland has published many other tools and resources to help all individuals support the development of creativity in schools and society. For example, they have created an "Everything is Creative" infographic maker as an online digital tool for creating high quality creativity and improvement infographics, memes and posters, as well as published infographics to explain why creativity is integral to Curriculum for Excellence and improves outcomes for all learners. Here are two examples:
Education Scotland created a Creativity Portal, which houses creative online teaching tools, CPD resources, inspiration and examples of best teaching practices. Education Scotland also produced The Creativity Toybox, which contains 27 short videos and related activities that can be used to develop creative thinking skills in the classroom or community setting. Here is the introductory video:
Even though there are no CfE Benchmarks for creativity skills, Education Scotland references the City of Edinburgh’s 3-18 Creativity Skills Progression Framework to help inform educatorsʼ understanding and context of creativity skills as students progress through the grades. You can download this 2-page document at the bottom of the page found on this link where Education Scotland provides a host of resources to support educators in their planning for and evaluating creativity. Hereʼs the first page to give you an understanding of the commitment city councils have made to developing creativity and recognizing it as an important skill to address the challenges of globalization where Scotlandʼs economy must be based on creativity and constant innovation to be able to compete internationally.
The last resource, Education Creativity and Learning: what is the connection?, is a research document and thought piece by Paul Collard, Chief Executive of Creativity, Culture. Collard highlights distinctions between characteristic features of the "high functioning classroom" vs. the "low functioning classroom" and explains how schools involved in the Creative Partnerships program in England "showed that a student educated in a context in which they are an essential learning resource, and where mobility, emotion, team working and risk are central to the learning experience, is a student who is ‘high functioning’" (p. 4). Collard also stated that being a high-functioning child leads to resilience, confidence, sense of competency, autonomy and relatedness - all which underpin successful learning. I plan to keep this diagram by my school desk back in Juneau to ensure that I embed these characteristics in my lesson planning.
And finally, I would like to thank the PGDE Music Education cohort of 2019 and Paul Wickham for welcoming me into their community this year. I learned so much by taking classes alongside you and visiting you as part of your student teaching practicum. I wish you all the best of luck in your new music teaching positions next year. Your future students are fortunate to have you!
In February 2019, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the University of Strathclyde released a study, Whatʼs Going On Now? which details the state of music education and youth music-making in Scotland. The study incorporated both quantitative and qualitative methods, including case studies within the geographic areas of the Shetland Islands, North-East Glasgow, and Perth and Kinross.
The good news is that over 240,000 young people are involved in a year-long first experience of music through music the Youth Music Initiative, which was launched in response to the 2003 predecessor of this report, What’s Going On? At least 202,000 were involved in school-based programs ad 42,000 in out-of-school activity. The disparaging news is that the gap between the have and have-nots is widening. According to the report, "Despite a free state education system, 70% of students learning an instrument at school in Scotland contribute towards the costs of their lessons, adding to inequality of opportunity rather than helping solve the problems of inequity faced by successive governments" (p. 5).
In response to this disheartening news, two members of the research team, Alastair Wilson of University of Strathclyde, and Lio Moscardini of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, decided to conduct a mini-case study to provide the government models of successful school music programs that address both equity and sustainability challenges. One such program called Baby Strings resides in North-East Glasgow at four primary schools: Eastbank, Quarrie Brae, Thorntree and Wellshot Primary Schools. As part of this case study, Drs. Moscardini and Wilson invited me to join their team and conduct some of the interviews at these school sites. I enthusiastically accepted!
The Baby Strings program came about through the collaborative efforts of four head teachers who were tasked by Glasgow's Improvement Challenge to find innovative ways of raising attainment and achievement across the curriculum. Inspired by the social and academic impact of music programs like Big Noise and Feversham Primary School, respectively, and coupled with research linking music to cognitive development, the head teachers launched Baby Strings in January 2016. The programs is funded through several sources including governmental funds given to schools with a high percentage of students receiving free school meals, as well as the Pupil Equity Fund (PEF).
In partnership with Glasgow CREATE, the head teachers worked together to coordinate the schedules of the same visiting musicians to provide 45 to 60 minutes/week of string instruction in violin, viola and cello to every Primary 2 and 3 class. The Primary 1 classes receive 15 minutes/week of music literacy in preparation for the selection of a stringed instrument in Primary 2. Class size varies between 25 to 30 students. The classroom teacher plays a vital role in the string lessons by providing classroom management, pointing to the notation and leading another string session during the week to reinforce what was learned, which depending on the teacherʼs level of music confidence could include reviewing notes, rhythms and strings; singing songs and note names; and practicing taking the instrument in and out of the case. In doing so, both visiting musician and primary teacher receive embedded professional development, which helps with the sustainability of the program. Each string class also has two visiting musicians who often alternate between lead teaching roles.
Musicians Emma Pantel and Sophie Butler taught alongside primary teachers at Thorntree Primary School where written forms of notation and rhythm reading were a regular part of their class. They played recorded backtracks, which kept children engaged and gave teachers the freedom to move throughout the room and focus on individual technique. Here is a video I created from some of my observations and interviews at Thorntree.
Testimony like Alison Beattie was echoed by others whom I interviewed - whether head teacher, musician or primary teacher - the support for and commitment to Baby Strings are strong because of the impact they observe in student, parental and community engagement, self-confidence and raised aspirations, social-emotional learning and academic behaviors.
Emma Pantel was kind enough to share with me the method books they use at all four primary schools: Vamoosh! The repertoire, audio backtracks and graduated technique skills make these books highly engaging for kids. And the backtracks can be found on Spotify so that students can play along with them at home. Iʼm excited to integrate these books in our Juneau Alaska Music Matters (JAMM) program back in Juneau, Alaska.
Thank you, Lio Moscardini and Alastair Wilson, for providing me this research opportunity! You helped connect me to model music education programs and school communities, as well as contribute to meaningful research. Your passion for addressing issues of equality, inclusion, literacy and music education are inspiring. I truly appreciate your mentorship and friendship.
The Fulbright experience is all about expanding your horizons and trying out new ideas. I never thought Iʼd be taking a DJ Skills course, but every Musical Futures workshop I have taken so far has stretched me, given me practical ideas and resources to implement in my classroom, and provides relevant tools and repertoire that motivate and engage youth, while meeting music standards. This Musical Futures DJ Skills workshop was no exception. The description of the DJ Skills workshop on the Musical Futuresʼ website states, "Our Musical Futures: DJ Skills workshop is designed for teachers who are interested in developing their schemes of work to include DJ Skills at KS3 and KS4, but who have limited experience in this area and want to develop their confidence and knowledge of how to support their students and plan effective schemes of learning using this technology."
Tom Burford, a music technology teacher, musician, DJ and producer, co-led the course with Martin Ainscough, who is Director of Creative Learning at Fred Longworth High School, a Musical Futures (MF) Champion School. Together these two teachers created a hands-on course that was accessible for novices like me. The motto of Musical Futures is "For Teachers, By Teachers," and Iʼve seen it modeled in every course. Tomʼs and Martinʼs classroom experiences shown throughout the delivery of this course. Yes, believe it or not, I now know how to use a mixer, deck, jog wheel, filters, cue buttons, sync, manual and auto loops, sampler, and effects. I also learned the basics of purchasing equipment, mixing tracks with and without sync, sampling and looping. And as shameful as it may be, Martin and Tom enlightened me on the different genres of music that youth are listening to including disco, house, techno, UK garage, jungle, drum nʼ bass, dubstep, and grime. Some I know, but sadly many I wasnʼt able to identify until now. Finally, Tom walked us through the process of aligning DJ skills with the national music performance standards.
I had the good fortune of taking the same train back to Wigan North with Tom who explained how DJing is an incredible creative process and skill. Here are his main points:
At the end of this 1-day training, I came away fairly confident that I could lead children through the creative and technical skills of DJing. Interestingly the values that I experienced as an adult learning in every Music Futureʼs training is mirrored in the organizationʼs core values, which state that music learning should be:
Many thanks to Musical Futuresʼ Managing Director, Fran Hannan; Musical Futuresʼ Director, Martin Ainscough and all of the MF Teachers who embody so well the Musical Futuresʼ motto, "For Teachers, By Teacher. You have all provided me such rich, inspiring classroom-applicable training. I canʼt wait to share what Iʼve learned with the Juneau community!
After attending a Drake Music Scotland teacher training on Figurenotes, I was hooked! The work that Drake Music is doing in the field of creativity, inclusion and assistive music technology is pioneering. When I learned that Drake Music Scotland had launched the worldʼs first disabled youth orchestra in April 2016, I needed to check it out. Members of the Digital Orchestra create their own music using inclusive music technologies. The day I visited the orchestra, the musicians were exploring new Ableton Push 2 technology, so it wasnʼt a typical rehearsal day. What I did experience was my first entry into the tremendous world of inclusive music technology. Peter Sparkes, Artistic Director at Drake, is a joy to watch as he introduces new digital equipment and then encourages the musicians to try all of them out, including conducting. Before I share some of the tools they used, hereʼs a short documentary detailing Drakeʼs launching of the Digital Orchestra:
I came away from the session excited about learning more about assistive music technology and its creative and inclusive use in the classroom. Here are just a few of these digital tools:
And if youʼd like an extensive list of assistive technology, Drake Music shared this powerpoint in video format listing over 30 iPad apps, as well as a Short Guide to Accessible Music Education.
Both Drake Music Scotland and Drake Music house a host of resources on their websites to advocate and support teachers in the areas of inclusive music technologies and pedagogies and have Youtube channels featuring their work. Thank you, Drake Music and Drake Music Scotland, for sharing your work so generously and creating innovative technologies to ensure that all people have access to creative music making.
This is a personal blog, sharing my experiences living in the UK from January - June 2019 as a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching scholar. This blog is not an official site of the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State. The views expressed on this site are entirely my own and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State, or any of its partner organizations.