In my last blog, I detailed my visit to the Resonaari Music Center in Helsinki where Figurenotes was created. This innovative approach to reading music, originally created for people with special needs, has since helped all beginning music students participate in music-making immediately. After establishing this foundation of music using concrete color shapes, students can transition to reading traditional notation. I was fortunate to take a Figurenotes teacher training at Drake Music Scotland, which is an arts organization with "expertise in inclusive music technology and specialist teaching methods (that) support people of all ages and a wide range of disabilities to play, learn and compose music independently." During this one-day training I experienced firsthand how Figurenotes helped me play a new instrument (the electric bass), compose music inspired by a piece of artwork, and perform music in a band. Below is an example of how Figurenotes attaches color to note names for piano (middle C) and violin (1st position). Shapes represent a particular octave.
Drake Music Scotland (DMS) is not only inclusive in its approach, but also in the way it shares resources. There are many resources on their website including how to use Figurenotes to play rhythms, chords, sharps and flats, and progression to traditional notation in three simple stages. They also have video tutorials like the one below, which I plan to use in my classroom next year. It uses movement and Figurenotes as a way for young children to create their own compositions collaboratively.
As part of the teacher training, we worked in groups to create a composition based upon an art print. The prints incorporated either Figurenote colors or black and white so that we had the option of coloring those prints with Figurenote colors. Our group chose the one with red, blue, and brown bands of color with splotches of black on top. We decided to "read" the print from left to right (yellow, brown, blue, brown, red) and from foreground to background with the black splotches represented in various ways throughout the piece, including the beginning and end (hint: listen to the maraca). See if you can hear the colors of our composition, which included our Figurenote colors: C, D, F, G, A.
DMS also shared with us online resources for purchase: Figurenotes for classical music, folk tunes, Christmas carols, and early years, as well as a yearly subscription to Figurenotes software, which allows teachers to adapt all of their teaching material to include Figurenotes Stages 1 and 2. There is even a Resource Base, which contains a library full of tunes, worksheets, lesson plans, and creative resources.
And finally, DMS is partnering with BBC Ten Pieces: an extraordinary contribution to music education in the UK and classical world. The motivation behind BBC Ten Pieces is to get students excited about classical music. BBC selected ten works from every era and created free resources for teachers to use in their classrooms including film, lesson plans, workshops and other creative resources. They also commissioned a new piece for each one of their Ten Pieces sets: early years, primary, secondary, and special needs. Kerry Andrew, a British composer, was commissioned to write, No Place Like, which celebrates what home means through words submitted by children from across the UK. Most of the BBC Ten Pieces resources are only available to teachers in the UK, but important to mention in hopes that something like this can make its way to the United States.
As part of its partnership with BBC, Drake Music Scotland created Figurenotes for several of these BBC pieces. Thank you, Drake Music Scotland, for introducing me to so many incredible teaching approaches, resources and organizations. You truly embody the word inclusion. I know I have only touched the surface of all that you do, but am looking forward to seeing some DMS programs in action in May. I plan to dedicate a future blog to your programs and the inclusive music technology that you use.
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.