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.
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.