Taking the lead: Working with & directing ensembles

Today I went along to the first of two MusicLeader London training sessions “Taking the lead – working with and directing ensembles”. It was lead by internationally renown community musician Phil Mullen. I had a really good time meeting new people and learning how to better focus my delivery skills in this area.

Phil’s delivery style is every now and again like being taken on a fun, magical mystery tour – a structured whirlwind where you are thrown around his stream of consciousness, picking up loads of food for thought and useful ‘good practice’ models.

We started with ensemble theory/philosophy via an organic approach; we discussed and reported back one of our most memorable bands, what it was that made them so appealing. Drawing from our feedback we were left to discuss 4 main themes that emerged, glue – the special, tangible ingredient that makes a group seem to play with what seems to be total oneness. Second was passion and energy, followed by balance and then diversity of ideas.

After a morning full of theory, soul searching and much laughter we spent most of the afternoon music making – exploring pulse and time keeping through various fun activities. Clapping games, a kind of pulse tennis and I think it’s called ‘hocketing’ but I am probably wrong. Basically it’s where you dissect a song up and each individual in the group sings a word/syllable in time. Imagine singing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ with your mates, individually taking it in turns to sing a note of the song, but adhering to the correct timing of the piece. Kind of like this:
A: Twin

We also took it in turns to give instructions to the group in a foreign or nonsensical language. The aim was to work on body language and other means of expression to best communicate our set instructions. We also conducted the group relying on riffs and memory. I was able to work on giving clear hand instructions.

I had a great time – but am seriously shattered!! Time to end here and pass out. More next week!

Have your say! The Music Igniter Final Round-up session

Today was the final Music Igniter session. It was a chance for everyone to share the projects they had delivered, discuss the processes and whether the guinea-pig test worked; if you put 10 teachers and 10 community musicians together and ask them to work towards creating innovative, fun, successful fun projects- does it work?

The answer was yes- and even more so if there is proper support from the school.

Nearly all the projects had a few issues, be them organisational ones, staffing or equipment related, but regardless of any problems faced, each group was able to get good results and had young people making music and having fun.

It was interesting to observe that after a lot of work had gone into breaking down tribes- after months apart, (most, not all) teachers instinctively sat together and likewise with the music practitioners. I found myself very guilty here! When we first started the course, Phil Mullen (lead trainer) went to great measures to break down these barriers and there were changes for the first couple of months thanks to music making, bonding etc. Old habits die hard.

I love meeting up with musicians working in the education field- there is always so much to learn and share, and it makes me sad that these things don’t happen enough. I wish there were more opportunities…

I really enjoyed seeing the documentation of a special needs project that happened in Stoke- Steve had brilliantly used wii remotes and wired them to Ableton live so that young people with even the most limited of movement could be musical! Impressive!

I learn’t about the future of Creative Partnerships– that the Change School Programme has been launched and will focus on smaller scale projects focuses on creativity:

“The Change Schools programme is one of three new Creative Partnerships School Programmes, which will be launched in 2008. It will enable schools to enter into a 3-year partnership arrangement (1-3 years for schools already involved with Creative Partnerships) that can radically transform the ways in which the school operates, placing creativity at the heart of its ethos and operation”.

I wish all Music Ignitees well with their futures! Best of luck!