Workshopped Out

Been delivering a fair amount of workshops this term, as well as being busy running new promotion Rea River Soul, last venture was a success, lots of great feedback – woop! The promotion game is a tiring one when you’re work full time, most of us do and I shan’t complain!  Continue reading “Workshopped Out”

The Waiting Room

Harborne Academy‘s waiting room transformed:

We faced several drawbacks, people not understanding the ideas of our transformed space, (especially older groups), some said there was not enough seating, some didn’t like it, but we quickly we addressed their concerns, and resolved any issues.  Continue reading “The Waiting Room”

Music tech-ing

After a fairly quiet summer, I am back on the hustle in the community music world. I am delivering music tech workshops for All Change and Create Arts in Islington and Camden which promises to be challenging and fun.

The All Change project is called ‘Fast Forward’, working with young people living in Islington estates, as with most All Change projects, is cross-artform, and in this instance has a heavy dance slant. There shall be an end performance at Sadler’s Wells in March.

I shall be working with young carers in Islington re the Create Arts projects – using music technology and poems written with a spoken word artist to explore the theme of aspirations. Watch this space!!

Down Your Way Planning

Today I went to Castle Vale to start planning the ‘Down Your Way’ project with Dave (artistic director), Ian, Nicola (our coordinator) and Chris. It was really nice to be in a space where we could share and trial exercises for our workshops, this was the first time I had completed such an exercise with an arts organisation in a professional (as opposed to training) setting- it is so vital, I had so much fun and learned loads!

I hadn’t been to Castle Vale for years and was amazed at the regeneration that had transformed it from a run down, sometimes intimidating, extensive tower block estate to a friendly, positive, community oriented area. There were lots of green spaces, colourful buildings, most tower blocks knocked down! It was such an impressive transformation!

This project shall help provide a documentary of this remarkable journey, old and young shall come together- converse about the changes and turn some of the sound bites into music. I am working with a primary school and a local sheltered housing tower block for elderly residents.

I brought to the table a couple of exercises enabling Key Stage 2 (primary school students) to confidently turn there sound bites into rhythms. I received some crucial feedback!

The exercises intend to make young people aware of pulse and rhythm and then rhythm in songs and words. In the end, after a fair bout of trial and error and lots of friendly advice, this format appears to be quite suitable;

We are sat in a circle and:

  • we use our feet for the pulse and instruments for rhythms
  • we work in a time signature of 4/4 and 2 bar phrases
  • the first bar is for a set rhythm and the second silent
  • the second bar gradually becomes an improvisational space
  • we use the space to make up our own rhythm
  • easy peasy

Second exercise:

  • we singing a catchy song as a group and then in a round
  • we then dissect it into separate rhythmical phrases
  • each group sings a phrase and the workshop leader orchestrates entry/exits

You can do this with any nursery rhyme. Each group can sing a short phrase-with the same pitch/melodic phrasing but the entry can be on whatever beat of the bar you choose.

Model what I want:

  • use a random phrase like “Digbeth has no trees’
  • get pulse going
  • model how it can be turned into a rhythm and drill
  • then ask group when ready to contribute other ways in which the phrase can be said rhythmically

Cognitive task:

  • split group into smaller ones
  • they chose their favourite phrases
  • using the same technique create rhythms out of the phrases

Sharing time and lots of praise 😉

Here are our ugly mugs:

Down Your Way

I have been invited to work as one of 3 lead artists for a Sound it Out project called ‘Down Your Way’. We’re in the preliminary stages at the moment and will have a planning session this week. I was keen to sign up because of it being an intergenerational heritage and music project. I think it’s important for young and old to be able to interact with one another regularly, especially creatively because both parties have important skills, experiences and perspectives to share.

During this project participants will collect and research the history of Castle Vale and work them into a musical performance of some sort.

One of the tasks I have been set is to create exercises that allow interview material to be turned into melodic ideas. I am pondering over ways to turn words, text and oral history into musical phrases. How can I do this in a fun, engaging manner? Well, I am not sure as of yet, still mind mapping ideas and outlining problems. I shall post my findings.

I also came across an excellent blog by an Ozzie chap lady called ‘G‘. It has some cool resources for any music education practitioners and has inspired me to share more workshop ideas.

CBSO Planets Creative Project

I have been working with students from Holyhead School over the last 2 weeks to compose songs inspired by Holst’s The Planets. All students went to a CBSO performance of it a few weeks ago, this was our composition stimuli. At the start of the workshops I gave participants the option to compose about planets in our solar system or make up a completely fictional one.

All opted for the later but two groups kept the astronomical names. We had some truly imaginative creations. The most popular planet was Venus- turned into a romantic, mystical place, other creations were Blue -Ray, Stardust and Stardonia. I shall upload music next week.

It was truly an educational experience, I have always wanted to work with the CBSO, I joined the CBSO Youth Chorus when it first formed and was always blown away when taking part in colossal works by great classical composers such as Mahler, Britten and Orff . Being a part of such a prestigious and virtuous music group inspired me to practice several hours a day; I wanted to be a classical musician during most of my teenage-hood.

It has been great working with an orchestral member and having the guidance and support from someone who performs on a regular basis. Mark Goodchild helped guide the young people through performance skills and tricks of the professional trade.

We were also given the task of mentoring local primary school students; we had an intense 6 hr day to bond, pass on skills and get everyone’s performances ready for the big day at Town Hall. We are going to showcase our work this Wednesday 18th June- 6:30pm- how exciting!!

I have to give a big mention to Ms.Georgiou who was instrumental in the coordination of the project and dived straight in! She helped the students with their pieces as best she could and was a really positive force. I have delivered a fair amount of workshops- (well I think), and teacher’s attitude towards them differs quite a lot!! Sometimes gentle coercion of support staff sees them getting stuck in and having a laugh, yet unfortunately it can result in some busy bees lurking further at the back of the room/catching up with work; which is a real shame.

It’s always good for students to see their teachers getting involved and having fun. It inspires confidence and motivates. Some students may even think to themselves: “Well, if my teacher is prepared to look a tool, well maybe I might then….”

Birmingham Jazz Youth Sessions

This weekend I have been working with lovely students from Hamstead Hall School to compose, arrange and perform an original piece of music. It had a fusion of reggae, bashment and jazz.

Most students had never played in a band before so were pretty nervous- but everyone did a great job- although I fluffed some of my directing cues- whops!!

Many thanks to Head of music Mr. Rogers for all his support!

I really enjoyed the big band sessions at the end- effortlessly directed and shaped by composer Sid Peacock! There were some really amazing, big sounds!!

Beatheadz Project @ Symphony Hall

So the project has rapidly drawn to a close and I feel quite sad. The young people I worked with were really lovely and I got goose pimples listening to the tracks they produced in such a short space of time.

Some of my favourites:

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and a

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We also had a visit from MP Kevin Brennan who went round talking and listening to tracks written by participants. He discussed beat making, the benefits of music projects and disclosed how he uses Garageband at home. He spent a couple of minutes having a muck around with apple loops on Logic and

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In just 4 hrs we managed to get all our tracks composed, burnt on to disk and some friendships were made. What a lovely day again! I should be getting a copy of the radio BBC WM interview that was taken and will upload it shortly.

Many thanks to Joy, Jamo, Dan and Liv for all their help!

Spring Sunshine and Happy Beat Making

I had a really lovely time making beats at THSH with some lovely teenagers this morning. I am running two intensive music tech/songwriting sessions for Birmingham City Council and so far it has been great fun!

I was really impressed by the speed in which participants were able to use new music software; most had never used Imacs before.

It’s such a lovely day today! I hope you manage to enjoy the sunshine wherever you are.

Gigbeth Music Project Oct ’07

I have been working on a music project organised by (Learning Skills Council funded) Gigbeth festival. We are assisting young Brummies with music compositions that are to be showcased in the opening ceremony on Digbeth High St- 1st November. We were set the task of producing a quality end product, preferably several in just 4 days! It has gone by super fast and really well! I have been buzzing off the local talent that have wowed us all with their musical finesse and great attitude. Everyone did well 🙂

Hopefully I will have some videos and mp3s that you can upload in the next couple of days.

Summer Beats- Hardly Any Sunshine

Been really busy of late delivering summer music workshops. It has been intense, and after a rockyish start, things have gone well. The outcomes have been produced and there have been some participants who have said complimentary things I wish were recorded. Speed garage is the genre of the day, from rock band compositions to young North Birmingham youth spitting on top of urban beats. The aim was to spend the first half of the week doing practical based workshops that explored black and urban styles and then later using the skills learnt to enhance musical compositions using music tech. The centre we are working with has a lovely studio setup with a recording booth. The problem is everyone wants to use the main G5 mac and not the other PCs becausd they did not have badass monitors.

It is funny how certain games that you think might not be fun for self conscious teenagers actually work- if you can sell it properly. The ‘Sun Shines On….’- proved to be a winner, as well as ‘Alien’- a truly silly game.

Enjoying what I am doing, but exhausted from having to continually motivate young people- I suppose that’s the job of any parent or teacher. My brain is drained.

I am thinking of bigger and better projects fusing together two musical industries that I am passionate about- classical and urban. I have a couple of ideas up my sleeve but will reveal them only when they take form. This sounds a lot more mysterious than it actually is.

Waverley School Chinese Music Workshop 29.03.07

I did my first secondary school workshop since passing my Flying Start course. It was interesting, challenging and good fun!!

I did a lot of things that I shouldn’t have: not given enough ground rules about using instruments etc. I did manage to get quite a few things right. I learned about classroom management, how challenging it can be to handle a class of rowdy teenagers and the pressures of trying to get things done within a very tight time limit. I also had do a lot of improvising, stuck around later than I was meant to, become music director and so forth. I was shattered by the end.

I did achieve most of my objectives; I got 20 key stage 3 students to write a piece of music based on Chinese harmonies and melodies, and after gallons of sweat poured manged to produce after 3 hours a piece presentable for 400 people to watch!

Many thanks are needed for the support and advice from music teacher Catherine Broadway for her support and help!

Ice-breaker DJing Workshop West Bromwich


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Originally uploaded by Bobbalinhot.

Today I worked for DynamicsArts for the first time! It was a great experience working with young mothers, trying to build self-esteem and have fun with the decks!

I managed to get some ladies to have a mess around with the technics and it was lovely to see big happy smiles on participant’s faces, hear exclamations of ‘Wicked!!’ from Lindsey and have loads of fun working!!

I also learned first hand the grievances and difficulties many young mothers have to go through; be it the judging glares of the public, the media stating that all young mothers decide to have children in order to get council housing and how quite often they are treated badly by midwives; which is absolutely appalling! I was astounded by how wise and mature some of the younger mothers were. One mother, aged around 12/13 gave excellent advice to new parents. The way she spoke exuded more common sense than some 20 somethings I know…

Some of the points that were brought up were:

1. Young people prefer people their own age to educate them about sex and parenting.

2. Leaflets about breasting feeding could never substitute a demonstration or discussion.

3. More information about getting back into education and professional development needed.

I hope to do more workshops that involve this sector. I would love to help young people of all walks of life express and help themselves through music.

Still don’t have a business card and have been asked several times for one; twice today!! I need to get this sorted quick smart!