can’t do it… Really?

A minor frustration I have with my private piano teaching is that there is a tendency for children to automatically say ‘I can’t’ before they have even tried! I know this is nothing new – my year 6 teacher banned my class from saying ‘I can’t’ and I remember him repeating the phrase ‘there’s no such word as can’t’ (which, I must admit, was quite misleading to a ten year old…) However, I find it frustrating when my students say it as it is such a destructive attitude to have! It really hinders many aspects of music, from exploration of the music right up to performance in front of people. And, generally speaking, they CAN! In the worst cases, the ‘I can’t’ syndrome even occurs when looking at music already learnt!

So I am looking to develop ways to tackle the issue – a lot of the way I teach is based around relationship with the child, mostly involving humour, so I am finding by using humour to diffuse a potential ‘can’t’ situation it can move the child into just having a go, without worrying too much whether it is right or wrong… Let’s see how it develops!

Summer School, Summer Cold, Summer Riots…

Sitting here coughing and sneezing over my computer… ridiculous summer cold, no idea where that came from, but it’s very annoying!

A couple of weeks ago I went as a ‘runner’ to the Sound and Music Summer School which was brilliant. I spent the week shadowing the excellent David Horne as he taught composition to 16 14-18 year olds. It was pretty awesome – some of the young people were amazingly talented and it was brilliant to be helping further their ideas. Some of these guys will go on to do great stuff! The summer school is a great opportunity to explore composing, and the young people were so so dedicated to the task, with many of them skipping their free time to continue composing! I had to force some of them to take tea-breaks…

In other, more sobering news, riots this past week have affected so many of us in this country, whether directly or indirectly. It saddens me  to hear the politicians harp on about tougher policing but not seeming to address the root causes of these problems – social injustice, poverty, hopelessness… Being tough on crime is not a long term solution and it would be nice to hear some politicians stand up and say as much!

Anyway, back to music… a few things to be working on at the moment – I’m writing an aria for Music Theatre Wales, Welsh National Opera and BCMG‘s Make an Aria project. Also writing some music to be performed with futuresonic at Birmingham’s Artsfest on 10th and 11th September. And trying to finish off my piece for children’s theatre and dance with Springs Dance Company premiering at Epsom Playhouse on 17th September. So busy busy busy!!!

Feel the Buzz with BCMG

This Sunday was the second part of a two-day composing workshop I was doing with BCMG called Feel the Buzz. Its a workshop for 14-18 year olds and the format is a kind of collaborative composing/improvising together approach. Jackie Walduck was leading with BCMG musicians and she used a kind of 1-page score technique which the young people fleshed out collaboratively. All based around the nOSTalgie Cabaret BCMG are doing in May.

We were drawing parallels between the past and present, so one piece we did was based on Mack the Knife (the words in that songs are really quite horrific – check them out!) and another was on 21st Century Pirates! Nice!

There was a final performance of all the music produced on Sunday evening and it was great! It was really nice to see young people all working creatively together and having input into the final pieces. And whatever Birmingham City Council think about BCMG, this project engaged an incredibly diverse group of young people from many different backgrounds.

Unfortunately due to cuts, Birmingham Music Service (who have generously funded this project for the last 10 years!) are unable to continue funding it next year, although they really want to! So it means BCMG are going to have to find to some money from somewhere to keep it going. Really hope it doesn’t stop because I think it is a brilliant project.

So What? Sound it Out training day

Went on a one-day Sound it Out event on Saturday which was pretty good – nice to catch up with people from Sound It Out and the New Horizons course I did last year. Although Mark Bick started the day on a depressing note about cuts to the arts, things did pick up and he did talk say that there could be new opportunities for Community Musicians – if the ‘Big Society’ idea actually begins to work…

There was also a great talk on Social Pedagogy and the role that community musicians can play with regard to this – I can really see how music can play a real role not just in education but also it has a real social impact, being a way in which communication barriers can be broken down.

Then Bobbie Gardner gave a brief but helpful talk on social media and its role for community musicians – just wish there had been more time on that – its tricky to fit it all in in 30 mins!

And of course there was the traditional sharing of warm-ups / activities which is always enjoyable!!!!! Winner!

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