This year I am determined to make the performing part of AS music as relevant in the classroom as the set works. It’s so easy to send students off to work with their instrumental teachers to prepare pieces and simply step in to record them at the end. This is especially true in our position where our teaching hours for AS music have been cut from 5 to 3 per week. As a result, I am teaching composing before school 3 days per week and lessons are always an attempt to cover everything we need to in the time we have available!

We started by asking each student to sign up to SoundCloud and they post up performances they have done at home or with their teachers as they have them. Each week as a class we are marking one of these using the exam criteria with You Tube on hand for us to listen to a range of different interpretations. Examples go straight onto their blog so they can access their feedback straight away and share this with their instrumental teachers

Today we held our first performing Master Class and I discovered something I should probably have known already. Hiding amongst our instrumental teachers are some incredible musicians. Our master class today was led by our flute teacher who as well as being an an experienced performer also composes. We invited along flautists from year 9 and 10 to join our AS students. 4 people performed and were given quality feedback and improvement could be heard immediately. Then Matt played to the group and put into practice everything he had worked on with the students. They all described at least one thing they would take away and work on themselves and it was a really good way for younger students to see how we take performing seriously in this age of recorded coursework and a lack of confidence in our school with playing live.

But most importantly, it has helped us to bridge the gulf that exists between the musicians who work with our students for a few hours each week completely independently of anything we are doing in the classroom and often with requests for our classes to keep the noise down or complaints about rooms and resources. We have 2 more scheduled soon and I can’t wait.

We have also decided to be more creative with how we use instrumental teachers to support GCSE students. We are fortunate that anyone taking music at GCSE gets a free 20 minute instrumental lesson paid for by the school. We have always asked the students what they would like to learn, many take up a new instrument at the start of year 10 but very few of them actually make enough progress to use anything they have learned in these lessons towards their coursework. Sometimes this is down to the approach of the teacher, starting from scratch with note reading and simple tunes or because they are already competent on another instrument which they choose to use for the exam. So this year for the first time we have found a teacher who can teach piano and singing through composing and songwriting which we hope will have a direct impact on helping them compose MUSICALLY for their GCSE.

Another step on the quest to make music at Monk’s Walk MUSICAL!