Our hosts (and taxi drivers) in Melbourne are Ken and Ian and the various drives around the city have been a great opportunity to learn more about MF Australia. The reasons behind them setting a MF pilot up here are the same as those that underpin MF UK. Why do students disengage with school music when they have such a personal love of and relationship with music outside of school? They came across MF in a speech David Price gave back in 2006 and have since worked to get an Australian model in place.
It’s gone really well. They run PD (training) days for teachers, have a number of MF champion schools, have negotiated great deals to ensure Mf classrooms are well equipped and put practitioners who are often gigging musicians into the classroom in primary and secondary schools.
We visited our first school yesterday. Carranballac P-9 is for students in the equivalent of our reception to y10 age groups. There are 2 campuses and we saw lessons in both, one a class of grade 5-6 (ages 10-12) and the second our Y9 age group. Music across the whole school is overseen by an assistant principal and the school principal is very supportive of music. In both classes were 2 adults and around 20 students. The younger children were performing to a year 1 equivalent class after just 2 weeks learning to play a song they had chosen on ukes, keyboards and guitars with some vocals. In the second they were playing the 4 chord pattern on basses, guitars, drums, keys with vocals with a view to adding a bit of a mash up of songs over the top. Previously they had done a carousel with 2 weeks on each instrument so they knew their parts well.
What I learned:
1) The Assistant Principal said key to the success of MF is regular performance opportunities as often as every couple of weeks. Do we perform enough in our lessons? If not why not? What are the barriers and what are the advantages to regular performances?
2) Instrumental (peri) teachers are funded by the education dept in Melbourne. Yet many of them don’t want to be in the classroom. Having 2 adults in the room meant that no students were left to struggle and one could focus on equipment issues while the other worked with the group. Using expertise in this way can only have a positive impact on the take up of those wanting to learn to play an instrument. Imagine having met and worked with your drum teacher in class so they know you, your strengths, interests and what you’re doing in lessons rather than turn up to a poky room to meet a stranger who teaches you different things in a completely different way!
3) Students from this school go onto secondary school with good musical skills and bags of enthusiasm, however they can’t always continue with music in the same way. Carranballac has started to run classes for a few of their ex students so that it’s not all lost. It really brought home how quickly such a lot of great work can be undone as students transition to new schools. We have to solve this in the UK as well, accept that great music happens in our primary schools and build on this rather than assume what they have done before can’t have been any good and start again using new approaches that can’t possibly come to anything in the short time we have them at secondary school.
4) We loved the rock programme where talented kids come out all day on a Friday, rehearse as bands then go off on tour. Fantastic G and T opportunity!
Today we are seeing 2 more schools so I want to look for similarities or whether as in the UK, Mf looks slightly different in each school as it’s tweaked and personalised by students and teachers.