Here a music teacher was asked to write a few paragraphs about her ideas for music in the school for those attending the school’s Spring Concert.
“For me, music is about working together, and about participation. In the making of music, pupils work with the song or the piece, they work with each other, and they work with their audience. They learn to work with themselves. And when by concentration and practice a performance hits its groove, music can activate a joy or elation in expression that can go on to inform and permeate achievement across the disciplines. This is why music can be – and I believe should be – at the centre of a learning community. But the ideal of participation and collaboration means little if music remains the preserve of a select few. From the moment I arrived at the school this year, I have made it my mission to involve all the children of the junior and senior school in making and performing music. Because we have many children of different ages and abilities, children with different interests and backgrounds, this has meant broadening the kinds of music that we learn, sing, and play, and it has meant developing creative instruction and programming to enable every child to find her rhythm, or his line. By expanding our instrumental exposure – to ukuleles, djembes, and keyboards – and above all by whole-class singing, at the school we are helping students to create transformative experiences and performances that every child can share in, equally and with joy.
The Spring Concert this year has afforded a platform for our established groups and ensembles. But it has also given whole classes an opportunity to perform together, in their own ‘ensembles’. This could be considered a risk! But I am excited for this to be the school where every child is a musician; where every child can approach music with seriousness – faithfully practising, carefully learning, courageously performing and aiming for musical excellence in whatever capacity she or he is capable of. Some children can only play one chord on the ukulele, whilst others can play everything and sing at the same time – this is ok! Perfection is not the goal; instead, I hope all our students can, in their own ways and at their own levels, access that aliveness that comes from performing a piece of music with enthusiasm and commitment.
It has been a huge pleasure for me to see the whole school contributing to our musical life throughout the year – not only in concerts like this one, but in assemblies, lessons, in auditions – and in the hallways! Our pupils are capable of breathtaking musicianship, but they are also capable of something greater, which is listening to one another, trusting one another, and having fun with one another. All of this happens when we bring music to one another – that is, when music brings us together.”
Next week I will draw out some themes from this articulate testimony, consider context and discuss issues arising.