Guest blog by Musical Futures Champion Teacher Stephen Jackman, Director of Music at Epsom College in Malaysia.
Musical Futures has changed a lot over the past 10 years. Back in 2006 as a new teacher I tried In at the deep end using Cameo’s Word Up, the focus was very much on the teacher as the facilitator. My inexperience coupled with bad behaviour and my poor classroom management definitely was not a recipe for success.
Jumping forward 5 years, I signed up for the Find Your Voice/Mobile Technology pilot. I knew a lot about using technology to create music but really lacked confidence in leading/ teaching singing so I thought this would be great for me and it was! At the time I was working in an all boys school in North London and the approaches I learnt completely transformed singing in school, suddenly all the boys were singing all the time and loving it. Here the focus was on workshopping as a class, giving students some initial training then sending them off to experiment for themselves- much more instructional and it worked really well.
Just Play is the latest programme from Musical Futures, earlier this year I attended a training day with some great teachers from Croydon Music Service finding out more. Originally designed to support non-music specialist teachers in Primary Schools, Just Play has been enthusiastically snapped up by music specialists in both primary and secondary schools. Just Play is a skills building programme for Ukulele, keyboard, guitar, bass guitar and drums. It takes you through from the very beginning- how to hold the instruments, through reading tab, basic notation, chord symbols to being able to play and sing lots of songs as a whole class. I love it because the approach and fantastic resources (that come free with the training) are designed to ensure that students gain mastery of the basic knowledge and skills required for other approaches such as Find Your Voice and In at the Deep End. It perfectly complements them by providing a scaffolded pathway that can allow for the independent and informal learning that has made Musical Futures such a success.
I’ve now redesigned my curriculum so that my classes start off with Just Play where they learn all the basics, then we move on to a rapidly accelerated Find Your Voice scheme (now that they can play way more than four chords) through to In at the deep end, where they are now longer throw in at the deep end. They have the knowledge and skills to work independently, to choose their own songs, they know lots of chords but more importantly they know how to learn new ones. It has made a massive difference to my current year 9s ability in such a short space of time. I’m really looking forward to introducing Just Play to my new classes in September and I am excited to see how much of a difference it will make over the long term.
Just Play is a million miles away from In At The Deep End and that’s one of the reasons why I love it. Students are not going off into groups to try and work things out for themselves, instead I can stand at the front of the class and using the resources teach, knowing that all of the students are going to be able to learn the basics across a range of instruments and really enjoy themselves at the same time.
For more information on Musical Futures and the training courses they provide worldwide visit https://www.musicalfutures.org/