In this guest blog, Kellee Green shares her lovely description of the music department at St Paul’s School, Bald Hills, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Kellee will be hosting the very first #mufuoz chat on Twitter on March 16th DST
A record player spinning vintage vinyl greets students as they enter the foyer of the Music Centre. Depending on the time of the day you can expect to hear Year Ones strumming ukuleles, an orchestra, big band or choir rehearsing or the sounds of a rock band practising during a music class. This is the St Paul’s Music Department; it’s busy, happy and loud and it’s exactly the way the teachers and students like it to be.
In every classroom and practice room there are students working on their own projects, whether it’s composing as part of a Songwriting unit, working on iPad compositions or recording tasks, negotiating through the rehearsal process with their peers in small, student-directed groups or being involved in a whole class ensemble experience. Students are engaged in making music that is meaningful to them and are motivated by the degree of choice and flexibility that they are offered in the subject. Enabling this choice in collaboration with teachers allows repertoire and curriculum to be differentiated according to the level of each student, which in turn maximises success and increases confidence. Giving the students permission to make decisions about their own performances also not only provides opportunities for repertoire to be differentiated according to student ability by also reinforces the notion that music that the students feel passionate about is both relevant and valued.
Providing students with authentic musical experiences is the basis of curriculum planning at St Paul’s Music, with students constantly working towards real-world performances in front of proper audiences in both the primary and secondary schools. Music tech students record student-led rock and pop groups as well as the school’s co-curricular instrumental ensembles. A mostly student directed worship group plays contemporary worship music for students during chapel services every week.
Each middle and senior school class has an end-of-semester concert, planned and arranged by students, in a purpose built space designed to look and feel like a small urban nightclub, complete with groovy couches for the audience, a stage, red curtains and lighting (and a disco ball!). These nights are always a highlight for parents, students and their friends as they celebrate each student’s success through meaningful performances. Giving students the chance to experience these real-life musical events takes their understanding beyond the classroom and assessment and allows them to see the purpose and importance of music in everyday life.
Music has the power to be transformative. At St Paul’s we give the students every possible opportunity to experience this, and encourage students to challenge themselves, pushing past the limits of which they think they are capable and creating music that allows them to connect more fully with themselves, their peers, their audiences and the world around them.