In at the Deep End with Musical Futures

7th November 2017

Marisa Wall describes how being a single person music department gave her the opportunity to try out Musical Futures.

“I’ve always been interested in Musical Futures since starting teaching 5 years ago, picking up ideas for choir items and warm ups from the website. Finally,  my new position as a one-man-band in St Richard Gwyn presented an opportunity for me to explore and embed Musical Futures schemes of work into my everyday practice.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been overwhelming and scary (I’m still getting to know pupils and trying to fit in with whole school priorities on objectives, progress checks…etc etc etc) but trialling ‘Find Your Voice’ and ‘Just Play’ has highlighted how fundamentally ‘musical’ Musical Futures is. Seeing the students listen to their four chord mash ups, layering beat box patterns and improvising, whilst creating and developing their skills beats any other year 7 topic I’ve ever done. It’s shown me that a culture of singing can be promoted from the very start of high school, and all pupils have been engaged (incorporating recording devices/music tech has definitely given it greater appeal). I do worry how pupils will cope when trying to work out the riffs on music apps, and worry they might not have the aural skills to succeed. Yet, I have to remember that I won’t know until I give the pupils a chance, and I am often guilty of underestimating what they can do (when they have the time and space to do so).

The highlights have been whole classes singing (and rapping) their hearts out to Taylor Swift whilst jamming chords on ukuleles and keyboards. They listen and switch chords, developing knowledge and understanding of major and minor patterns from a practical and musical starting point.

I feel ‘Just Play’ will build the skills that students need (they’ll be so much better equipped to compose in the songwriting topics) and I’m confident that in time, the Musical Futures approach will develop pupils as young musicians in an engaging and meaningful way. So whilst I’m in a situation where I sometimes can feel isolated in my department, uncertain whether I’m on the right track (being the only music specialist in school), I just have to remember that the pedagogy of Musical Futures is something I truly believe will benefit all pupils in a sustaining and meaningful way. I can’t wait to see how my year 7s will develop through this approach across the key stage, and hope the uncertainty I sometimes feel will be outweighed by the long-term musical outcome of my students.”

Marissa Wall – music teacher at St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School

Excellent workshops ‑ extremely accessible for all abilities and levels."

Claire Armour, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra