Guest Blog: Just Play with Musical Futures by Lorrie Heagy

6th June 2019

Fran Hannan, Managing Director of Musical Futures, demonstrates chair drumming for students from Beechwood Primary School.

Lorrie Heagy, music teacher and visiting Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching scholar from Alaska, USA, shares her experiences living in the UK whilst exploring Musical Futures and other approaches to music education.

“I’ve recently had the privilege of shadowing Fran Hannan, Managing Director of Musical Futures (MF), as she delivered training in MF Just Play: Music-Making for the Whole Class approach for teachers, including modelling it  with a class of 11 year-olds from Leeds.
One message that I heard often is how Musical Futures democratises music education by making music accessible to all children at whatever their previous level or experience. Musical Futures is founded on this principle and provides a model of self-directed learning that enhances student motivation, enjoyment and skill-acquisition in music lessons by tapping into real-life learning practices of popular musicians. And what I witnessed during the training involving the class of 11-year-olds was just that: engagement and enjoyment by all students start to finish and choice built into each activity.


Celebrating its 15th year this yearMusical Futures provides tools that allow students to start playing an instrument as a whole class ensemble right away, while differentiating for the wide range of musical skills that children bring with them to school. For example, the major and minor chord card placed on an electronic keyboard (above photo) allow students to play in any key with the root designated in red and the 3rd and 5th notes in blue. Kids naturally self-selected the level of complexity based upon their ability and comfort level. Some played one note, while others played two, all three or both hands. Some chose only to play one chord, while others played all three chords. Some played chords on beat one, others played on all four beats, while others chose to play a more complicated rhythmic pattern. I observed students increase the level of musical challenge throughout the lesson, but it was always student-directed, not teacher led.
This same type of differentiation and student choice for playing a drum kit is demonstrated the Musical Futuresʼ approach to chair drumming, a popular resource that can be found on the Musical Futuresʼ website. In the workshop, Fran also suggested to the teachers some creative solutions to soften the potentially loud sounds from wooden or plastic chairs: Jigsaw puzzle floor mats for the snare and slit foam tubing for the high hat. And if you donʼt have a class set of drumsticks, use chopsticks!
Fran and the Musical Futures team are passionate about making music accessible not only to students, but classroom teachers. The video below highlights the “Just Play in a Day” workshop in Leeds and captures the enthusiasm and engagement by all involved. Thank you, Fran and Musical Futures, for your inspiring work in music education!”

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

Claire Armour, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra