How to encourage music making
In my last blog of 2018 I thought I would roundup my favourite teaching resources. These are my ‘go to’ resources so I hope you find them just as useful as I do.
If you were looking to increase your own online presence I would encourage you to ensure that you have plenty of content.
Being a musician is not just about playing the notes. If all the notes are accurate but communication or expression is poor then the performance would not be well received.
How I incorporate worship into my work with Vivace Music
Ever since childhood, church has played a big part in my life. I have increasingly felt its presence during my adult life – probably as a result of making my own decision to believe in faith, free will, forgiveness and redemption.
It is completely natural for me to include worship music as part of the services that Vivace Music provide, and many of the students who come to me are religious. They come to me for piano lessons with a view to playing for their church during worship. As the founder of Vivace Music, my experience within the worship music scene has proved invaluable to many students who have their hearts set on playing the piano for their church.
The most important challenge I help children overcome through lessons and workshops is overcoming the misconception that worship music is too complicated for musicians in training. I arrange worship music to specifically match the ability of each student, and I assess the ability of the child or worship team through bespoke workshops tailored for your church needs.
The services that Vivace Music can provide your church are special because they can be traditional or contemporary, as well as being appropriate for the atmosphere of the church service.
When writing my own music, I write songs that have simple melodies and meaningful lyrics. My worship songs have been sung by congregations at Coldharbour Lane Baptist Church (CLBC) in Middlesex and I owe thanks to CLBC, King’s Church in Orpington and St. Mark’s Church in Bromley for the training in worship music that they have provided.
As a believer, I invest in my own spirituality by attending church, home groups, and Christian conferences. I am thoroughly looking forward to attending a Christian Women’s Leadership Conference in Brazil in 2019 with Women Arise Ministries.
The end of year summer concert was a great chance for pupils to show how they had progressed during their weekly piano lessons.
It was good to see that the children had practiced and taken on board what I had told them during their lessons, auditions and rehearsals. Some of them managed to execute their abilities a little better than others, but I put that down to nerves, excitement and adrenaline.
The main takeaway for me was that all children showed they had potential as they performed fluently at the piano. They had learned how to take ownership and responsibility for their own learning through a fun activity such as playing the piano. While the children performed duets and solos, they showed they can work independently, and communicate well with others. They also used their musical skills to enhance cross-curriculum activities such as counting.
Although some of the children made mistakes, they recovered well and didn’t let the audience notice them. They didn’t let their mistakes affect their confidence, and they learned from them quickly. Through performing, they have learned that it is normal to make mistakes and to find strength to work through them. They didn’t let their mistakes define them.
To help calm the children and support them through the concert, I sat beside them as they performed. This meant that I was able to position their hands in the right places, and find the pages in their piano books. Most of the students were independent and didn’t need my help. They needed my help to learn the pieces, but the independent students were performance ready.
Some of the students used my studio license to laminate their scores so they looked more presentable. They had learned presentation skills through performing. Presentation is important as a child and even more so as an adult. It is the first form of contact and communication that an individual has with the world.
As a result of understanding performance, the children introduced themselves and their pieces confidently to the audience, who had filled the school hall – as did the children’s voices – as they showed focus throughout the whole event. They learned how they should behave in any performing environment, as well as in safe place environments. Consequently, the children would be ready to take on smaller audiences like friends and family as well as perform to large audiences in concert halls. They showed maturity for their age.
The audience responded with enthusiasm and parents beamed with pride. A few of the parents spoke to me after the concert to say how proud they are of their child’s achievement, and that they now feel confident enough to invest in their child’s musical learning and development.
Sight-reading is part of my everyday life. It plays a part in my teaching, performing, my role as a piano accompanist, and most recently, at charitable events.
Due to the huge variety of pieces my students learn, I have to be able to sight-read the repertoire – whether it preparatory, beginner, intermediate or advanced. While performing solo, or as an accompanist, sight-reading helps me to cut my practice time down in half. Once I have learnt the notes I am able to focus on what I believe to be the most important aspect of performance – conveying the character of the music.
Good sight-reading skills also help when playing with musicians for the first time. I recently performed with Nell Ladipo from the girl group Celeste, at a Beacon of Hope for Children and Families in Crisis event, organised by Catherine Sekwalor. Nell sang Gershwin’s Summertime by from Porgy and Bess as I accompanied her on the piano before I performed Mendelssohn’s Scherzo in E from his Midsummer Night’s Dream Fantasia.
I felt delighted to be using my skills to help Beacon of Hope’s fantastic fundraising work. For those of you who haven’t heard about BOHCFIC, the charity works with street children in South America to support children and families in challenging situations including: poverty, gender based violence, drug & alcohol misuse, child trafficking and sexual exploitation, early child marriage, and teenage pregnancy. The event also saw the launch of Catherine Sekwalor’s new book called Poems from the heart of life. The event took place at the Hammersmith Rowing Club.
I began feeling confident about sight-reading roughly after my ABRSM Grade 3 piano exam, which I took when I was still quite young. My piano teacher at the time was called Mr. Dart. He taught piano privately within the Hertfordshire area and was well respected by pianists, parents and schools. I feel lucky that my parents heard of him through word of mouth.
Mr. Dart noticed that I received high marks for the sight-reading part of the exam, and it was his belief in me that gave me confidence in my playing. He took my natural ability to compute the details on the page (otherwise known as the score), which included, the notes, the dynamics, the key signature, staccato and legato, expression, rather than just considering the notes.
He helped me enhance this skill by encouraging correct fingering patterns, which came from learning scales, arpeggios and chords. Everything worked together seamlessly. I noticed patterns, chords, and scale like passages in the music I was playing and this helped me piece everything together.
I have to admit that sight-reading has now become a bit of a crutch that I lean on when I haven’t had time to practice. It’s not a good excuse, but it happens. Sometimes I get away with it, sometimes I don’t. Either way, I learn from the experience.
During my time at Bishops Hatfield Girls’ School, Mrs. Carmichael and Mrs. Forbes (both teachers) really helped me to further develop my skills as an accompanist. They put me in the privileged position to accompany whole classes during performance tasks as part of the school music curriculum. I was the class accompanist.
The belief these teachers had in me also made me feel good, and gave me a sense of achievement. It’s part of why I am now so confident and developed in my performances. It’s also the reason why Catherine selected me to perform at her fundraiser event.
Nell and I have planned to play together more in the future, and I look forward to jamming with her in the months to come!
All my blogs are about my daily life.
For this particular blog, I’ll explore how my relationship with the school where I work affects the music services that I offer on a day-to-day basis – and at special occasions.
My daily routine allows me numerous opportunities to participate in the musical life of the federated schools where I work. In return for the small fee that I pay the school, I receive their support whilst using and developing the music services I offer on their premises.
Being ready and willing to offer my services as and when needed is very important to my relationship with the school. That means continuing with professional development and lots of reflective practice. My professional development includes, The Curious Piano Teachers Membership, attending Curious Live, ABRSM Conferences, and Lucinda Mackworth-Young’s piano weekends, having Kodály lessons with Cyrilla Roswell, and studying at postgraduate level.
Each activity influences my daily routine and keeps me on my toes. In addition to this professional development, my teaching practice is fully booked!
As part of our relationship, the school’s faculty encourage me to strive to be a better piano teacher –and to be a better musician.
My skills in arranging piano music have been utilised by trios and duos (formed specifically to give the children opportunities to play together) and my skills as an accompanist have been used by exam candidates who have asked me to help them with their recorder exams.
Despite working more hours than I am paid for, I’m still happy. I’m happy because I am immersed in music which I am passionate about. Working like this makes me feel good.
Today, I did some music directing in the absence of the Head of Music in the department. My very first job after graduating from University was as an Assistant Music Director for Youth Music UK. Finally, I have now been able to use the skills gained from that position with YMT:UK.
For the past few weeks I have been developing my directing skills by overseeing exams, auditions and rehearsals for the school concert and talent shows. The work I did for musicals and talent shows at YMT: UK was very similar. Whilst it’s hard work, it’s also very rewarding to be able to offer my services and I hope to develop my directing skills more.
I’m appreciative that my daily routine whilst working with the school is successful and fruitful in many different ways. It provides plenty of opportunities for me to practice, expand, and develop the music services that I offer. I wouldn’t change it for the world.