Director of Music, Mr David Place explains that despite lockdown procedures, the music department is as busy as ever. Students are involved in online concerts, challenges and digital programs to keep them in the game.
How have our teachers in music managed while school closure is active?
The academic music team have been particularly busy during school closure. For the Junior School, a huge range of weekly lessons along with daily activities have been specially prepared for our students here at SHR. Our Junior School teachers, led by Ms Tulloch and Mr Saw, have been putting their personal touches to specially made video lessons for our students to learn from and enjoy. In the senior school, Mr Jackman, Mr Boat and Dr Park have all been focusing on project work, which with a few adjustments is being done online as effectively as if it were 'in person'.
We know our students miss making music together live, but now we have an opportunity to spread our digital wings. Mr Jackman's skills with Apple and online learning are leading the way. With our GCSE and A level programme, the challenge has been to carry on as usual. Our students have admirably risen to that challenge and have been working hard at the screen and between sessions. We are very proud of all our exam level students and all they have accomplished during these extraordinary circumstances.
What activities are you doing to replicate the classroom environment?
At A level, we study music through in-depth discussion and analysis (which we do via zoom lessons). For GCSE, sessions focus on coursework and exam preparations as we would normally. All Year 7-9 classes begin and end with teacher instructions and reactions, with the time given in between for individual and group work using Seesaw, Google Classroom, and Soundtrap. In the Junior school, to minimise the loading on our students, distinct video sessions are created for the classroom teachers to incorporate into their class' programme. However, learning through singing and playing is still very much a part of the fun!
Tell me about the virtual recital.
One of the most effective ways we teach the young musicians in our care is to provide performance opportunities; as many as possible. In 'normal' times, SHR's Recital Programme is truly unique amongst all of the schools I have encountered in my career. The sheer number of performance opportunities 'on stage' that we provide our students is awe-inspiring. During the academic year, we will host over 36 'recital' performances. Junior and Senior Stars auditioned recitals, open door recitals, 'specialist' recitals for scholars, and many more. Every week, we host at least one concert featuring 20+ student performers. In response to closure during the pandemic, our Virtual Recital Programme carries on this tradition, albeit remotely.
During this time of distance learning, we are 'hosting' Open Door Virtual Recitals (which are 'open' to all), Music Scholar solo performances, two Music Staff Recitals and a Farewell Recital performed by our departing Year 13 Music Scholars, Tay and Eve. I think that during this time of lockdown, musicians have a truly unique opportunity to focus on their skills as solitary performers and prepare new repertoire. I am so proud of our young soloists who have submitted nearly 100 performances 'from home'.
I see you also have some cool competitions going on to engage our community, can you talk about this and talk about the response you are seeing?
Our Video Challenges are designed for every musician in our community; students, teachers, support staff and parents. These are challenges that will test either the skill or creativity of anyone who fancies a go. Our first challenge was to demonstrate a 'scale' being played beautifully. Working on these is perfect for a personal project during isolation! The next challenge was a creative one; to demonstrate a 'sound effect' as imitation is a crucial skill for all musicians. Many students, and parents and staff too, have sent me videos of their hidden and not so hidden talents. Stay tuned for the next challenge!
Are you confident our students are still tracking well on their learning journey?
Absolutely. I am looking forward to when we are all back together, but I am sure that our young musicians are flourishing. When you learn to be a musician, you find out very quickly that 'it's a marathon, not a sprint'. This sort of patience is a life skill and is something that our students have in abundance. We will be fine!
How are you assisting students who have had exams cancelled?
For our Year 11s and Year 13s, we are keen for them to hit the ground running when we all return to normal. Our Year 13s are preparing for their work to be a part of a 'professional portfolio'. Our Year 11s are getting a head start with A level style work, through coaching sessions on composition, harmony, performance, and analysis.
What has the music department got planned over the next few weeks?
We will remain as busy as ever! Barring any drastic change in COVID-19 protocols, all lessons will continue online as they are now. Behind the scenes, we will be prioritising preparations for Term 1, 2020/2021. Audition material for new ensembles will be distributed. Virtual recitals and video challenges will be set.