eLearning to Enable Music Practice & Performance

A challenge that we face with the Strings program in Catholic Schools in Western Sydney is coordinating 10 specialist teachers and 5 – 6 classroom teachers across 10 Catholic Primary Schools (and soon growing to 12 primary schools and a few secondary schools) Our combined Captivate String Orchestra has approximately 50 members – about 25 mainly primary students that rehearse in one of our Penrith Schools for the Penrith/Mountains area and another 25 primary & secondary students that rehearse in one of our Blacktown area schools for the Blacktown/Parramatta/Hills district schools.

This is a good challenge to have, as it demonstrates a flourishing program and enthusiastic teaching & learning. In our recent 2012 Captivate Strings Showcase, we featured 2 solo performers accompanied by our highly professional 10 member Staff Chamber Orchestra. Our first performer was a year 8 Classical Guitarist from Blacktown playing the 2nd Movement of the Vivaldi Guitar Concerto in D Major – quite a feat for a year 8 student. First of all, I had to do the arrangement, as I was not able to find a published arrangement. Then I had to edit a score and in my studio, perform all the parts on Guitar, Harpsichord, Violin, Viola, Cello and Double Bass.

Once I have the full score and a quality recording, then I produce a video of the score and email the parts to the staff orchestra as well as a link to the video so they can score read the piece and also practice their part with the recording. The student gets a copy of his/her solo part plus a CD of the full orchestra and recording as well as a backing track with REAL instruments as it will sound in the performance. The same process applied to a year 10 student from one of our Parramatta Area Schools who performed the 1st movement of the Violin Concerto in G Major by Joseph Haydn. These students were able to perform a movement of a solo concerto with the backing of a chamber orchestra and our staff are spread across a wide geographic area with no possibility for regular rehearsals leading up to the event. The first and final rehearsal for both performances was on the afternoon of the concert and both performances were very confident and competent by both staff and students.

This is an example of how online resources can be used to enable a high level of music performance across a system of schools. The same concept can be applied to a range of musical genres, such as Rock or Jazz – or to better enable an ensemble to practice their parts where participants are spread across a wide geographic area and even possibly other performing art forms such as Dance or Drama.

Here is the video score for the Haydn G Major Violin Concerto, 1st movt – arranged, performed and produced by me in my own production studio but for the purpose of enabling a performance with staff and students across a system of schools.


The video score and recording for the Guitar Concerto in D Major, 2nd Movt by Antonio Vivaldi – also arranged and produced by me in my own studio but sounding pretty much the same as this version in the live performance.

The Strings Things Level 2 books for violin, viola, cello and double bass (The Teacher’s Handbook contains the complete teaching program and conductors scores) are now available in our schools. These books each come with an Audio CD with full orchestral backing tracks with REAL instruments such as those above in the video scores along with a DVD with instructional video. These videos will be available to our students online through our Learning Exchange website for extended learning and extension at home at weekends and during school holidays.

The Expressive Study showing both the left hand position and bow technique – from the Strings Things Violin Level 2 book – exclusive to the Captivate Performing Arts program – Catholic Education, Diocese of Parramatta

I hope this has been an interesting post for music educators – indeed, all educators – to utilize online media to motivate and extend learning beyond the classroom.



About captivatestrings

Phil Rooke is a Teacher Educator, specializing in Music Education for the Catholic Education Office - Diocese of Parramatta, authoring & implementing teaching programs and leading music learning across a system of 78 schools in Western Sydney. "I am on a learning journey to find and invent better ways to motivate students and teachers in music making."
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