Modeling the Learning – Winter 1st Movement

On the 25th , November 2012 – last Sunday – we concluded the year for the Captivate String Orchestra with a very exciting concert at St Finbar’s Catholic Church in Glenbrook. (Lower Blue Mountains) This concert was a great celebration of what we have achieved this year with the Captivate String Orchestra and also with some of our solo performers. We enjoyed listening again to “Pirates of the Caribbean” and the St Anthony Chorale by the Captivate String Orchestra but also enjoyed again the Haydn Violin Concerto in G Major, 1st Movement (Click here to listen to my own orchestration and recording) performed by Daniel of Delany College and also the wonderful Vivaldi Guitar Concerto in D Major, 2nd Movt by one of our students from Patrician Brothers College. (Click here to listen to my own arrangement and recording)

But more than just a celebration of what we have achieved since the establishment of the Captivate String Orchestra in May, 2011 – just 18 months ago, this concert was also about looking forward to new repertoire for 2013; raising the bar yet again and modelling the learning for our students in the 12 Catholic Primary Schools with the Strings Things Program (Click here for a short summary of the Strings Things Program in Catholic Schools) and also students in the Captivate String Orchestra.

I have said this many times before, but I am confident that our team of classroom and specialist teachers are among the best in Sydney and I say this with qualified confidence from seeing them at work with our students first hand and seeing the evidence of intrinsic motivation and deep musical understanding – students who want to learn – not just saying to them: “Here is what you must practise at least 7 times a week”.

How do we best model what the students need to understand and practise at home? Better yet, how do we ensure that they have deep understanding as well as practical skills? The answer is to show them what the end performance might look like and then make the music and the modeling of that performance easily accessible to them. To this end, we formed the Captivate Staff Chamber Orchestra and they performed the 1st Movement from Winter – the 4 Seasons at the Concert to the students and parents. I should point out that this is my own arrangement of the 1st Movement of Winter – I have dropped it down from the original F minor to E minor and also slightly altered some of the inner parts, rhythmic difficulties and also some of the passages in the Violin Principale Part.

Here is the performance by the Captivate Staff Chamber Orchestra – I might add that because these teachers are busy out in the schools all week teaching, they have the parts to practise at home and the video score that I produce to score read and check at home BUT we only had the luxury of ONE run through just before the concert.

Additionally, I also edited the score of this arrangement and put it into the format of a video with the recording of our staff orchestra performing it. This will enable students from the Captivate String Orchestra to score read and hear the performance again and again. They can practise their parts with the recording over and over again plus also score read and see how their own part fits in with the overall musical structure.

In my previous post on eLearning to Enable Music Practice & Performance, I outlined how we were using online instructional video and also video scores to improve motivation to practise (ensuring that the instruction is concise, clear and accessible) and also to improve musical understanding as well as performance skills. After some of my colleagues read this post, some interesting conversations followed. I hadn’t realised what a can of worms I had opened up with this topic. The assumption was that I wished to replace face to face instruction with this type of online instruction.

My intentions are quite the opposite. Educators outside of our system of schools in the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta – Western Sydney, may be completely unaware that we are most definitely breaking new ground in opening up opportunities in music learning for our students. Even some of our leadership teams, teachers and school communities within the Diocese may be unaware of the potential opportunities for their students/children and communities. I won’t launch into the full history of the program here again – click here to read more about the String Things Program in detail.

Whereas I was the only teacher teaching this program in 2 of our Blacktown area schools in 2009, we now have about 5 – 6 teachers in the classroom teaching the program in an inclusive structure and then about 10 specialist strings teachers teaching in small groups across 12 Catholic Primary Schools in Western Sydney and ensembles/orchestras established in most of those schools as well as our combined schools Captivate String Orchestra. We do this with our own published String Things Teaching Method.

The quality of Face to Face teaching is not in doubt, but we want to move onwards and upwards in motivating students to extend thier learning and understanding beyond the classroom – indeed, beyond the school orchestra or cocurricular group lesson. The performance by our Staff Chamber Orchestra of the 1st Movement of Winter and also the video score of the arrangement, is not just to demonstrate that we have outstanding teachers and performers teaching the program to our students, but that students in the Captivate String Orchestra can also work through the Summer School Holidays towards greater musical understanding of this work by Vivaldi and to use the new Level 2 String Things books and media to improve their skill level. Next year after the 2013 Captivate Strings Showcase, I expect to be posting an outstanding performance of Winter, 1st Movement by the Captivate String Orchestra.

Kids – Keep practising and striving towards your best performance 🙂 Have a happy, safe and musical holiday, Mr Rooke

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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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