Reflecting On & Celebrating Our Music Learning – What has worked in 2014?

Rest PositionIt’s the first week back of term 4 and already we have had a rehearsal of the Captivate String Orchestra – as usual, the Penrith/Mountains Orchestra on Tuesday at St Mary MacKillop Primary School Penrith and the Blacktown/Kellyville Orchestra at St Andrew’s Primary Marayong on Wednesday afternoon. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the students in both these string orchestras on their achievements this year. Each member of the Captivate String Orchestra has demonstrated greater musical understanding and motivation. Parents are telling me anecdotally how useful and supportive the embedded media in our ‘Flipped Orchestra’ arrangements is to their child’s musical learning and motivation. As an ensemble, I believe our intonation and tone production has become more polished and we are progressively playing higher level repertoire.

Which brings me to our next big event. On Sunday November 9th at 2 PM, we will present our 3rd annual Captivate Strings Chamber Concert at St Finbar’s Catholic Church, Glenbrook in the Lower Blue Mountains. This is a beautiful church and venue for a Chamber Concert. Entry is by gold coin donation and it is open to the public as well as parents, teachers and school leadership teams. It is a wonderful celebration and reflection of our musical achievements for the year, whilst also looking forward to new repertoire and another exciting year of music performance ahead. We also take the time to thank our wonderful dedicated teachers as our Staff Chamber Orchestra also perform. And lastly, this performance is a thank you and recognition of the support we receive from our Captivate Orchestra Parents – you bring them to rehearsal each fortnight and support the learning at home – this is also very important in the chain of learning.

The main point I would like to make in this blog post is to find the strategies that have worked for us this year – we have achieved so much in our learning; What has worked? I believe that the first thing we need to do is to motivate students to learn. I’d like to think that in music learning, this is relatively easy to do – it’s such a great area of learning that connects us emotionally. Think of your favourite piece of music and you probably connect that piece of music to a fond memory – a person, place or experience that you remember well. But our music learning is not just remembering our favourite music but also an exploration of new music that we may not have encountered previously. I like to use clips from Youtube to show the orchestra what our performance might look like (it’s important to be able to visualize musical success) eg this wonderful clip of a flash mob orchestra (in the Spanish town of Sabadell) playing the last movement of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy

or even videos from our past performances. (for reflection on our learning) 

Here are the steps of learning in our ‘Flipped Orchestra’ :

  • We need to be intrinsically motivated, or I prefer the word ‘inspired’ to explore the new music in front of us.
  • We can use CDs or the internet (with help from our parents & carers) to find other performances of this new piece we are learning.
  • I was about to say that we need to find a way to learn the mechanics of playing our part BUT before I mention that step, I think we often overlook the skill of ‘sight reading’. I think we should have a go at reading our new piece in orchestra AND also challenge ourselves to sight reading new pieces at home – by ourselves or with friends. This can be a piece from String Things Level 2, or it could be a theme from a computer game that you downloaded from the internet – even better if it’s a theme from a computer game that you listened to and worked out for yourself.
  • We need a way that we can sight read and learn the piece at home – this may be with help from our ‘private teacher’ or with the help of our Captivate Strings Teacher in our small group learning BUT you need to also reinforce this learning with practise at home. This is where the tutorial videos are most useful – accessed from our music with the use of QR codes or from the links sent to parents. (I will also put the tutorial videos onto DVD and deliver to the school office for any student that requests it)
  • It also helps if we understand how our part fits with the rest of the orchestra. We can access the video of the score with the recording of our arrangement
    Or we can download the iBook with active score excerpts                            Click here to download the iBook for Themes from the Moldau.                                                                                                                                              Click here to download the iBook for Winter from the 4 Seasons. Both are free downloads – or search for those titles in the iBook store on your iPad (author – Phil Rooke) to access those iBooks – these are free to the public and can be used as a teaching resource in themselves with the active score samples. I have arranged the score and played and produced the recordings and score excerpts myself.
  • Lastly – we come to the rehearsal with increased knowledge and understanding of the scale, harmony and structure and knowing the right scales and technique to play our part through learning in our small group lessons at school and use of the tutorial video at home. (both collaborative and ‘flipped’ learning)
  • One last but very important point – I am absolutely thrilled and very proud of our more experienced Captivate Orchestra members. Something I have observed this year is that our experienced players (About half of our membership are original members from when the Orchestra was first formed in 2011) are now actively assisting and supporting our younger less experienced newer members. My good friend Michael Griffin relates in his book: Learning Strategies for Musical Success, how he uses this Peer Mentoring as a strategy for motivational and collaborative learning. In his keyboard classroom, students must evaluate their playing in the assessment task against set criteria. Students can elect to reach a pass level or strive for a higher level of achievement in order to become student teachers upon which they then teach other students: “Teaching is a powerful learning activity. Teaching enhances explanation skills and requires a deep understanding of the subject material. Verbal explanation develops deep understandings inherent in declarative knowledge.” p75 Griffin, Michael. Learning Stratgeies for Musical Success – Music Education World, Adelaide Australia 2013

Celebrating our success – This year, the Captivate String Orchestra has:

  • Learned 2 new major works – Themes from the Moldau (click here to view the score and listen to the recording)  and Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring (click here to view the score and listen to the recording) – with demonstrated higher level technical skill and musical understanding.
  • Additionally, our newly formed Captivate Strings Chamber Orchestra also learned and performed a new orchestration of the Bach Double Violin Concerto
  • The Penrith/Mountains Orchestra has also learned the March Militaire by Schubert and will perform this piece with other repertoire at our annual Chamber Music Concert at St Finbar’s Catholic Church, Glenbrook.
  • The combined Captivate String Orchestra, the newly formed Captivate Chamber Orchestra and both the Blacktown/Kellyville and Penrith/Mountains Orchestras presnted polished performances at the Annual Captivate Strings Showcase at Nagle College at the end of term 2. The following week, the Combined Captivate String Orchestra also performed Themes from the Moldau by Smetana and Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring by J.S. Bach (The abridged version from String Things Level 2) at the Best Of Captivate Showcase at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre
  • The Combined Captivate String Orchestra performed at the Penrith Eisteddfod and for the 2nd year in a row, received 1st place in the High School Orchestra Section.

There is much to celebrate in our musical learning and performance. The Annual Captivate Strings Chamber Concert at St Finbar’s Catholic Church on the 9th November will be a great celebration of our musical learning but also an opportunity to imagine what our musical journey might look like in 2015. See you at the concert.

Captivate Screen ShotThe Strings Things Teaching Program including original music,
musical arrangements and media are authored, composed,arranged
& produced by Phil Rooke and published by
Catholic Education, Diocese of Parramatta © 2009 All rights reserved

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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."
This entry was posted in Captivate Performing Arts, Intrinsic Motivation, Music Education, The Flipped Classroom and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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