At the secondary school (MSS) I have six classes of 2 hours each, which works out at 18 periods in total. I think a full timetable is 25 periods, but together with my time in the primary schools and extra-curricular activities, I wouldn’t say I’m slacking! Most of the students, aged 11-14, chose music because they are really enthusiastic about the subject, which makes things extremely enjoyable. Some however are either there because they think Music is slightly better than the other options, Food and Nutrition or Woodwork, or because the music room is a 10 minute walk from the school campus and they try to stop at the supermarket on the way! The majority however, are lovely young people who are keen, able and want to learn and there have been some really special moments with these students this year.
At the beginning of the year I handed out questionnaires asking the students why they had chosen Music and they wanted to get out of the classes this year. Since most answered that they wanted to learn how to play an instrument, I try to make the classes as practical as possible spending the majority of the time equipping the students with instrumental skills. Everyone is learning either the keyboard or the guitar, although it is hard at times to tear the boys away from the Drum Kit! We do a lot of composition, song writing, covers of songs, and have been working on the fundamentals of music and reading notation.
I am also trying to expose them to as wide a variety of musical genres as possible, broadening their minds past what they mainly hear on the radio here, which is a lot of Soca, Calypso and Dance Hall. I love playing them some obscure music they’ve never heard before and just watching their facial expressions as they listen in shock!
I basically see the classes as a series of music workshops working towards the long term goal of inspiring the students about the possibilities of music and giving them the basic tools to go out and explore. It just so happens that these workshops take place during the school day in a more formal classroom environment, and I unfortunately have to give out detentions every now and then and exams at the end of term! Although very practically based, I do have a clear structure, learning outcomes and goals. I just try to avoid the “sit down and get your pens and pencils out” wherever possible. As everybody lives in different areas and transport is a problem for young people to get around, it is easier to get to the students at school than it would be if I were doing a solely after school based programme.
I continue to run the afterschool choir and steel pan group that my predecessor started up and have a fantastic group of students for both activities. I also give individual keyboard and flute lessons during break times and after school.
My MSS students recently got the opportunity to show off their musical skills at the Commonwealth day celebrations during St Patrick’s week. The choir performed Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”, one of my Form 2 classes performed a cover of the song “Stereohearts” and the MSS steel pan played the crowd in and out of the event.
Their next performance will be at the annual Rotary Club fundraising dinner where I have been asked to organize some musical entertainment for the evening. This takes place in a fortnight, so I need to quickly get the students back into action after the Easter holidays!