Music seems to have been an oft debated subject when looking at the curriculum but how important is music really?
Does it genuinely make an impact on children? How often should music provision be provided? What if you can’t afford an instrument/music provision? Will it benefit the school as a whole? And how can we provide music provision without a music teacher?
Whilst pressures on budgets are affecting nearly every school in one way or another, many schools have invested in One Education’s Musician in Residence programme with positive results and a growing impact on whole-school achievement.
What is the Musician in Residence Programme?
The Musician in Residence programme has been running since 2014, a scheme boasting a group of specialist, multi-disciplinary musicians who deliver curriculum music and instrumental tuition in a variety of settings. The idea, along with the number of musicians, has expanded hugely and is now used by a large number of schools across Greater Manchester.
The main role of a Musician in Residence is to show and use music as a tool to enhance learning throughout the curriculum and provide high quality, core music provision. Every specialist is able to teach areas including: curriculum music, early years, singing, specialist music tuition (including guitar, brass, strings, woodwind, drums, percussion) music tech, song-writing, wider opportunities classes, SEN music, creative curriculum, group percussion, group workshops, gifted and talented music sessions, music and movement, story-telling with music, ‘sing around’, music to accompany assemblies, musical themed days, creative curriculum units and expressive arts sessions.
The main principles of the musical residency are met through:
- A thematic approach to teaching and learning
- Working in depth to allow children to consolidate and evaluate learning
- Placing direct experience at the centre of the curriculum.
How does it benefit schools?
Schools benefit from an experienced specialist delivering all musical requirements, CPD for staff in music and how to deliver it by observing and engaging in the sessions with their classes, a specialist to give guidance and advice on planning and assessing in music, creative input for large scale school productions, concerts or class performances.
Progress across all year groups is good or outstanding where a Musician in Residence has been in place secured through a combination of regular lessons, and consistency in facilitator and practical musical experience all contributing to the enjoyment, subject knowledge and consequent progress achieved.
Rewards of being a Musician in Residence
I have worked as a Musician in Residence now for nearly two years and, in this time, I have taught children across four key stages from nursery to year eight. Training and working initially as a primary classroom teacher, I specialise in primary, but I am experienced in SEND teaching and instrumental tuition at secondary level.
Being part of a musical residency in a school has been highly rewarding for a number of reasons: schools get to know me as a regular member of staff, allowing strong working relationships to develop; I have the opportunity to see musical progression from term to term in all classes, and therefore can use this to plan effectively for the next term; I enjoy working creatively to tailor the curriculum to meet the schools’ needs, as well as teaching to my strengths; and I love introducing and exposing children (and staff) to a variety of musical genres, performance opportunities and ways into music teaching. These experiences engage children and stimulate confidence, enthusiasm and joy in music learning.
I have a number of duties including administrative tasks such as helping to complete paperwork, assessment and forward-planning with the music co-ordinator, as well as helping to fulfil and advise on any subject leader roles where the teacher does not feel confident enough in their subject knowledge. However, my obvious and main duty is to provide a balance of theoretical and practical musical provision. To do this, I work through the objectives outlined in the National Music Curriculum, and a set of objectives broken down into specific musical areas by One Education to assist both the specialist teacher and staff in schools. Using these objectives, I cover composition, singing and vocal skills/projects, instrumental projects, music technology and basic theory such as rhythm and pitch notation.
My experience as a Musician in Residence has only been positive. There are many minor issues which arise on first starting residency in a school, usually to do with timetabling or administration when finding out about behaviour/safeguarding policies and so on, however I have found that once initial expectations have been discussed with the school/music co-ordinator, the lessons soon take off and become a natural and integral part of the timetable.
Making music accessible to children with barriers to learning
Planning for class topics has led me to search out different music genres and approaches to keep the learning fresh and varied for the children, enhancing my CPD in the process. I thoroughly enjoy the tailor-made, cross-curricular approach which is encouraged by the Musician in Residence programme. In a day, I can be sourcing and teaching songs for a Christmas concert with the theme of ‘love’ or ‘winter’ in the morning, and in the afternoon I might be leading a class through their composition skills based on a Viking ship journey.
This way of implementing music provision gives the children context and relevance to their music, allowing their own creativity to thrive and allowing all children to achieve in a single half-hour session. Music taught in this way can be especially effective for children with barriers to learning, EAL or SEND, as these children can access the learning without the need for written or oral explanation. Moreover, these children particularly can gain a huge sense of school-related self-esteem where it might not have existed before. For example, a child usually not willing to read aloud in class might play their composition part as a solo without any fear; children with EAL might copy rhythms and pick up vocabulary such as slow/fast/loud/quiet with practical demonstration rather than written flashcards; and gifted and talented children might perform or explain their musical learning from the lesson as a solo and begin to lead musical games or group work. In musical residency, the opportunity to use all these techniques for differentiation and progression can be incorporated into every lesson.
Music lessons can also have a focus on instrumental or vocal performance. I have taught whole-class recorder, ukulele and ocarina, and I’ve taught choir and strings in smaller groups or as clubs. Through the Wider Opportunities scheme, the children gain base-knowledge of musical theory as well as learning a practical instrument, providing an entry into longer-term musical education and a chance to engage with music in a way that their circumstances may not always allow.
When learning about vocal health or having a singing session, children learn how to stand or sit properly, how to look after their voices whilst singing, how to warm their bodies and voices up, how to use a ‘performing face’ and how to sing in a variety of styles and formats, including call and response, unison and part singing, rounds and harmony, to name a few. What they have practised can then be performed, adding purpose to their learning, through class-sharing assemblies or end of term concerts. Ensuring performance opportunities allows parents and carers and other members of staff a chance to share and appreciate the children’s musical abilities and lets the children take ownership of their learning. I have found that these sharing performances are invaluable as many children have never performed for an audience before. The more they do, the more their confidence grows, which can be reflected across their personal and academic progress.