The Extra Curricular Diaries – Part 1

I am a firm believer in the power of Extra Curricular. I believe that having a healthy, varied and exciting programme of rehearsals, concerts & events leads to a healthy and thriving Music Department. So I thought I would start a bit of a diary of some of the things I do that might give some ideas.

The more we do outside the classroom the more we will achieve inside the classroom.

Monday 30th January 2017 – Lower School Big Band 

It’s 7.45 am at Windsor Boys’ School and fortunately it isn’t too cold. Boys start to arrive for the Monday morning Lower School Big Band (Years 9 & 10). This is a new group for 2017 and is about 25 strong. It is a combination of seasoned players who have reached a Grade 4/5 standard and also some beginners. There is also the odd fairly well accomplished student who is pushing towards grade 7/8. The group is therefore mixed ability and it is also led by a Year 11 student who is going on to study A Level Music and is a keen member of the music department.

As the lads get their instruments out there is that buzz of excitement and as usual the trumpets decide that a suitable warmup is to try and play the highest loudest notes in the world. The drummers feel the need to check their drums are working and music begins to fly around the room. The crucial thing for this rehearsal is that it is fun, has a plan and that we make some progress on the music we are playing. Nothing too ambitious I might add, but with scope for those who are more advanced – improvisation is a great way of stretching the most able. So for this group we are using this set of Big band books:

Discovery Jazz Favourites

I use http://www.studio-music.co.uk for almost all of the music I buy for my ensembles, so do check them out as they are fantastic. We are playing through – Gimme Some Lovin’, Brain Sprain, Hound Dog, Twist and Shout & At The Hop. Give them a try, great tunes and teach so many of the basics.  Space for improvisation as well for the more gifted players.

Anyway.

So the group are playing music, but there is of course a point behind it:

  1. It is a place for less experienced players to work with more experienced players and start to push themselves.
  2. It is a place for young leaders to emerge, not just the Year 11 at the front. But within each section there is a student who is more advanced and can therefore help another student. On Friday last week I went into our rehearsal room and there was a lad helping another lad in his year with the Tenor II part. This made me so happy
  3. We are preparing for a concert. The date is set and the band know when it is! But we are also preparing for those unknown events that can spring up – the headmaster might want music for something and I always want to be able to say yes.
  4. We are kicking off the day and week with music and I believe this to be good for the mind and soul!
  5. We are helping to cultivate a culture in the school of music making. Every morning music is flowing around the school site.

I love this group because the boys involved are “The Future” and I tell them that all the time. They are going to be in the sixth form together and they will one day be at the top of the school. So I want them to be community together. I want them to inspire each other and develop together.

So I guess I have three thoughts to end this blog with

a) Make sure you have a group for your lower school, or at least for a distinct year group or part of the school. It is good to have ability based groups but it is key to also mix abilities and create community and culture.

b) Play music that is achievable for the masses but might push the more able. But the thing is it is nice for the more able to be able to take a lead -they won’t mind it being too easy as long as they are pushed elsewhere.

c) Always have a goal for each and every group, whether that be a concert or “The Future”. Make them aware of how important they are and that will make every rehearsal matter.

So that was Monday morning, and whilst that group were rehearsing, The Guitar Ensemble were in another room preparing for the concert. That is also a student led group. Great to see so much happening before the week has really begun.

Do check us out on Social Media for pictures of all these groups & rehearsals!

Twitter – @twbsmusic

Instagram – @windsormusic

 

 

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