Experiencing live music

As part of the Soundwaves in Action project, pupils from rural primary schools in the Crediton Learning Community experienced live music performed in their schools by two young emerging musicians, Aaron Samuel and Holly Morwena. Aaron and Holly are both music students from Bath University who are developing their skills as musical leaders.

Pupils from Years 2 and 3 from two schools in the learning community joined together to form the audience for an interactive performance at Tedburn St Mary Primary School. The performance was designed to inspire and engage pupils to encourage them to get involved with music at their school. Aaron and Holly invited pupils to participate from the minute they came into the hall:

“I loved the fact they were straight on it, so involved, and the instant participation they encouraged. I was sitting there watching pupils literally on the edge of their seats, hands were flying up, pupils were volunteering to get involved, they were really engaged, and for pupils of that age it was suprising…” Teacher, Tedburn St Mary Primary School

“It was great watching two classes sit pretty quietly mesmerised by what was happening!” Teacher, Crediton Primary School

Aaron and Holly devised a structure that mixed live playing and singing with conversation, asking pupils questions and responding to their answers. Holly explained their thinking:“We tried to use a balance of each other’s ideas and skills…as our audience were young children who don’t have the longest attention span we wanted to get them involved and keep them engaged”

Using both topical pop songs and songs they had written themselves Aaron and Holly performed a variety of different styles and genres. This enabled pupils to experience a range of live music from pop and rap to folk. Exposing pupils to different genres helped give them a variety of ‘ways in’ to the performance. In addition, Aaron and Holly talked about their education and background to give pupils ideas about how they might get involved with music and what it feels like to be a musician. This helped them understand the wide range of musical opportunities they could get involved in, from singing and playing to technical production. A member of the teaching staff commented:

“I really liked the way they related things to a career so the pupils could think it was maybe something they could do in the future, they spoke about different options for that”

A focus on song writing inspired many pupils. Holly spoke about her experience of writing, sharing ideas and process. Together with the pupils she devised a song from words they suggested, which Aaron performed as it built. Pupils related to the process and were able to take away ideas of their own, some commented:

“I’m going to try keeping a notebook in my pocket, and carry it around with me. She did that so she could remember her song when she wrote it”

“I saw them playing a guitar, and I play a guitar at home so I think I’m going to try and write a song”

“They gave them lots of ideas for song-writing linking it to poetry – that was a lovely link for them, they could all access that whether they like music or not” Teacher, Crediton Primary School

As part of the creation of a joint song pupils were shown a loop pedal. This simple addition to the workshop helped demystify some of the music making process as pupils were shown how complicated sounds are made. Breaking down the workshop in to bite-sized parts helped pupils come away feeling inspired and enthused. Teachers felt the techniques Aaron and Holly used would help them re-think their approach to future music provision:

“This has given me lots of ideas for the future. Just the idea of asking pupils what they want to sing and then thinking ‘can we unpick it and change it’, and the whole idea of song writing through performance poetry, it was really, really, good”  Teacher, Crediton Primary School

“If I could cover some of the things they have done today, like the song writing and the improvisation, creating our own material… if I could take that on board that would be a great legacy”  Teacher, Tedburn St Mary Primary School

Although for many of these pupils it was the first time they had experienced live music they were able to make a connection between the performance and their own use of music. Because pupils could recognise the songs they felt motivated to get involved, one pupil said:

“They played all the music I liked, I loved it when they sang the songs, I play them on my i-pad in the mornings” 

“I liked the bit where people from each school went up and took part” Pupil

The workshops gave pupils more than the experience of live music. Aaron and Holly worked in a flexible and responsive way so they were able to have an active involvement and feel valued. Holly summed up their approach:

“I think pupils had the chance to realise music is for everyone, and that there are so many career paths within it”

“I thought it was fantastic, I liked it when they were guitaring (sic) and I really liked the end part where I asked Aaron to rap, and he rapped!” Pupil

The performances brought pupils and staff together from small, isolated rural primary schools to share the experience of live performance. In addition to the benefits experienced by pupils, teaching staff appreciated the opportunity it provided them to join up with other schools, share learning and exchange ideas for future work:

“I’m not a music teacher per se, I just happen to be able to play instruments and sing. I’m here on my own in a small village primary school and there is no other member of staff within the school who does music whatsoever. For me bringing in other people is great for the pupils and for me too. They brought with them a completely different approach and different skills. For teachers like me who are very isolated it has a great value”  Teacher, Tedburn St Mary Primary School

Case Study: Clare Fisher and Jennie Hayes, September 2017