The music programme at North Fitzroy is an incredibly rich, exciting and stimulating programme that embraces composition, creativity, participation technology and fun. The main emphasis behind almost all our work is to empower the students with a sense of belief that their compositions are worthwhile. The role of the composer must be demystified and children’s compositions need to be highly valued. If our music department can do this it will create a lifelong love of music in children but rather than just being observers of music these children will go on to be participants and most importantly creators.
Every child gets to participate in a generalist music class once a week. It is in this class that the core understanding of composition is taught to the child. We try to cover a huge range of concepts and presentation styles to allow for as many different learning styles as possible. These include sound sculptures, movie soundtracks, abstract compositions, loops based composition, recording techniques, traditional notation, rap and hip hop and rock music. By teaching through composition you can teach the basic concepts such as pitch, rhythm texture and melody in a way that has personal relevance for the students and therefore will remain with them for their life. In their generalist class we have also done lots of work in instrument making, singing and African drumming. Almost every class starts with a listening session where the children listen to a variety of music and are encouraged to make comments on the compositional techniques as well as a personal judgement on whether they like it and why. A lot of these “listening” exercises are now done using DVDs and a data projector giving children a greater visual awareness of the music. On top of the generalist lesson children are encouraged to participate in the ensembles that we provide. We run a mixed percussion ensemble for each year level. This uses xylophones, glockenspiels, djembe drums, marimbas and hand percussion. . Each part is sung to the children and the learning is done by ear encouraging the children to learn all parts (a piece might have 5 different parts to it ranging from bass, middle, high melody lines as well as different beats). The students in collaboration with Kynan and Andrew compose most of the pieces we play. Improvisation in this ensemble is encouraged. We also run a couple of rock ensembles and a choir. As much opportunity as possible is provided for these ensembles to perform within the school at music assemblies, at the school concerts and outside the school. Strong links have been made with the local high school and region where groups have been invited to our school for mutual concerts and we have taken groups to other schools and community events. Finally we also run an EYT (extend your talents) programme for children who show a very keen interest and ability. In this programme they form their own groups to perform, record and look at other areas of the music industry such as advertising and management. They can also make their own short movies and animations using programmes such as imovie and istop motion. In this creation process they are required to score all the music for their movies and animations.
We believe our programme is innovative in a number of areas. Our core philosophy of valuing the idea of students as producers rather than just receivers of information, is what drives all our innovation. We have fully embraced technology as not only an important learning tool but we see it as merely being another valuable platform to allow for meaningful learning. A lot of our teaching revolves around understanding the role of music in various situations but to fully learn this children need to create those situations. With this in mind the children work on a lot of multi media projects such as film making, animations, the creation of radio shows and podcasting. Through programmes such as radio waves we have been able to podcast a lot of the children’s work on the internet thus forming valuable relationships with other schools and community groups throughout the world. By doing this we are allowing the children to produce work that has wings out side of the classroom. No longer are they producing work for merely one person, the teacher, they are now producing it for vast communities found and created by the internet. Technology is intricately woven into all aspects of children’s lives and therefore should be woven into all aspect of their school life. All of the children’s work is recorded and given back to them in the form of digital portfolios or uploaded onto the internet. This recording process is also handed over to the students in many instances.
One of our major innovations however is to integrate the music programme into the classroom programme. If you are able to do this your programme is no longer viewed as a marginalised idea falling into line well behind literacy and numeracy but rather it becomes valued as a nessasary aid to those things. We have done this by pushing the value of multimedia projects because they work with visual literacy. We have run many PDs teaching the classroom teachers various music programmes such as garageband, imovie etc. By doing this the fear of music has been removed from the teachers and they are confident to allow the students to integrate music into many of their projects. We have encouraged teachers ideas and tried to provide the infrastructure for them to do this. All classrooms have 5 computers in them and we have a Mac lab of 20 Computers as well as a small recording studio.
The impact we have is an exciting one. On a very grass roots level many of our students gone into high school with the innate believe that they are creators and their creations are valuable. They are not content to merely play a role but want to have a very personal involvement in the creation of that role. A number of our rock bands, which were formed when the children were only 10 years old, have maintained and are now gigging professionally. We have developed significant relationships with local community groups such as the Old Colnialist home for the elderly and the Croxton Special School. A special project is being run with the Croxton Special School where 10 of our students are working with 10 of their students every week for a term playing music and ultimately leading to a performance. This is being filmed by the kids and will be turned into a DVD for the performers. This has been a very valuable experience for all involved. Our programme is fortunate in the way it has been terrifically supported and valued by school leadership. This has allowed us to develop our programme. To pass on some of the skills we have learned we have been running PDs for our cluster groups to help share some of our information as well as learn from them.