As this year’s cycle of our Learning & Participation programme drew to a close with end of the Summer Term, Music Animateur Apprentice, Alice Howick shares her experiences from the final projects for the Music Animateur Apprentice Scheme.
This is it – after a year of training sessions, observations, deep philosophical conversations on the whys are wherefores of workshopping, and supporting leaders in delivering workshops, we – Spitalfields Music’s six Music Animateur Apprentices – are finally let loose on school pupils of our very own! My team – me on violin and piano, Sally MacTaggart on saxophone, and Tom West on double bass – have been given Class 3 of Canon Barnett Primary School. Our (very brief) brief is to, with Class 3, present a show about the Olympics to the rest of the school. Two weeks before the performance, we meet the children we would be working with…
It’s a scary moment for us when Class 3 walk into the room, eyeing us warily as we do the same. They’re a lively lot, and it feels like there are a lot of them. Under the beady eyes of our mentor, James, we put into action a lot of the ‘ice-breaking’ games he has taught us over the last year to get to know the children we will be working with. Despite a chorus of groans when we suggest singing, they are reassuringly enthusiastic about the Olympics Song we have written especially for them. We’re relieved, because we actually think it’s pretty brilliant too.
After break, we get out pens and paper and get to work creating our Olympic character who will be the focus of the show in a couple of weeks’ time. It’s difficult to harness these kids’ wild imaginations, but eventually we come up with a character: Sam, a guy with purple leggings and a huge afro, who dreams of winning a gold medal in the Olympics. We can feel a story coming on…
So, we have our character, and he has a dream, but now he needs a challenge! We get to work in groups creating short percussion pieces in which Sam tries out different sports, and has a bit of a crisis. The diving group decide that he is afraid of water. The running group give him a stitch in the middle of his marathon. And the tennis group give a disturbingly literal description of Sam getting hit on the head with a tennis ball and rushed to hospital (cue siren noises on a recorder).
Plenty of challenges for our character, and challenges for us as leaders too, each put in charge of eight excited children bearing wood blocks, xylophones and maracas!
Arriving at school, Class 3’s teacher informs us that we are down to a class of just 16. We are so close to the end of the school year, and so many of the children at Canon Barnett have family in other countries, that ten from this class alone have left school early for the holidays. We’re given a choice, and need to come up with a decision quickly: do we go on with just the 16 pupils remaining, or do we incorporate another class? My instinct is to stick with the ones with whom we have, by now, already spent half of the project. But before I have a chance to open my mouth, James is already jumping around getting excited about us having even more kids to work with. As soon as the new group are with us, it’s obvious he made the right decision: though we are having to put in twice as much energy, we are getting twice as much out of the children. We spend the time up to break-time bringing everyone up to speed on our story and learning the songs.
After break, we take Class 3 alone to work on writing some more songs for the show. Finding ourselves a little at sea, we’re grateful to have James there to model some songwriting techniques before taking it on ourselves, and end up with one song written and one on the way!
Find out how Alice and the team tackled the rest of the project in Part 2 – coming soon!