Flegg High School in Norfolk is one of the schools involved in the Trinity Rock & Pop pilot with Musical Futures. Teachers across the UK are exploring ways to integrate Trinity Rock & Pop materials into their classroom music lessons. This blog post is the first in a series which will chart the progress of a year 9 GCSE group as they use the Trinity Rock & Pop pieces for their GCSE performances, and is written by Flegg High School music teacher Fiona Sexton.
Getting started – choosing instruments and songs for our pupils
The plan was to begin with a solo performance piece followed by an ensemble performance for each pupil. The group included:
- Vocals – eight pupils; two below Grade 1 standard, two at Grade 1, two at Grade 2 and two at Grade 5
- Keyboard – seven pupils; three below Grade 1 standard, two at Grade 1, one at Grade 3 and one at Grade 5
- Drums – three pupils; one below Grade 1 standard, two at Grade 1
- Guitar – two pupils; one at Grade 1 and two at Grade 3
- Bass – one pupil at Grade 1
Within this group, one girl played clarinet but was also a singer, so she worked on her vocals. The clarinetist, plus three other pupils, have instrumental lessons but the rest were either self-taught or were complete beginners.
After a discussion with each pupil I chose for them a piece from the grade I thought was appropriate (see above). For the beginners I chose pieces I thought they might know, so that they already had some idea of the melody. They all began by listening to the original tracks on their phones before they started practising. I had given each pupil a copy of the music and I had all the backing tracks ready for them to put onto USB. It was interesting to see that some of the weaker pupils immediately wanted to do what their friends were doing despite the difference in musical ability. Although I inwardly applaud their determination I am concerned that they will lose heart trying easier pieces which I know are more suited to their current standard.
Pupils who had experience of instrumental lessons were a lot better prepared for this style of learning and they basically all just got on with it. It was also very obvious which pupils spent time playing and singing at home because they also had a range of rehearsal and practice techniques to draw upon.
I spent the majority of the lesson with two weaker pupils. The keyboard player was very unsure about how to move from not being able to play the piece to being proficient. This was a surprise bearing in mind the large amount of practical work he had done during Key Stage 3. We discussed this and it seems he had been relying heavily on being given instruction from his peers so, with this in mind, I helped him work out the notes for the first 8 bars, played it to him and gave him step by step targets for the remainder of the lesson. The second student that took up a lot of my time was a singer. He really had no specific musical experience and seemed very reluctant to engage in anything that involved performing. I had been hoping he would go for bass guitar as I had heard him play a simple bass part with some control but I had never heard him sing. However, he was adamant that he wanted to work as a vocalist so I decided to give him a chance to do so. He was unsure about my choice of song for him so I gave him the syllabus to look at and he listened to all the initial songs before choosing something different.
Points to plan/consider/fix before the next lesson:
- How can the backing tracks be used successfully to enhance the pupils practice time in school?
- How can I ensure that the rehearsal styles and rates of each individual pupil are accommodated within each lesson?
- How am I going to map the progress of the pupils?
Blog post written by Fiona Sexton, Flegg High School music teacher
(Photo credit: Emile Holba)
Stay tuned for the next blog post from Musical Futures in December.
Read the first Musical Futures blog post: ‘Pilot exploring Trinity Rock & Pop in the classroom underway‘.