Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Ventures in Vashi from a Becky who now can hear!

The school bus home has turned into a daily music session as the children ask us to sing, sing along to songs they know, perform their own songs to us and even take small ukulele classes! I have even been honoured to hear the debut of a new song which one of the girls had written specially for me!

Outside of school I have started teaching a girl from church piano. For a few years she has been working pieces out by ear with impressive results! Her dream is to be a pianist and she practices very hard. She also wants to write a song for her parents’ wedding anniversary which I am helping her with – adorable!

Working with the younger children in school is teaching me to be more dramatic and communicate through whole body gestures. It is amazing to see the difference in their response if you who them magic beans that are only jazz hands compared to magic beans that are jazz hands plus a footstep!

On Saturday Cat and I will start working with a choir from the Sacred Heart School who have asked if we can come and run a few rehearsals. We are really excited about this!

Teaching was very difficult since last Friday because I lost most of the hearing in one of my ears. It is very odd teaching music without full hearing! The school nurse saw me a few times and eventually sent me to hospital which terrified me! I needn’t have been worried – the service was excellent and with no waiting around at all I was sent to an ENT specialist who got to work and now I can hear. Hooray!

The keyboard in our room of the apartment is getting lots of use as the Indian girls we are staying with are learning little bits and pieces and are teaching us a beautiful hindi love song which I’m working out an accompaniment for. It is such fun! They are also teaching us some classical Indian dance which is amazing! 

Weekend in Trivandrum

This weekend we went down to Trivandrum at 4:30am on Friday morning (to beat the traffic!) to be there to teach at the other school Abraham works at, a.k.a CDMS. It made a nice change to be exclusively teaching piano to children rather than teaching classroom lessons to people our own age! The school that we went to offered piano, keyboard, guitar and drum lessons which all went on all day in the small building so it got quite noisy as the day went on... There is also no kind of structures timetabling in the centre and students just turn up at any point in the day so we just had to be there on stand-by on the off chance people would show up! (which they did!)

The method of teaching here, like Nadia said, is completely focused on graded exams and because of this, the students are taught the bare minimum they need to pass it, i.e just learning the pieces and scales they need to play in the exam and not expanding their other skills such as sight-reading. This made teaching them a little difficult to get used to as many of them were not very good at actually reading the music. I think as the weekend went on though, we found ways of getting around this and it did become a little easier to get things across to them. We tried making tactful suggestions about how the students should perhaps engage in short weekly sight-reading classes with fun music like pop or Disney so maybe that could be the future? Some of the students returned the next having practiced with our methods, making huge improvements which was really rewarding.

As well as continuing our work at ACCM, we are also becoming more integrated with the children's home we are living at. For example, the weekend before last we organised a little concert where the children could put their name's down and do a performance in front of everyone. It was great fun and they really seemed to enjoy all the singing and dancing that happened so this weekend we're planning on doing something similar again but this time, making more of a competition out of it!

We had some exciting news over the weekend as well. We're going to be on Indian television!! Abraham is involved in a local Christian worship program and has been asked to record a show that we will be involved in, in a couple of weeks time which will be super exciting!! 

More updates coming soon!!


Sunday, 28 July 2013

Gurgaon: The Saga Continues

Áine here again.

Drawing to the end of the first month in Gurgaon, and this week has brought about a lot of change and discussion at One World College of Music.

In the weeks here so far, it has become apparent that there have been a couple of issues with the organisation of some of the lessons in the school, as well as attendance of the pupils. The former issue mainly centres around the fact that a lot of the group classes are of mixed ability, and therefore cannot be taught efficiently by the teachers. This has led to teachers and pupils sometimes feeling a little bit unfulfilled, when classes have to be catered to a large range of needs. Classes are also sometimes ambiguously named and teachers do not always know exactly what they are meant to be teaching.

In this week’s teacher meetings, however, I and the teachers worked on a plan for the timetable to rectify some of these problems, and presented these to the director of the school earlier today. The director took the suggestions very seriously, and off the back of this meeting there is now a more coherent timetable, split into instrumental, theory/aural training and group practical lessons. The guitar teacher has volunteered, and has now been appointed, as a student-teacher liaison manager whose role is to ensure that pupils are put into different classes on the basis of standard and commitment, following an initial assessment. He will also be in charge of leading the twice-weekly teacher meetings and helping sort any related issues. In addition to this appointment, many of the books that teachers have been asking for have now been bought or ordered, the storage of books has been reorganised, as well as enquiries started into sourcing a box of earplugs for the drum room.

The final point is one of my inputs. I have a hearing impairment myself, and as a result have to wear two hearing aids, and experience a number of related problems in the world of music. I am therefore very sensitive to the fact that many musicians suffer from degradation of hearing from constant exposure to noise, and am very aware of how hard any hearing impairment can make life. Obviously exposure to noise is a danger in music classes, especially for percussionists. I would therefore encourage anyone working at a school with drum and/or percussion pupils to discuss the acquisition of ear plugs (the foam ones are often very cheap when bought in bulk) and possible measures to reduce exposure to noise. Education about this problem, though, is key. I have so far found that this is an issue discussed in India even less than back on home turf, but is perhaps even more serious here, as help for those with hearing loss appears to be much less common and much more expensive than in the UK. 

Anyway, here endeth that lesson.

The long and short of this week then, has basically been progress. I am always very aware that I'm over here in India not merely as a supply teacher, but to make some sort of lasting impression and to work for cultural dialogue. It is therefore very encouraging that everyone at all levels of One World College of Music are keen to collaborate in order to work to improve the school in any way, and use the full extent of any outside knowledge of music education that I may have. A brilliant and productive week - the future definitely is looking even brighter for One World!

Maria - Gurgaon Post 3

I’m quite exhausted from this week! Since my last post, rehearsals for ‘Oliver’ have been properly organised and put into action. This is much better as it means that the classroom music lessons at the Shri Ram secondary school are not divided between rehearsing for the musical and learning the basics of music theory. It also means all of the singers are together in one room instead of rehearsed separately in batches. We’ve established quite a full-on schedule of 3 rehearsals per week for these 13 and 14 year olds. Yesterday the Shri Ram students came to the private music school IMD to use the facilities so I worked with the choir whilst other teachers helped the piano and guitar students. The excitement of being taken to the music school made the children eager to learn and this enthusiasm reflected in their music making.

I’m keen to establish a choir at both IMD and Shri Ram because at present there is no ensemble music-making in either school. At Shri Ram this would help to embed music into the school as a fun activity and provide an outlet for so many of the students who are keen to sing in music lessons. It would work in counterpoint to the music lessons themselves which I am reluctant to let become solely singing classes especially because there is so much else to cover! Although we do use singing in the classroom lessons, having a choir would be a positive environment for singers who are keen to take part. At IMD, I’d like to set up a choir because a lot of the students who take singing lessons have difficulty in sight singing. Mostly, this is because they are learning from lyric sheets instead of music and have music theory as a separate element to the class. I’m trying to change this as I think that learning notation and should be incorporated into the singing. Still, in establishing a choir the singers will need to read quickly and have fun doing so as a group.

I’m doing very little piano teaching but am getting stuck into composition teaching which is mostly on a one-on-one basis. This week I’ve been teaching how to compose a melody using chords I,IV and V. Most of the students have a good basic knowledge of theory but are used to arranging rather than writing their own music so this has been quite new to them. Next week I’m going to be looking at how to create structure in composition.

My thought for this week has been inspired by one of my students at Shri Ram who was misbehaving and not doing his work in a class I was teaching about musical instruments of the orchestra. When I asked the little boy why he wasn’t working, he said this was because he didn’t see the point in studying this because he was never going to see an orchestra or play in one. Although my reply to my student was that this didn’t matter because it is still important to learn about different instruments so he can appreciate them when he hears them in films and grow up to be more inquiring, I thought he did have a point in questioning the cultural relevance of western classical music in Indian culture. Instruments other than piano, guitar and drums are rarely taught in Gurgaon/Delhi as there is no demand for them. Similarly there are no orchestral concerts here: the majority of concerts are fusion bands, Hindi pop or Indian classical. Rather than teaching exclusively western instruments such as piano, guitar I’ve been thinking that IMD should have staff who specialise Indian classical instruments so that the children can learn music born from their own culture. Still, since western pop is so ubiquitous here it is fruitful to expose them to western classical too, albeit as a complement to Indian classical music, not a substitute.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Avalon Updates - Cat

It's fast approaching the time when the children we've been working with at Avalon are to showcase their work to their parents on the open day.

We've managed to turn the bear hunt in to a theatrical performance with the teachers/aunties getting involved by playing some percussion and marching through the performance with various drum beats. There's even talk of filming it! That as well as 'Drop in the Ocean' and a bit of 'Singin' in the Rain' (how fitting) should make a nice presentation for the Senior Kindergarten. Junior Kindergarten have yet to tire of 'Oats and Beans' and they're doing a similar theatrical rhythmic march as Sr KG through the jungle, something I wrote myself. That and another plant themed song will form their presentation and it's all coming together. We have one more week of rehearsals before the performance.

Rain has affected our teaching this week. Some of the children in the schools live quite far away so on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, we had a half day as the school had to shut; a firm reminder of the dangers of the monsoon. This meant that we lost a couple of teaching hours but it's nothing we can't bounce back from!

Becky working hard - Jack and the Beanstalk presentation

I've spoken to the teacher in charge of the pre primary and kindergarten children about reshuffling our hours so we can branch out a bit when the presentations are out the way. This is being arranged so that Becky and I can spend some time in a less privileged school in Mumbai and do some workshops there. Ayush is putting us in touch with the relevant people. (My phone literally just rang as I'm typing this!) We'd also like to get involved with the day care after school programme at Avalon. They are a mixed bunch (aged 3-13) so we could do some more advanced songs and exercises with them and encourage the older children to act as peer mentors to the younger ones.

On 31st July there is a fundraiser concert happening in Mumbai that Ayush will give me the details for. I'll take some snaps and hopefully post them up here for ya'll to see. 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Teaching in Musee Musical

After being in Chennai for 3 weeks, I’m having a better understanding about South India, the food, the culture, the people are amazing. Even though there are not too many places that you can visit and not many things are happening around here, but it has been awesome so far with musee musical and seeing India in such a different perspective.

My school is based on individual learning and it is always taught on a one to one basis. The level of students varies but the majority lies between initial grade and grade 5.  In the school, it is very common for the teachers to be teaching 2 or 3 children in different rooms at the same time. This way, children often only get about 20 minutes lesson and around 40 minutes of practice. I find every day challenging as I can always go to different students at different time and check upon their progress and not one day is ever the same. Going to a room where the student is practising alone help both the teachers and students as I will listen, give opinions, evaluate, and share my practising methods in order for them to know how they can practise efficiently at home.

It has been very rewarding by sharing my musical knowledge and teaching experiences with the teachers too. Some of them are working towards ATCL and we have been discussing about my past experiences, sharing opinions and forming new ideas on advance piano playing. This not only helps the teachers to progress but it also allows the teachers to pass on this information to each other as well as to their students.

At the moment, I’m working on a duet piece, a Slavonic Dance by Dvorak with one of the teachers in here, and I shall upload the video in here soon.  I’m trying to help them understanding the benefits of playing duet pieces and how they can impose this onto the lessons with the students. And I can see how this is helping the teachers and students to learn, so thank you Nadia for introducing this in the Induction session!

The Paul Harris workshop was held in our school. It was great in terms of the new idea that the teachers can be used during their lessons and advices that will help the students to work on their sight reading techniques.
Some students have just finished their piano particle exams during last week and I have been trying to reinforcing the importance of sight-reading to all of them, and start off with some simple pieces that they can be able to play. Telling them different techniques that they can apply into their practice such as understanding the sense of rhythm, try not to look at your hands whilst playing, try not to stop or repeat the same phrases again, etc.

However, there is often a cultural issue and parents would like to push their child for grades and playing pieces that are too hard for them. It’s frustrating sometimes that they only play pieces that are on the grading syllabus and nothing more, so I’m also trying to introduce pieces that both students and teachers have never heard of before such as Bach Inventions. Also, seeing the students with a grade 6 book in next lesson just after doing grade 5 last week is fairly common too!

For these coming weeks, I’m planning to work on a short booklet that will provide some additional suggestions onto their daily teaching by going through most of the common problems that I have seen students have in here, from pedalling to hand postures, etc. Apart from this, I’m also helping the school to prepare pieces and songs that the students and teachers will be performing on their annual day in September!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Throwing stars and l'homme arme

Becky here from Avalon school in Vashi, Navi Mumbai.
I’ve just had a very excited class of second-grade students finishing their musical performance of the princess and the pea then enjoying the bongalow! They have also written lyrics for two songs based on simple tunes, choosing to write about manners and conserving water. All of my four second-grade classes can now clap notated rhythms and seem to enjoy composing their own on the board for their friends to clap! Each class is writing its own lyrics on different tunes and I have copied their lyrics to Scarborough Fair at the bottom of this post for you to enjoy – they have beautiful ideas! One class have been really enjoying the l’homme arme tune so I played them part of a mass by Josquin based on this idea. They then showed me what the music made them think of - more beautiful ideas!  
My grade one classes are preparing presentation of Jack and the Beanstalk to show their parent using instruments, a learnt songs and a song which they wrote themselves. There are some particularly good giants in these classes!
All of the classes are enthusiastic about the ukulele and the flute, often requesting particular tunes which they have heard me play before. A really nice end-of-class activity is getting them to show me with their actions what different tunes on the flute make them think of.
I am about to tuck into a lovely Indian lunch. Enjoy the children’s lyrics below!

Class 2D are journeying,
Through the clouds with the birds,
Through the thunder and the tornado,
Woo, Crash, Woo, Crash,

Class 2D fly through the clouds,
Clouds like cotton and mountains
Climb up the rainbow and slide down,
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

Class 2D plays with the stars,
Throwing stars and jumping between them,
Landing on a rock on the moon.
Class 2D rocks.

We fly high behind the sun,
Feel its warmth and sparkle.
The sun shines on our faces,

Class 2D shines like the sun.

Sam and Duncan in Mumbai Weeks 2-3

After a few trips on the world’s busiest train where we had to leap onto the dubious vehicle as it pulled out of the station and then hang out of the doorless carriage, a magnificent beer tower (no exaggeration there), and an attempt to cook masala where the victims of this dish will be suffering from the amount of spice used in the recipe for weeks, we are back with another blog entry.

We are in full swing at the three schools with interesting lesson plans (the children told us our lessons are interesting so it’s not just me being big headed) and on a broader scale, a working curriculum, which we hope will provide a pivotal mechanism for the music education at Garodia. Within these lessons we have encouraged more intelligent listening where the pupils can link music to emotions/ideas through aspects of musical events, and have purported the effective technique of Kodaly which in turn has led to children developing rhythms with notes and then eventually Western notation.

Sam teaching students rhythmic notation

We have also jumped deep into piano and violin lessons where we are able to provide the students with a wholesome idea of technique and more importantly lots of sight-reading, which was a major aspect to the Paul Harris workshop which we both attended and received a few intriguing ideas. We also met Josh and had a beer but that is another story.
Violin lesson!
Because this is a cultural exchange we braved another few trains and watched the ‘Megh Malhar’ festival which consisted of three nights of Indian Classical Music to welcome in the monsoon. The monsoon was already in full swing but never mind! There were some phenomenal performances from extraordinary singers and sitarists accompanied by fantastic tabla players.

On an extra-curricular note, we are still helping put together the musical for the International school by auditioning the children in each year and filtering out an effective choir. On top of this we are working with the P.G School to put together the popular piece ‘Jai-ho’ for India’s Independence Day in August.

We have also been sight seeing around Mumbai! We have visited Colaba and been to the impressive Gateway to India, as well as the famous Leopold cafe for some great food. Marine Drive is beautiful, especially at night, and even on cloudy days the sunset is lovely.

Marine Drive

On a more serious note the two girls we were living with have left the apartment and we have realised that there is another floor which has two balconies! With this, the supposedly unusual amount of rain for monsoon period, and the realisation that our train station is surrounded by goats and pigs, that is all from us this time.

Sam after a hard day's work...

Cat Avalon Update - Mumbai

This begins our fourth week at Avalon. The children are learning the songs well. After starting off with simple songs to gauge their ability, I’ve moved on to longer songs with more words to challenge some of the older kindergarten classes.
One of the ‘hits’ that always goes down a storm is a variation on the favourite children’s story book ‘We’re going on a bear hunt.’ Add in a drum beat and you have immediately introduced the concept of beat and pulse and the kids are speaking rhythmically without realising it. I say a line and they repeat it. I’ve realised that to get the most out of the kids, you have to give 100% every time. This may seem obvious but if I’m the least bit tired I try not to show it as this rubs off on them and they become disinterested. For this reason, I have perfected my bear growl and facial expressions for the disgusted look I need when having to go through ‘thick oooozy mud.’ Having a class of 20 or so 5 year olds screaming their fiercest bear growls back at me is an exhilarating experience…no lie!
‘Drop in the ocean’ one of my most memorable songs from school is perfect for the senior kindergarten children. I have acquired a backing track for it so this adds a bit of interest and texture for them. I’ve come up with actions for it which helps them to remember the words and I’m sure that when it’s showcased next month the parents will enjoy it. I’ve received great feedback from both teachers and parents so that’s really promising.
With the junior kindergarten kids, I’m taking things slower as they are slightly younger and it takes them a while to remember longer phrases. Consolidation is key with the younger age group and I worried at the start that doing the same thing over and over would become tedious, but it’s necessary for them to put on a good show at the open day. I’ve mixed ‘Oats and Beans’ with a variation on the bear hunt to ‘we’re marching through the jungle’ for these little ones so they have a varied repertoire and are also learning the basics of rhythm and pulse.

Nursery progress is slower again but as they are still learning the basics of English and also in a different accent, there is a bit of a barrier. By now they are familiar with me, however, and my slots are shorter. We’re singing ‘Kum Ba Ya,’ ‘Little Johnny Dances’ and ‘Kye Kye Kule’ -  a West African traditional song, a bit like head shoulders knees and toes. I’m hoping to expand their song repertoire a little further but for now we’re just having fun making silly faces and singing at ‘little johnny’ to dance on different parts of our bodies. Such fun! 

Friday, 19 July 2013

Update from Gurgaon, Delhi

Maria: I’ve been really busy here in Gurgaon and think I’ve settled down well. Teaching classroom music at Shri Ram School secondary school is my main activity which I do most weekdays from 9 till 2 then afterwards I usually have classes at the private music school IMD.
Since music is such a new subject at Shri Ram, only having been introduced a few months back, the children have no knowledge of most of the basics of music. I am busy providing a course to cover the rudiments of rhythm, harmony, texture and form with them in a way which I hope will be fun and engaging. I find that I am teaching in a way which is very different from how I might teach the equivalent age group in western school because the culture is so different. For example, the children although are keen on western favourites such as Justin Bieber and One Direction, have no familiarity with for example western scales or instruments other than pianos and guitars.
Shri Ram School has an impressive extra-curricular life and the teachers have decided to stage a production of ‘Oliver’. This musical will be performed in September after I leave but I aim to prepare students as far as possible. This is a tricky task as this is the first musical the school has done and it seems to be an organisational challenge. In particular, as yet there is no separate rehearsal time other than music classes which means that for half of the lesson I am teaching, for example an introduction to rhythm, and for the other half of the lesson  they need to learn how to sing ‘Food Glorious Food’. I am working to introduce a separate practice time for those taking part in the musical but this might take some time. Still, it will be good to have all the children who are performing in one space at last.
After the hectic pace of Shri Ram and the 500 children I teach there each week, I’ve really enjoyed coming to the IMD in the afternoons to teach individual lessons. I’m covering vocals, composition and some piano too. IMD has a blossoming composition section but the students are primarily working by arranging existing music using a software programme. I am working to allow them to compose their own music away from the software so that they can do some work at home too. I have some adult pupils and this has been particularly rewarding because they are so keen to learn!
Outside of work I’ve been doing quite a bit of yoga, visited Qutb Minar and India Gate and successfully survived a bout of Delhi belly. Looking forward, Shri Ram has plans to stage Happy Feet the musical for its younger students, so I will have my work cut out with that no doubt.

Áine: We are currently deep into rehearsals for the OWCM Independence Day concert, which is taking a lot of preparation, and late sessions fuelled by kitkats and samosas!
My days are broken down into lessons for my intensive course pupils (a lot of whom are already showing really pleasing progress), group singing classes, theory classes, composition workshops, Preparation to Perform ensemble and theory classes, as well as band and choir rehearsals. Most pupils are near-beginners, but there is a smattering of (mainly pianists) up to about Grade 8 standard. This presents its own challenges in that the differences in the standards of players means that more advanced students may not always be as engaged during the group classes.
I have now arranged twice weekly meetings with the teachers as a forum for discussing pupils and the teaching system. I aim to have written a tiered curriculum by the time I leave, as well as a system for judging what level a student is at, to ensure students of a similar standard are grouped together, make it more clear to teachers what they should be doing in these lessons and to provide a bit of continuity. The teachers are all very enthusiastic with bringing up suggestions and issues, as well as asking questions and sitting in my classes, and are all eager to work to improve the school.
Tuesdays are OWCM’s day off, but I use this time (as well as Thursday mornings) to work at Sankalp, a local NGO run school. I teach a class of around 30 primary-age pupils, and we have been learning We Shall Overcome in Hindi (Hum Honge Kamyaab), Vande Mataram and a marching song to sing with one of the OWCM bands. Transcribing some of these songs into Western notation, learning Hindi, and getting my head around the Bengali and Sanskrit pronunciations has been a bit of a challenge!
I was touched to find in my last lesson that my Sankalp class had all been devotedly practising their do re mis and sa re gas in the playground. As a school for the immigrant population of Gurgaon, all of the classes are led in Hindi as the children don’t really understand English, but we do our best in class. This has provided plenty of hilarity with my broken Hindi and dodgy interpretations of the Indian head wobble (usually leaving me feeling a tad dizzy and in need of a sit-down).
The biggest challenge so far though has probably been the weather. Firstly the heat; frequent power-cuts mean that a/c and ceiling fans cannot always be relied on, and my last class in a windowless Sankalp classroom culminated in one child wandering priest-like down the aisles, flicking cooling water at us all. Secondly, the rain. The drainage is so bad around here that one day the other week, no rickshaws could access the roads to OWCM, and so I had to wade to work. The water almost reached waist height at points, so I waded out with my skirts knotted up and a towel turban (to keep my hands free and the towel dry, to use at school), much to the amusement of many onlookers...

Avalon, Cat and Becky.

Really busy here preparing for musical presentations for parents. We have just been presented with a lovely pile of handmade cards, carpet and model pinochio from lovely children we don't even teach! It's a real testimony to the caring nature of all children and staff at Avalon school.

We have yet to teach a single piano lesson! At Avalon, the teaching is classroom based. Cat is working in nursery and kindergarten classes, teaching them songs and basic rhythmic techniques. It's more important that they have a good time though, and Becky is teaching grade 1,2 classes, the British equivalent would be year 2 or three I think. We are working full weeks, in school from 8am - 3pm Monday to Friday and Cat has emailed around Ryan's contacts regarding outreach work. After a good first response however, she hasn't heard much except from Ayush, a teacher at a local school called Muktangen. Unfortunately, we don't have days off during the week which would be the perfect time for us to go and do workshops in the school but we're hoping that after presentations, we can have a bit more freedom to go elsewhere!

We were thinking of organising a fundraising concert showcase in Mumbai to raise money for local charities. If anyone in Mumbai would be interested in getting involved, don't be afraid to drop us an email.

Speak soon!

C & B xx

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Josh in Mumbai 2

Well I’m now 12 days down but it feels like a month. Not a bad thing of-course, I just seem to have done an awful lot in the last 2c. weeks.  I’m starting to get my bearings in the local area, and the shopkeepers have started to recognise me. Especially the postman, but that’s another story.   I’m really enjoying it here and I’ve managed not to be ill (yet). I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before Mumbai catches up with me… not wanting to sound pessimistic!

The week observing was very enjoyable, I think I’ve learnt most of the names of the staff and teachers at the foundation, quite a feat considering there’s at least 16 names and only a couple are remotely English sounding.

Although it’s been an observing week I’ve actually taken part quite a lot, holding my own individual piano lessons for 7 students.  I’ve also accompanied the senior choir, attended a couple of theory classes and played in the string ensemble (that starts at 8:30 on a Sunday morning……..).  Also on Wednesdays and Thursday’s I travel with Rael to a school called Aseema, a good 50 minute drive north of the Foundation (apparently it’s only 25 mins in lighter traffic) where we provide music workshops from 10am-2:30pm for students attending the state-funded school.

I’ve already been to 3 different dinner parties, all of which were lovely and I can only praise the friendliness of everyone I’ve met. Photo’s will follow shortly, though I always seem to leave my camera or phone in my bedroom whenever something spectacular happens

I also managed to bump into Duncan and Sam at the Paul Harris ‘Piano Teaching’ presentation on Monday (my day-off, I’d like to point out.), it was good to see a couple of friendly faces from the WAM association, as the last time I saw them was the interview process in February.  We had a good catch-up and plan to meet again sooner than later.

I could carry on talking but I’ll leave it until my next blog  - mainly cause I’m going to head to bed… I have the possibility of a lie-in tomorrow, as I’m only busy from 11am, (I’m being worked hard here, but I’m classing it as a compliment) so want to make the most of it!


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Update from Kottayam

Hi everyone!

Rosie here. It's been a busy few weeks at ACCM in Areeparambu, and we've managed to squeeze in some exciting trips at the weekends so lots to tell. We began our full time teaching last week, so are getting into the swing of things. The main jobs we have been asked to do cover the theory/history/aural parts of the course. It is a really small college and we only have 6 pupils (so far 0 admissions are still going on, despite the fact that we are teaching!), but end up teaching most of them separately because they have a wide range of abilities. I've been taking group history classes, which has been really fun beacuse I can choose pretty much anything I want to teach them! They all have almost no Western musical context, and I quickly worked out from the first lesson that they had never properly listened to a piece of Western music, so I'm spending a lot of time playing them music. They're learning fairly quickly, and seem to really enjoy actually hearing what they're learning about (so far, the Baroque). I'm also taking a third year aural class and theory for all years. We were told this week that we also write the exams that they take for these modules, which is a big responsibility! These lessons have taken up a lot of our time, so we haven't had much time for piano lessons so far, although we should have more next week. We will also be teaching more piano when we travel to Trivandrum the weekend after next to teach in the Centre of the Development of Music Studies (CDMS). This is a school, up to age 18, so it will be great trying our hand at teaching younger children. We have lots of opportunities here to introduce masterclasses and workshops, and next week we are hoping to give a conducting workshop to the older students.

We had an amazing time last weekend when we took a 4 hour bus journey through the mountains to Kumily, and spent a whole day in Periyar Wildlife Reserve doing a safari and rainforest trek! We're still having lots of fun spending time at the children's home every evening, and have found a fair exchange - we teach them songs and they teach us Malayalam.

Rebecca has created a facebook page (WAM 2013) where we can share our photos and non-work related stories! Will update this blog soon.


Sunday, 7 July 2013

Josh in Mumbai

I’m currently sat by myself in the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation’s (MMMF) office, thinking about the next 2 months and what they might have in store.  I should also warn the avid readers of this blog, that I only managed 2 hours sleep on the flight last night, and so we might see my future blogs have a noticeable progressive quality. (I hope)…

I arrived today (Sunday 7th) and have simply been trying to get my bearings.  Abha, the Assistant Education Programmer was kind enough to give some time on her day off to show me round the foundation and local streets.  We went for lunch and talked music, culture and English humour among other things.  The MMMF is based in a relatively affluent area, hence the lack of rickshaw’s on our front doorstep...

As I understand, I’ll be working 6-day weeks, both attending the MMMF, and also Outreach work with the local schools. The lessons seem to start from anytime as early as 8am, and can continue up till 8pm at night, so it’s just as well my bedroom (with ensuite..!) is in the same apartment.

This next week looks like I’ll be observing a lot of lessons, and getting to know the members of staff and students.  I’m looking forward to it, and can’t wait to do a bit more exploring of Mumbai.  Though the high level of performance that this foundation offers means I’m also going to have to put in some serious practice before my two ‘lunchtime concerts’ over the next couple of months!!

Bye for now!


Hello from Gurgaon!

Maria: After a bumpy flight we arrived in one piece in Delhi. As soon as we left the airport building we were met with a wall of humidity which seemed impossible. Gradually, we are getting used to this! I am teaching at the Institute of Music Dynamics (‘IMD’) which is a private music school that has been running for a couple of years. The main disciplines taught are guitar, piano, vocals, drums and composition. The school also has a contract with several local schools and teaches classroom music there. This is the area that I am going to be most involved in.
This week I have spent several days teaching in the Shri Ram school. This is one of Delhi’s best schools because of the grades that it achieves. Therefore I was surprised by how naughty some of the children were! I am teaching grades 6-9 (ages 10-14) and most classes have around 35 children in them. So far my classes have involved basic rhythmic exercises, singing and notation. I have also tried introducing composition and experimental music (e.g. ‘music’ as sounds not just from musical instruments). This was met with some confusion. I think I will have to take things slowly. The most difficult thing will be in teaching harmony as there is only one piano in the school and the children have no access to xylophones etc. as in Western schools.
My favourite part of this week so far has been teaching at the IMD which runs in the afternoon after normal schools have finished. Here I taught some adults individually in singing lessons. This was great because the students were so willing to learn and interested! I’m looking forward to what next week brings.

Hey – Áine here! Unlike Maria, whilst in Delhi, I’m teaching solely at the One World College of Music. This is an independent music school, specialising in extra-curricular music teaching for school-age children, as well as adults. Luckily for me, this means that my working hours start after mainstream school finishes during the weekday so I can have a bit of a lie-in, but unfortunately it also means that I also work fairly long hours on the weekend!
This week, I at first mainly sat in on the music lessons (which comprise of individual guitar, piano, voice, bass and drumkit lessons as well as theory classes and band/choir practise), but for the past few days I have also had my own piano and voice students, as well as some ensemble and adult theory classes. My main role at the school is to help sort out a curriculum, as well as some teaching, concert preparation and organising a variety of workshops for the whole school (today, for example, I gave an 80 minute popular song composition class). In this respect, I am working equally with both teachers and students, to enable some collaboration and give some fresh ideas on structuring series of lessons as well as introducing a few methods for keeping students engaged. The school contains a large proportion of beginners, and around a dozen dedicated instrumental tutors, who also run the theory and ensemble classes.
I am still very much in the process of getting used to life both at the school and in Gurgaon itself – the daily performances of histrionics necessary to negotiate a halfway reasonable price for auto-rickshaw rides to school have now reached the point where I myself am almost moved to tears by my own emotional fervour. Generally otherwise, everyone I have met is extremely welcoming and always have time for a chat, be it about work, the incessant heat or recommendations for a good place to get a bite to eat.

First week in Chennai

After facing the uncomfortable hot humid weather, the chaotic traffic system with horns being used excessively and a lot constructions going around the city, I have finally arrived to my accommodation with a warm welcome. There are flowers being given to me, and the teachers and the head of the accommodation showed me around the guest house, the transportation, the school and making sure everything is alright, and this has definitely helped me to settle in very well.
Musee Musical is one of the oldest music schools in Chennai with over 150 years of history. There are shops that sell all kind of instruments and music books and CD, etc. Besides from the shop, students attend lessons from the teacher on a one to one basis and the school teaches various instruments from piano, violin, guitar, to vocal, drum, keyboard and so on. It has been delightful to teach the children individually as I have the opportunities to bond with them as well as providing advices and assistances that enable them to work towards their goal specifically.  Lessons have started already and I shall update you soon with a few observations that I have noticed during these past days.
Oh and a few things I found rather unusual, the people and students have been shaking their heads for yes and it does take some time to get used to. Also, the food is indeed challenging, curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner and there is no such thing as “not spicy” in Chennai! 
Anyway, I’m heading off to a bar soon with some friends to watch the Wimbledon final and it should be really good!

Until next time!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Sam and Duncan in Mumbai - Week 1

After one forgotten passport and a hectic flight and journey to the flat, we arrived safely in Ghatkopar East. Our flat is basic but functional and cosy, with the surrounding areas greatly filled with restaurants and other oddities which we won’t attempt to describe. It’s safe to say that this area isn’t remotely touristy. The morning after we arrived we took a rickshaw (Mumbai’s most basic taxi) to the school and the journey there gave us our first real taste of chaotic Mumbai. There are rubbish heaps for domestic waste on most streets, cows roaming freely in the road, stray dogs everywhere, and slums under railway stations – the city is chaotic but exciting. People drive manically in Mumbai (compared to in England) and at first it’s terrifying though we are getting used to it now. The heat is intense but it is mostly humid with occasional torrents of rain lasting anywhere from 5 minutes to about an hour or more. However, some parts of Mumbai are very westernised, especially Mumbai’s largest shopping centre, the ‘R-City Mall’ which we visited today.

The school we are working at is the Garodia International Centre for Learning in Garodia Nagar, and it is a primary and secondary school consisting of three separate parts: P.G. Garodia, in which students work towards the Indian Secondary Certificate of Education (ICSE), Garodia International, in which students work towards the International Baccalaureate (IB) and other international qualifications, and the P.G. Garodia Conservatoire, where students are given instrumental lessons, and study music theory. For the first week, we were thrown into teaching music in classrooms to children from ages 7-8 (Grade 2) to ages 13-14 (Grade 8). We observed some music lessons being taught in the school before we took our own classes, and they consisted mostly of group singing and musical games with the younger children. We were keen to build on this foundation which seemed to be a time filling exercise more than anything else, and our first few lessons consisted of clapping and singing games with the younger children, and popular song structure using a Bob Dylan song with the older kids (we played Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t think twice it’s alright’ to death on that first day.) We have since started teaching children’s rhythmic syllables using Kodály’s method, which is well received by most kids, even very young ones! We also tried teaching rounds such as ‘London’s Burning’ to the kids, but they didn’t seem to grasp those as effectively. An interesting project we have agreed to help out with is the school’s annual musical, which for this year has the theme of ‘Under the Same Sky’. Our job will be to choose appropriate songs and rehearse them with the children in preparation for a show in November. The teachers insisted that there should be little dialogue but as much lively dancing and singing as possible.

We have also taught piano at the Garodia Conservatoire this week. Conservatoires are very different in England, since this Indian conservatoire consists of a single room shared with the International school, containing multiple electric keyboards, an electric piano, 2 drum kits, and some guitars. Instruments are taught in groups and in piano lessons, each child in a group of about 5 will come to the teacher for 10 minutes at a time at the piano and then practice on keyboards while the teacher sees the other pupils. To assist the piano teacher we helped students as they practiced on the keyboards helping them improve their musicality, piano technique, and practice technique, however, we are keen to improve the format of these lessons, as well as the resources the conservatoire uses including maintenance of instruments and teaching materials such as books. The children coming to the conservatoire are in fact very responsive to our teaching, which is very encouraging – if we can improve how these children are taught, then there is nothing stopping them getting better and better.

That’s all for now – we are off sight-seeing in Mumbai tomorrow!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Hello from Kottayam!


Rosie and I arrived safely at Trivandrum airport 4 days ago, then had a 5 hour car journey to the district of Kottayam where we are staying in a rural area called Areeparambu in a guest house. Everyone here is so kind and happy to help with anything. We had a real culture shock with the driving on the Indian roads but eventually arrived in the beautiful oasis of calm where we will live for the next 2 months! We are living next to a children's home (The Precious Children International Village), just a kilometre from the ACCM school where we are teaching. Last night we visited the children before dinner and played games with them including their version of 'duck, duck, goose', which was really fun. We don't start teaching until Tuesday and when we do it will be 18-21 year-olds learning their BMus course where we will be teaching them Ear Training, Music Theory, Composition, History and Practical Piano. In the mean time we have lots of lesson planning to be getting on with!

We will update you soon once teaching has started,


Wednesday, 3 July 2013

In Avallon, Mumbai

I'm in a staff room in Avallon school in Mumbai with palm trees outside the window, roasting heat and the sound of lively children through the door! Cat and I have had a lovely time being introduced to the school and are starting to find out when and who we will be teaching.
Yesterday I mostly shadowed a man who sings songs and dances to a backing track with the children. Or at least, I was meant to be shadowing but he asked me to teach songs in all the five classes so we had fun trying to do 'Here we go round the mulberry bush' with the dance, making a monsoon with body percussion, trying to sing 'London's Burning' in a round and other songs.
This morning I have met the teacher of classical Indian music who I will be working with in keyboard classes. His music is amazing! I hope to learn more about it. He has also asked if I will teach the children 'prayer songs' in assembley and was happy with my rendition of 'Amazing Grace'.