Origins of Active In Music - Music teachers for kids and beginners in how to play guitar, violin and piano in Middlesex, Harrow, Hillingdon, London.
Choosing music lessons for your child can be a difficult task, but it is one that does need to be given a fair amount of thought. The three main options generally available to parents are as follows:
- Choosing a music teacher to come and teach your child at your own home.
- Taking your child to a teacher’s house to learn an instrument there.
- Choosing to have music lessons at school.
We at Active in Music feel that the above methods currently are in fact quite limiting, so in 2005 we set about creating a system whereby children would have the chance to learn their chosen instrument and all of the associated musical learning in an enjoyable and sociable way as well as having good performance opportunities. Our classes employ aspects from both the British and Russian systems of musical education.
The result of this combination is a music school were children will have enormous fun learning music on an instrument of their choice and become aware of the musical world in general through aural (ear) training, music theory and music history. The pieces children might play could range from classical to jazzy - it is really dependent on their personal preference. That ensures that the children will have fun whilst they learn and that in turn will encourage children to want to reach objectives, whether that be a music examination, a concert arranged by the school or to learn a piece of music they love or have always loved.
The ideas for the music classes originally arose from the identification of some fundamental ways in which we felt we could improve the current format that most parents can offer their children, that is, the individual tuition whereby an instrumental teacher visits the pupil once a week for a lesson either a half-hour or an hour in length. These ideas were:
- The addition of other elements of musical learning to improve a pupil's understanding and appreciation of the music they are playing, thereby improving performance and enjoyment. These elements should be taught in a fun and fully structured manner within a group of children of similar age and ability.
- All children will also receive an individual instrumental lesson. This alleviates the problem that many peripatetic teachers have in that it is difficult to fit both instrumental tuition and aural/theory all into one lesson. Indeed many pupils arrive at a stage where they have to study the latter up to a certain level within a very short space of time in order to be able to continue with their practical studies (as is the case where music examinations are concerned). This is certainly not an effective way of learning, nor is it much fun for the pupil concerned. Indeed, the two should be studied side by side, from the beginning.
It was deemed essential from the outset that pupils should have more performing opportunities than the occasional music examination. We felt that, although important, graded music examinations do not give parents, relatives or friends the opportunity to see a child perform. Friendly concerts in that respect, are a completely different experience for the pupil. Furthermore, although we encourage taking graded music examinations, we do appreciate that many children are not suited to this.
The classes themselves employ aspects from both the British and Russian systems of musical education. The result of this combination is a music school were children will have enormous fun learning music on an instrument of their choice and become aware of the musical world in general through ear training, music theory and history. The pieces children might play could range from classical to jazzy - it is really dependent on their personal preference. That ensures that the children will have fun whilst they learn and that in turn will encourage children to want to reach objectives, whether that be a music examination, a concert arranged by the school or to learn a piece of music they love or have always loved.
Pupils can join the school from the age of 5 upwards. At this stage, children will have tuition for an hour a week - half an hour on their chosen instrument (taught individually on a one-to-one basis) and half an hour in a group where they will study aural training, theory and history in a fun and thought-provoking manner. Experience has shown that pupils as young as 5 years old have tremendous fun in the group lessons, with musical games being very prevalent for the younger pupils. Once per term, children take part in a concert or festival. These are very friendly events, with parents, relatives and friends forming a major part of the audience.
The music school has received council funding on a number of occasions and pupils have taken part in a variety of events. In 2006 a special concert took place in Shrewsbury which marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91). The occasion was marked with a special 'Mozart birthday cake' which was distributed after the concert to an eagerly awaiting audience. Pupils have also taken a regular part in the Oswestry Youth Festival with great success. At present, our music classes are expanding into Birmingham, with other towns sure to follow. Our aim is to ensure that all children from all backgrounds have an opportunity to enjoy learning music to its fullest! We do hope that will visit us and see for yourself.
Why Choose Active In Music
Teaching Style And Content - We Do It Differently
The current system of lessons available to most children is based on a half hour weekly lesson, the pupil receiving the lesson either at school, at their house or by travelling to the teacher’s home. However we believe that it is not fair on the pupil to expect them to learn much needed musical elements such as ear training and theory, plus instrumental tuition, all in the space of a half hour, which is a normal portion of time generally allocated for a beginner. Most lesson time is devoted to instrumental playing. This approach can result in pupils advancing in instrumental technique for example, but lacking in many other critical areas that need to be progressing simultaneously.
In the system employed by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, who are the largest musical examining body, it is necessary to be of a Grade 5 theory level before a pupil can take their Grade 6 practical playing exam. Due to the teaching system employed generally, we have noticed many pupils outside of our school achieving Grade 5 level having completed very limited theory work, and then having to undergo an immediate ‘crash course’ of five theory workbooks. We do emphasise that this scenario is not one that teachers may be able to correct easily, working as they are within their limited lesson time schedule. Nor would it be fair to expect them to do so from week to week. This can also be quite stressful for the pupil and not an enjoyable way to learn.
The lessons at Active in Music take place outside school hours within the safe environment of music rooms of local schools, so there is no need for a child to miss academic lessons. Typically, a pupil will attend a class for one hour per week within the school term. A half hour will be spent studying their instrument on a one-to-one basis, and a further half hour will be spent in a group study situation whereby children will learn theory, ear training skills and musical historical aspects, mostly, at this level, in the form of musical games, following a specially constructed curriculum. The group element, of course, adds much interest to the overall learning process. This not only takes away any unnecessary pressure on the pupil to learn all these necessary elements in their instrumental lessons, but also makes the whole learning process more enjoyable. All tutors are of course CRB checked, highly professional individuals chosen for their qualities, not only as musicians but as individuals as well.
A Performing Element
Children need to have performing opportunities, regardless of their level of attainment. This gives the child a real aiming point, and one that relatives and friends can watch. This is difficult to find in the present system, especially for instruments such as piano or violin for beginners as young as 5 year old. The main aim in the present system is a graded music examination, which is neither a performance in the proper sense of the word, nor is it an event which anybody is permitted to watch with the sole exception of the examiner. Please note that we do not disagree with the examination system employed – on the contrary, it is an excellent way to test a child’s musical ability – but this is many children’s only experience of playing and only when they reach a certain level.
There is therefore a set of circumstances whereby teachers feel compelled to push children towards examination situations as this seems to be one of the only aiming points generally offered. This is especially true of younger players learning an instrument such as piano. The availability of performances results in pupils being able to play a wider variety of pieces that can be offered by an examination board, perhaps pieces they have always wanted to play, as is very evident in our experience. Furthermore, exams are simply not the correct path for some pupils – many children we have encountered would not still be playing if they were forced to take the examination route. After all, enjoyment is paramount.
Furthermore, one to one tuition, especially on instruments such as piano, can be a lonely affair. Indeed many children can go from the beginner stage to quite ‘advanced’ without having either played for anybody or socialised with any like-minded children.
At Active in Music, all pupils play in a school-arranged concert or festival at the end of each school term, performing a piece they have enjoyed learning, or even one they might have chosen or composed, so long as the teacher feels it fits their ability. The order of events takes place with the beginners and/or youngest pupils playing first right the way through to advanced pupils and culminating in the teacher’s performance. In this way, children, who always need aspirations, will be able to witness a full range of more advanced performers. Of course, it is essential that all teachers are themselves, aside from being highly proficient tutors, able to communicate well with children and are practising performers. Pupils will naturally pick up on many of these traits and, together will the necessary technical exercises, will develop their unique performing skills.
All of our concerts are also filmed to DVD with each parent receiving a copy. With such a sociable approach to musical learning and performing, it is perhaps not surprising that parents who have experienced our lessons and concerts would very rarely return to normal methods of teaching.
Pupils at Active in Music may be entered for examinations if they wish, although not necessarily from grade 1 and upwards. For example a pupil who is of grade 4 standard, but who has never taken an exam might benefit from taking an exam if they wish, as it is an accredited system.
There is no exam requirement for a pupil to have taken grades 1-3 before grade 4. At Active in Music, the musical, aural and theoretical side of the examination will have been successfully covered in the pupil’s lessons, with backup studies integrated into either lesson in the run up to the examination if necessary.
It is therefore perhaps not surprising that we pride ourselves on our pupils’ excellent examination results. However, examinations do not need to be the sole focus for pupils, even for those who have a desire to take them from the beginning.