As Covid has tightened its grip on what is normal in UK society yet again during “lockdown 3.0”, of all the instrument families, brass playing has found this new normal particularly challenging. A variety of reports have not achieved a clarity about what is best practice for brass learning, rehearsing and performing and in this absence of clear, national leadership many schools have turned away from brass instruments in favour of less contentious options or no music at all.
Here at WMG we are passionate about children finding and exploring brass playing, hopefully for many to begin a long and fruitful journey as brass players. We are undoubtably biased towards brass playing but this exists within our total commitment towards the well-being of all the community… sometimes during 2020 this was a difficult balance to find, but the needs of the many will, and should, always outweigh the needs of the few!
Despite the problems there is an enormous amount of time, energy and creativity from the brass teaching community being invested in keeping existing learners going and creating the chance for new learners to begin their journey. This work encompasses everything from risk assessed, PPE clad, socially distanced, face to face learning to innovative and creative online teaching and everything in between! Hubs and National Ensembles like NYO and NYJO have created virtual band and orchestras as have county and music centre ensembles all over the country.
With the vaccination program proceeding well we can hope that later this year we will all be back making the music we love as teachers, performers and conductors!
Remaining positive as ever, we’ve gathered a few stories about brass teaching that we think are interesting, but we’d love to find more!
Let’s shout about the great progress that is happening all over the world in these difficult Covid times so if you have a good news story we can share, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
As visiting teachers can only be welcomed into one school a day in Sheffield, the Music Hub is rolling out an innovative program for whole class learning brass learning using pBuzz.
The Brass Music Leaders have written and are delivering a new, collaborative, scheme of learning for pBuzz. This scheme is delivered by both the Music Leader and the classroom teacher and is supported by video and backing tracks created especially by the Music Hub.
In partner schools, after thorough risk assessments and using all appropriate preparations and PPE, every other week a Sheffield Music Hub Leader will deliver pBuzz classes in school, face to face. On the alternate weeks the brass team have recorded video lessons, complete with backing track for the KS2 classroom teacher to deliver. The Music Leaders are also supporting the classroom teachers with their delivery, up-skilling the in-school teams.
This new scheme is heavily inspired by the work of American Educator, James Froseth. Froseth was a leading and innovative advocate of nonverbal modes of music teaching and performance-based assessment of music learning within traditional settings. The Sheffield scheme weaves some of Froseths’ methodologies and materials into the best of Wider Opportunities current practice using pBuzz as an accessible and authentic introduction to brass playing.
Rob Horscroft, trumpet playing Sheffield Music Hub, Music Leader said “The brass team at Sheffield Music Hub spent all of Monday and Tuesday (socially distanced!) developing a scheme of work for pBuzz and filming a series of lessons to back up our face-to-face visits to schools in January. We decided to establish F, G and A and used backing tracks from Froseth’s music - I first came across these on my first ever staff training session as a brass teacher in 1994! The quality of them is absolutely brilliant and I'm sure the children are really going to enjoy working with them. We are going to use the arrangement of 'I Feel Good' as the introduction in every video, we filmed ourselves performing this with some improvised solos in the middle section. This piece will be the end goal of the terms work so the idea of the introduction is to subconsciously play it every lesson. By the time we come to learn it as a class the children should already know it.”
The new scheme and learning pattern will roll-out across Sheffield from January. Any Sheffield schools who want to learn more can contact email@example.com for details.
Sandwell Music Hub have been really active, getting back in to their schools last term with the vast majority of schools being fantastically supportive of the service. After a term of delivering a more general music program in whole class settings brass playing will return in January.
In order to reduce any risk from Covid to a minimum, Sandwell and neighbours Wolverhampton have sourced a collection of hub-branded masks for brass instruments. These masks fit over the bell of trumpets and trombones and feature a specially selected, triple layer of fabric to minimise any droplets that may escape from the instruments. This along with existing best practice for social distancing and dealing with moisture created in the playing process allows brass playing to restart with an even greater sense of safety.
After many years of successful Whole Class Brass Learning on a mixture of brass instruments, the teaching team at Hull Music Hub have re-imagined their delivery to meet the challenges of both Covid and an ageing stock of metal brass instruments.
The brass team is now delivering an innovative, more generalist scheme of work using pBuzz alongside a blend of more traditional classroom instruments such as boom whackers, traditional percussion and of course singing.
This scheme is strong on the elements of music, creativity and the essential skills needed to engage authentically with beginning your journey as a brass player.
With over 400 pBuzz now in Hull schools the program is set to grow, allowing existing metal brass instrument stock to be redirected to retaining brass learners in a progressive pathway through Hull’s excellent Music Service school based provision, which leads in turn to ensemble opportunities at the Albemarle Music Centre.
Veteran Hull brass teacher and tuba soloist Shaun Crowther said “I’m really pleased with how well my pupils are taking to this scheme. We are confident that this approach can develop a great cohort of new brass players for the future in Hull and engage and teach those who may not end up as brass players about music in a fun and memorable way”
Schools who want to learn more about these projects in Hull more can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
What have we done and what will we do, here at WMG?
On the outset of the lock down we launched our online music festival to give learners the chance to perform and share the exam pieces they had worked so hard on. Over 400 videos were uploaded, all receiving a certificate and feedback.
We offered free to download music from our Warwick Music publishing library with over 15,000 pieces downloaded.
We gave away over 500 of our plastic mouthpieces to help UK educators with cleaning and sharing issues.
Right now we are offering special bundle deals on pBugle and pBuzz to help with recruiting new players.
What’s next from us?
I will be reaching out regularly with news and comments, especially about our online teaching resource. Right now we are completely updating this resource and it will be much better focused to the needs of teachers both in terms of its usability and content.
We want this resource to bring together all the best content about music learning and brass teaching from around the world. Not only do we want to bring you news and information, materials and pedagogy but we would love to share your news, success and thoughts with the broader community.
Most importantly we all at WMG believe that the music education community is one of the most resilient and vibrant, innovative and energetic groups in the world. Together we can create a future for our pupils and each other that not only equals but exceeds our joys and success of the past.
Please reach out, we are here to help in any way we can, email@example.com