Monday, April 29, 2013

Jigsaw in Reading!

An incredible performance of my Jigsaw Jam at the Hexagon in Reading yesterday, involving seventy schools, and 300 young performers. Catherine Millar did an inspirational job of putting the whole thing together for woodwind and brass including mini bassoons and tenoroons. Catherine has an ensemble at Berkshire Maestros of about thirty (very good) bassoons
. Hearing them, was a huge high spot for me at last years MFY National Festival.
Thank you Music for Youth !! The music was used exactly how it was intended.
Download it Free at in the "Sound vault"

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Why another Sarah Watts Recorder tutor?

"Red Hot recorder" has been immensely popular, and much used, and I hope it will still be, but eight years after its publication, I wanted to offer an alternative. "Ready Steady Recorder" is aimed at younger starters (ideally year 2, but could be used for earlier years). This tutor is colourful, has larger font, and moves a little slower, especially after G when many tutors speed up. The pieces and rhythm learning is always reinforced by lyrics, and there is plenty of fun along the way with movement and humour.
The book has the same "Feel good" jazzy accompaniment, and the short pieces are repeated so they can be performed in a concert with singing, or just as recorder repertoire.
There is a Grand Recorder March at the start of the book to inspire the student, and encourage them to move to the beat.
An extravagant fanfare celebrates each new note learned, and everyone can "Take a bow".
Lots of fun really.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ready Steady Recorder at the Music Ed EXPO 2013

A really inspiring couple of days at the Music Ed Expo at the Barbican. It was a real meeting of musical minds, and a real treat to meet teachers who use my music. We presented Ready Steady Recorder to the world , and it was exciting giving copies of the book and teachers pack away to people who will use it .
It was incredible meeting friends old and new, and having people popping into the stand. One of the visitors was Atara Ben Tovin who said she used my music which was exciting.

The Expo brought so many music Educators together, and at a time when funding cuts are causing difficulty reminded everyone why they did it in the first place. Hope we can do it again.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dr Avril Dankworth

It is with sadness that I write of the death of Avril Dankworth this morning aged 90. She developed a chest infection last week and didn't recover. I was very fond of Avril, and she entrusted her precious music camp to me. She was an inspirational woman who had a great idea, and made it happen.
Avril  was an innovative and inspirational music educator best known for founding “The Avril Dankworth Childrens Music Camps” ( now known as the” National Youth Music Camps”).
 She was sister  to international  Jazz musician John Dankworth, and wife to Leslie Carew a famous trombonist during the big band era playing with the Jack Hylton, Ted Heath , Geraldo and Ambrose orchestras.
She was born in Southend –on –sea in Essex in 1922, and was educated at Walthamstow High School, Hockerill teachers training college, The Royal College, and Trinity College of Music.
Avril first worked as a singer and accompanist with Mathyas Seibers” Dorian singers”, and the “George Mitchell Choir”. She had a passion for teaching, and real desire to make music accessible to all. She taught in various London schools and colleges and was employed by the “Service Childrens Education Authority”. From this time Avril travelled the world lecturing, training teachers and adjudicating. She wrote several books including her best seller “Make Music Fun”. She also wrote a history of Jazz, and was instrumental in introducing the idiom into the music curriculum in schools.
In 1965 Avril and two like- minded colleagues founded the  “Sing for Pleasure” movement, and participation at “A Coeur Joie “ festival  in Vaison Provence gave her the idea of starting a music camp. In 1970 Avril’s brother John Dankworth and his wife Cleo Laine bought the Old Rectory in Wavendon Milton Keynes with the idea of turning the Stable block into a theatre. It was at this point Avril saw the field at the back of the Stables and realised she could fulfil her dream .
The music camps were for anyone aged seven to seventeen to spend a week under canvas and make music. There was to be no grade of entry, and all instruments and styles of music were welcome. The only qualification needed was a love of music. Forty three years later, the project remains unique.
In 1990 Avril was awarded an honorary doctorate for services to music education.  Many thousands of young people have been inspired by  Avrils music camps, and hundreds of teachers still talk about her innovative teachers courses. Avril Dankworth’s motto was  “Make Music Fun”, she certainly did this, often changing lives in the process.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Back from EAS Leauven

We are just back from the EAS (European Association for Music in Schools) conference in Belgium where I was leading a workshop .


At a time when teachers are being asked to do more than ever in the shortest time,
this practical session aimed to provide new ideas and material, as well as teacher confidence.
It was aimed at classroom teachers and instrumental teachers who wanted to inspire beginner musicians and encourage their enjoyment of playing together right from the start.
I wanted to show how  students in the classroom or in instrumental tuition groups could be motivated and have fun right from their first notes and play together in an ensemble of any combination. 

Much of the workshop was based on my writing for beginners, and I was able to introduce my  instrumental piece"Jigsaw Jam" . Parts and accompaniments for this could be downloaded free by delegates for use in their own schools.
The session was well received, and we had a lot of fun. It was so interesting meeting music educators from all over Europe. The conference was in English, and there were only nine of us from the UK, so most people were constantly thinking in their second (or third....) language (great respect!!).
There were some excellent sessions during the conference and it had been organised with intelligence and hard work. There was an excellent balance of seminars and workshops for the wide range of music educators that were there. I enjoyed the experience, and have come back fired with new ideas.

Parts of a jigsaw!

It has been a very exciting few months as far as "Jigsaw Jam" is concerned with some huge performances including the "Schools Prom"  and the "MFY Primary Proms"at the Albert Hall London. There have also been Primary proms at Coulston Hall Bristol, and at Symphony Hall Birmingham. It has been such an incredible experience, and I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to write this piece. I do hope it will be useful for teachers, and that they will download it FREE along with accompaniments and backing tracks .

This was my evaluation of the whole experience.

It was a great honour to be asked to write "Jigsaw Jam" for Music For Youth. I was  excited that the piece could be accessed freely by anyone, and could be very useful to teachers in providing "grass routes" ensemble repertoire  (of which there is little) at a time when they really needed it.
Currently, as part of the governments "first access" initiative, teachers all over the country are being asked to teach whole classes of instrumentalists so that every child gets an opportunity to play.This instrumental teaching is sometimes for a year, and sometimes only for a term. This means that often only a few notes are learned.
My brief, was to write an ensemble piece for any child who had learned in a beginner group like this, so that they could play together in an  ensemble of any combination, using the first notes they had learned. This was to show the achievements of their first months of learning, and to celebrate Them.
The piece provided me with a huge challenge, first in finding out what instruments were likely to be taught in these groups, then what  the first few notes learned on each instrument were, and  what technical difficulties were associate with each one. Having done that ( considering also that they were all in different keys), I had to write a piece that made them sound good and motivated the individual players to continue learning the instrument if they were able. 
The experience and information gathered in the writing of this piece (with nine sections), has been invaluable. I have continued to use it in composing other motivating materials for beginner combinations like these.
 Teachers have very little time to arrange repertoire for themselves, so Music For Youth provided exactly the right thing for them at the right time. I hope as many teachers as possible find out they  are able to download the parts, accompaniments and backing tracks  free from the Music For Youth website.
Creating this piece was an incredible experience, which developed my writing for this sort of group. It gave me a greater understanding of the difficulties for teachers in finding motivating and useful materials for this current method of delivering instrumental tuition.
I am grateful for this experience and the positive outcomes. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Jigsaw Jam

A very exciting complete performance of "Jigsaw Jam" at the "National Youth Music camp". Music for youth came to film it, and it will be available to watch along with free downloadable music and backing tracks  at at the beginning of September. Woo hoo!!