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Leaving on a jet plane! #Musiqulity

Well we’re crossing the pond! Here are some very excited faces at the unreal hour of 6am… on the way to Heathrow Airport. It is hard to describe the excitement that everyone feels. Last night I was skyping these guys, as I have been in Arizona for two days.

I’ve been recording sounds, clearing my mind, and really setting the scene to look forward to the week ahead. It has been months in planning and it hardly seems real that we are actually doing this. I have come to love when people ask – what are you doing exactly? -because I am completely comfortable with saying that I really don’t know what we will do exactly because we haven’t done it yet, and it is going to unfold. We are going to meet and work with amazing people, both younger and older than we are, and part of the magic is that what unfolds will include all of us.

Today I met up with Alan Levine, who drove 4 hours out of his way to meet me. We had never actually met before, and he didn’t really know what was going to happen- all I told him was that I wanted to ask him how he learned music and maybe we could play something. We did just that.

Alan chose a chord progression and I played a simple bass line (truth be told I am not a confident improviser on the spot, and it takes me a while to be comfortable exploring around changes… and then I still have a very long way to go!). This will be the foundation for one of the collaborative musical somethings that we make on this trip. Hopefully there will be many layers, with different instruments and people building on what we started today. It was a privilege to bring Alan into that, even if it was in a very a small way. Alan captured the whole thing and posted it here.

This whole #Musiquality adventure has been organic. My fabulous five were rehearsing after midnight the night before they left – making notes on possible workshops and ways to get others involved. And the best thing was that I was nowhere to be seen. Well I did skype them about remembering important documents and making sure to drink plenty and being a mum really… but this is not my project that they are a part of. It is all of ours and I cannot wait to see their faces when they arrive in Los Angeles this afternoon.

It has begun. #Musiquality

The project that has become Musiquality is actually hitting the road. I jump on the plane in two days, followed two days later by the other 5 in the group. When this started back in September – as a fleck of excitement in a skype call – we had no idea where it would go and I think the best bit is that we actually had no idea. Nobody involved has put limits on this venture. If there are rules or criteria, often people work to them which can be good, but they can also turn into limits. For this, there was never any doubt that people were committed and so there was no need to put some sort of basic requirement on it, and instead it has truly blossomed beyond what any of us could individually imagine.

I have approached the whole project as a collaboration. I am not the ‘teacher’ and in fact my colleagues are as much teachers in this as I am. It is slightly unusual in that the other 5 in the group are actually completing their third year at University, so technically they are students, but I class myself as a student too, and I have learned so much – and been fully supported by the others so we as a group could create and learn together.

For anyone who has followed the few updates I’ve posted you’ll know that this has been a roller coaster of a venture where we all tested our edges and pushed boundaries. I initially funded the students’ plane tickets and they paid me back within 3 weeks – fundraising their socks off! None of us knew each other very well before we started this – we were in the same lecture (me on one side of the fence and they on the other! -and the ‘students’ didn’t know one another either.) So, as a group we have continued to work at it, because the learning and collaboration is something that we really really believe in. Going out to make connections and bring quality and smiles through music is in itself a worthy cause. Over the course of the month leading up to the actual trip, people have begun to come out of the woodwork and say- can I join in too? YES! The plan is not for us to produce the most perfect or innovative music that ever was, but to create music with others and for them to genuinely feel a part of it.

We had our first outing on Wednesday evening at the end of year BBQ at Uni, and it was great. I am not saying we were note-perfect- but it was a great coming together. Two of the players came running from an orchestra rehearsal (they had a concert later that night) and I had my challenge of singing a song – first time in public like that since I was 14 (!) and we were playing to the head of department, the other staff, and the students. We have the most supportive environment and community. We still have lots to learn, and every time we play it will be different – as new people will join in and add something new to the mix.

Here’s a snippet of what we performed the other night:

Our first stop on the Don’t You Quit world tour (well, California tour) is LA, where we we are looking forward to having one of the Asst. Deans join us on the stage to perform at UCLA- (it might be on the racquet ball court, or on the beach – we’re not sure yet, and we’re not picky!). Next stop is Yosemite, where we will be joined by 20+ High School students, 2 of their teachers, a prof from CalPoly, a few extraordinary alumni from Righetti HS, and a handful of parents and children. For four days we will live and learn together, making and playing music, and exploring the wonderful setting. (For me that is going to be a very special drive up north, as it is the land that my grandfather helped to map back in the 1940’s and it will be my first visit to Yosemite.) One of the High School students has sent us the beginnings of a song he has written that we’ll collaboratively finish and perform. We hope to have a supply of extra instruments to share with people, to give that magical experience of creating music as an orchestra. Finally we have a house concert in Santa Maria. We’ll see how it all pans out. There will be challenges and opportunities for everyone. I’ll be posting updates and tagging them #Musiquality. Hope you follow along and chime in along the way.

The sounds of many cellos, and a soprano, and a harp, oh, and some cups

The Cello Weekend 2015 was a blast!

We had 26 cellos playing together as an orchestra, and throughout the two days there were classes and workshops that stretched every one of us- from classical, to pop, folk, and contemporary sounds, here are some visual highlights of the moments we had during the two days…

 

 

Rehearsal:

Masterclass:

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We ended Day 1 with some relaxing cello yoga with Maria O’Donnell:

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Workshops on Day 2!

…a fun break with Jess and Pete:

(yes we learned the cup song from the film ‘Pitch Perfect’)

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Waiting for the folk workshop with IzzI:
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and the final concert on Sunday:

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See you next year for the 10th Cello Weekend ! 

March 12-13 2016

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late night worries… (a random moment from life)

Last night was one of those nights where I was reminded what is truly important in the most gentle and lovely way.

I had tucked my son in his bed and no sooner had I sat down at the computer in the next room, that I hear a faint, but persistent call of ‘Mummy-‘ I must admit to feeling tired at hearing that call so soon.

I went quickly into the dark room and asked, ‘What is it?’

He was upset, a bit tearful and he sat up and put his arms around me and said, ‘It’s just, [sniff], well, I’m not sure I’m doing a very good job of taking care of you, mummy.[sniff, weep, sniff]’

I was a bit confused and completely taken aback. When I was 8 is that what I thought of? I’m sure I was thinking about whether or not I could really fly and whether I should test this by doing more than jumping off the sofa onto a  pile of cushions when I was 8. I did lots of comforting and reassured him that actually children, and especially 8 year olds weren’t supposed to take care of their mummy or daddy…

He said, ‘but we’re all supposed to take care of each other, aren’t we? and I’m not doing it very well.’

I think my heart melted. I reassured him again, that his talking to me, playing outside with me, sitting near me, helping me cook, and even helping me with levels on games was all taking care of me.

In the end we all (the whole family) decided that we are actually all good at taking care of each other, and that we each have different ways of doing that.

I know this isn’t a typical subject to write on a blog about, but it made me stop, and just writing it in my book of children’s quotes didn’t seem enough. I am very aware that sometimes learning and life and everything happens when I am least expecting it. This was exactly one of those moments.

Photo CC licensed here: http://bit.ly/1Qd0mgV

Just a dollar….

This is a #Musiquality update, and boy am I proud of what we have been able to accomplish. Where are we at?? Well, my 5 students and I have raised the money to cover our flights, room & board and expenses for our trip to California to work with students and teachers from Righetti High School, Professors from UCLA and Cal Poly, parents, and grade school kids, oh and can’t forget the two amazing alumni coming on the trip. This is Open Education at its best.

We’re going out there to share what we know, teach, create, and also to learn from those around us. Sponges. That’s what we all are.

So what’s the news?!? We have arrived at the final push, and it’s really a way to get YOU involved. If you have been following the project, you will know that we want to document everything- we will be recording music and sounds, interviewing people, and making it all available as free downloads afterwards. (no, we don’t have funding for any of that, but at the moment we are just doing it out of love and it is something we really do believe in) We also want to make a documentary about it – how often does this happen? Kids and adults, across so many different backgrounds, coming together to celebrate life and learning together – not for a class, not for a degree, not for anyone but because the love it and want to learn. -It’s like I said; we’re all sponges for learning and sharing, and it connects us in amazing ways.

The push –

we have a kickstarter and the clock is ticking. What we really want is to create a sort of educational roll call of supporters – and we want you on that list. All we’re asking is that each person donate one dollar. That’s not even a cup of coffee in most places, but how amazing would it be if we had 5,000 people behind the project.

very. very. amazing.

So just like the song – we’re going to share our story with you. Will you share your dollar with us?

(cue the tune…) hey hey hey, I need a dollar…

Join us here! <– that’s the link to the kickstarter page where you can pledge your dollar

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Dollar photo CC licensed: http://bit.ly/1EMZZoD

The man, the keys, and the cup of tea

This is one of those posts about something that really happened, it was just yesterday –

There was a knock on the door and I opened it to find the postman asking me to sign for a parcel, and I noticed a car stopped in the road (we have a sort of drive that goes above the main road, and we can see the main road from our house) and there was an older gentleman explaining to the police that he had locked himself out of his car. I thought, ‘ah, poor man. What an unfortunate thing to do…’ and went back in the house. A good hour later I happened to walk out of the front door, and the man was still there ! He was leaning on his car, standing, with his head resting on his arm leaning above the door of the car and he looked really weary. I went back into the house and thought ‘poor, poor man. I should do something.’

So I did.

I went out there and asked him – I said:

Excuse me, are you ok? I overheard that you locked yourself out of your car a while ago, and you’re still there. Would you like a glass of water, cup of tea, or a marmite sandwich or something? Would you like a chair?

He looked so pleased and said:

Actually a cup of tea and somewhere to sit down would be wonderful.

It turns out he had a cup of coffee in the car and it spilled. When he stopped to shake the spill off his newspaper, as he shook- the keys slipped out of his hand and into the car, and as he turned, the door shut and autolocked with the keys inside!

It was so easy. But before I said anything to him, after I saw he was still there, I went back in the house and for half a minute I wrestled with myself – oooh, I really should do something, ah, but you don’t just invite strangers to lunch do you? -that second thought didn’t last long, because sometimes I do just invite strangers to lunch- in a matter of speaking. I did what I would want someone to do if I was in that situation.

So out came a garden chair and a cup of tea and that man stopped leaning wearily on his car, and I brought him a pencil and he did the crossword puzzle while he waited and kept watch. First the AA car rescue people came, and then they called in a locksmith. I guess all electronic newish cars are hard to break into without damaging them. There was of course an hour wait  for each of these people to arrive. Good thing it was a nice day out! I came out to chat to him and make sure he was ok, and I said that if they finally fixed it and I wasn’t around, it was fine for him to just go. And in the end (nearly 4 hours later!) he did.

The magic of the story is that neither of us ever knew the other’s name. His wife was having a reunion with some people she had taken a course with at the university where I teach, and it would have been easy to say – oh I teach there, I’m blah blah blah, but giving him a rest and a drink wasn’t about me, and it was delicious to think that I could be remembered as a random nice stranger.

So to the man in his little red car, I hope your wife believed your story when you eventually picked her up, and I hope she wasn’t cross that your shopping trip took a *little* longer than expected. Safe journey home.

Blogging secrets – it’s the wind

(2 min read) Yesterday was the second webinar of those helpful Blog Brothers, and they were visited by some helpful Blog Sisters. I could only tune in to the second half as I am away at a conference and although the formal programme finished about halfway into the webinar, forgetting my headphones meant that being inconspicuous while listening was a bit tricky. Nice thing was a few others came over to see what I was listening to.

I am going to cobble a few of the lovely things that people said because they reminded me of a story- There was a discussion about how you just have to be you in your blog, and then some comments about the audience and who was listening.

I woke up this morning and thought of those things and how it feels sometimes to blog, and the audience (or lack of one) and the possibilities- so I was reminded of this story/folktale (and forgive me if I get it wrong or miss a bit – folk tales are like that when passed around folk!)

There was once a man who had a secret. He couldn’t tell anyone his secret, but he desperately wanted to tell the secret. He worried about what to do and finally came up with a solution. (I think this is the abridged version of the story – I am sure there is a longer one out there) He walked far away from his friends and family, far away from his house, walked until there was nothing around him. There, there was the place he felt he could tell his secret and finally get it out. He began to dig a hole, and he dug a very deep hole. He dug and he dug, and then when he thought it was a good enough hole to hold his secret, he told his secret into the hole and then he buried it. Safe within the Earth’s belly he left his secret and then he went home and felt better. …Now some time had passed and the seasons changed and the winter came and went, and it was springtime- just like now- and in that place where there was nothing, the grasses sprung up and when they did they went to seed- and as they swayed in the wind they sang. They sang the song of that man’s secret and it was heard all over the land, and it didn’t stay buried in that hole, but thousands of seeds carried the secret and wherever they landed, that song was passed on and sung out to be heard.

I always liked that story- not because the man had a secret he couldn’t deal with, but because of the magic of the song on the wind and how it could be shared. I think the story was originally about a lie, but I like to look for the positive, and it reminded me about blogging. Sometimes it feels like talking into a hole, and there may or may not be an audience, but whatever it is, there is that possibility that it will be picked up on the wind and shared, or somehow reach someone else. And for me life is all about connection, so that is reason enough to write. I’m not always good at academically informing or technologically advancing whizz-pop posts, but sometimes I am. Mostly I write about the little things that I have learned from others and how those happen and impact my own learning and teaching and living.

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Photo CC licensed by-nc-nd here: http://bit.ly/1HZqEk5

Projects, projectiles, and provocations

I haven’t blogged in a few weeks and time has been slipping through my fingertips. Oh, there’s been plenty on- Many wheels are moving and the way people are coming together to work and make things happen is amazing. Monday I submitted my final (I hope) typescript for my upcoming book: Fostering self-efficacy in higher education students, and that was a major milestone. If all goes to plan, it will be finished and in the pulp (can’t really say in the flesh?) by October. Then there’s the Cello Weekend that I am running in April, with a lovely guest flying over from Chicago, and in May is the big event – the Musiquality ‘Don’t You Quit’ world tour – where the group (5 students + me + our instruments) fly off to California to connect, collaborate, and create with students and teachers from Righetti HS, UCLA, and Cal Poly. That is going to be amazing. (more on that project in a few days)

So I have let writing on the blog slip-

and then on Monday I tuned in to the first #DMLCommons webinar and Alan Levine said something that was an absolute cracker:

‘you don’t get a community with everyone sitting on their front porch talking to themselves.’

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He really got me thinking, and he’s right, you know. You don’t get a community when people get too busy to talk to anyone either! Time is a magic thing and I am so hungry to learn. The real problem suddenly dawned on me – with the level of connectedness available through technology it is humanly impossible to keep up. That’s pretty much it. There is just so much to do, so much life to live, and today – so much cake to eat! (fitting in a bake sale in about an hour for the Musiquality project) Maybe it’s like you have to paddle really hard and then you can ride the wave? I’m paddling at the moment and having that vision of the goal is so inspiring.

 

 

So we’ve had the projects and the provocation of the quote. What’s the projectile? It’s vaulting ‘us’ into the learning and living experience. For me, in the midst of all these projects I’m singing, playing, baking, hiking, doing, reflecting, learning, and living more in the here and now and doing it all with confidence and real joy. I love the hustle of the cross-continental communication that comes in at all hours and I love the peace of chasing the moon across the sea until it sets – real time, synchronous, asynchronous, connecting with the land, with people, within and without.

I am challenging myself to take Alan’s advice to heart- small and large scale. So if I meet you along one of my journeys, don’t be surprised if I say hello. I may not know you yet, but we may be part of a community soon.

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Photo credits: People photo: CC licensed here http://bit.ly/18XirOs ROcker photo CC licensed here: http://bit.ly/1CaMUmg Featured image CC licensed here: http://bit.ly/1N7tt2y

Instrumental Disruption

Reflections on my surprise visit to the two-day Expo at Coventry’s Disruptive Media Learning Lab. I presented a session over the lunch break on day two that truly disrupted people – we did an orchestral flash mob, and although they (mostly staff) could see the instruments arranged and on display all morning, they were completely unaware that they would be the people playing them.

Throughout the morning people became curiouser and curiouser, and watching their reactions was lovely.

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As I wasn’t on the printed programme, I had a sort of secret license to not follow traditional rules – this was a conference and speakers were respectfully introduced for other sessions, but it was also in a place that was actually named a ‘Disruptive‘ Learning Lab. So when Kate Green, who was coordinating my visit began discussing how I might be announced or how to let people know what was going to happen, and I said that I would just disrupt whatever people were doing and announce that there was something happening now…. *that was fun! 

I walked into meetings and said ‘excuse me, please may I disrupt you?’ (good thing I have no clue who most of the people were or I am sure I would have been daunted) I invited them all to take part – invited the IT man, the cleaner, the Deputy Dean, staff, staff’s bosses, and their bosses, and the students. See, in this session, in my flashmob, we are all in it together and it’s about working together to realise yet untapped capabilities. I don’t know who you are, and I am not going to pre-judge what you can or can’t do. My job is to give you a chance, believe in possibilities, and show you that you can believe in yourself too. I hope that came across to the people there on that bean-shaped ‘hill’.

Everyday, as teachers, we put our students in situations where we want and expect them to learn, and that means they are vulnerable- vulnerable to failure (both public, and private failure). With a clear approach that fosters achievement and supports their beliefs that they CAN do what is being presented or asked, then somehow they (and we) tend to exceed expectations. In short we learn not to get in our own way. So in this very short 45 min session, I presented a full version of a pop song that we as a group would play, gave them a whistle-stop instructional tour of the basics of holding the instruments, gave them graphic scores for the song with their parts on it (we divided into sections, like in an orchestra). They were responsible for 5 different parts, and I took the remaining two parts, with the help of my loop pedal.

We only had time for one full run through of the song, but it worked! Along the way there were some supremely good ‘failures’, which after all is what happens when we learn. Don’t get me wrong, I do NOT mean they actually failed, but in music the act of creation is something that is ‘out there’, it is sound, and unlike thoughts or even typed text, that can be kept private until polished, sound is obviously exposed. Certainly in this group setting, all of the initial workings-out and explorations were very public. Those who sat there and did it, the bosses who willingly found their notes and squeaked alongside the students and their other colleagues, they deserve a HUGE well done. It takes guts, and it was exposing and it was a risk – and the joyous thing is that they all did it with a smile. There was a sense of I CAN, and there was laughter, and they were playing – both in terms of violins, violas, and cellos, but also in terms of playfulness. It is a real privilege that I was allowed to bring that in the middle of a very nice buffet lunch.
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I won’t pretend we produced a concert performance, but I thought everyone did really well, and did achieve. Afterwards I told them they were both brilliant failures and brilliant successes. I sincerely hope they understood that I meant they were great learners, they allowed themselves to be vulnerable, to learn, to co-learn, and to be open, and as a result they were able to grow and achieve.

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Many thanks to Crostóbal Cobo for the short video clip and the group photos.

When you dare to ask…

#Musiquality is one big adventure:

Me, 5 students, 5,000 miles, raising a whole load of money to cover costs and make this collaboration completely awesome. However, if you look at it with a level-headed approach – there is a lot of risk. Why risk? Well because I bought the plane tickets, and as my wonderful husband reminded me yesterday, we start paying interest on that credit card bill in 20 days…. We had some fundraising advice that was hugely helpful, but also included the reality check warning that the amount of money we needed to raise within the timeframe was perhaps unrealistic for us. (we’re going in May)

So what?? should we give up? Ditch the idea – like I am going to say to the students… oh, this collaboration, the idea of making an album with students from America while we spend time learning and working together, um, well maybe not this time…

I don’t think so.

 

You know that saying ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’? I am willing to work – hard and carefully. At university in America I got given a car for being the one who learned the most in a competition amongst my teacher’s students. A CAR. (admittedly, that 1981 Chevy Malibu Classic didn’t last too long, especially as that was in 1994, but MAN was it awesome.) I wrote a PhD on self-efficacy – that’s a person’s belief in their capability to carry out a task. I believe in this and I believe in my students. I don’t spend money on airline tickets (that we don’t actually have) lightly. Have I completely lost it? No. I really really do believe that there is a lot of good out there, and people are capable of a heck of a lot more than they may think.

So how are we doing? Well since buying the tickets on Feb 13th we have:

£500 and $2500 in corporate donations

£93 from our first bake sale

There are fundraisers in the pipeline, like another bake sale this week, a raffle this weekend (with donated prizes), a club night at the Uni Student Union, and I have just written an article for my village magazine offering whatever we can do in return for donations – gardening, dinner music (we are musicians after all), cleaning… and that ‘we’ includes me – this isn’t a ‘teacher stands by and watches’ type initiative.

What’s the goal? £10,000 (which is a lot of money!) That covers all the costs for us for a week and allows my 5 students to make sure they each have some sort of working laptop or phone to help with the recording project, and it also leaves a few hundred pounds that each of these 5 students can leave as a scholarship fund to ‘pay it forward’ toward a future student’s costs toward another collaboration – it may be to the same place and it may be with entirely different people.

The idea is that through #Musiquality we can bring something unique to others – we can create with others, can share our skills, make, tell stories, and laugh through music. All of my students study aspects of Instrumental / Vocal Teaching and this collaboration is the sort of real world application that goes way beyond any classroom’s walls. -and you know, life is like that. Working in music now means that you have to adapt. I love that my Mac has no ‘CD hole’ (as I bluntly tell the students). Music is changing. We are changing. Society is changing. And I want to be on the crest of the wave.

I’ve been reading Cory Doctorow’s new book Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free and it has a LOT of great stuff in it, and I can’t put the book down. SO much resonates with what we are doing, and how I live. – the biggest lessons so far are 1. People have to know about you, and 2. People have to care.

Well we are spreading the word however we can, and we believe in what we are doing. As Pete (one of the students going on the trip) said:

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He’s right, you know. It is about reaching out and connecting with people – going beyond school or university, beyond age, beyond race or gender – to make music and learn together – and about living for right now with all the gusto and the capability that we can each muster. I love it. As Leonard Nimoy said in “Star Trek: TNG” Unification II:

One can begin to reshape the landscape with a single flower, Captain.

I can’t pay for my students to do this – and neither can they, and oh my there is still a long way to go, but it will happen. I must say that we have all been working at it incredibly hard at getting there- and we know that hard work will continue, but you know what – just tonight two of the students approached their landlord for help and he said, ‘girls, you deserve it because you are so lovely’ and gave them £700 toward the project! My heart nearly burst. There is a lot of good out there.

We aren’t afraid to ask for help along the way.

We can’t do it alone, and

We completely welcome your support- whether that is through a donation or by spreading the word about the project.

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