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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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The Resonance of #Phonar

It all began at the HEA conference in July 2014. Jonathan Worth and I were both presenting on behalf of the Association of National Teaching Fellows, and blamo. I am a very confident person and I love (did I say love? – just checking, I meant to say LOVE) being on the stage, but ask me to talk to someone, and boy does that take courage. So, I plucked up the courage and said, (taking a deep breath, and trying to look normal) “I’d like to work with you on a project one day.”

and Jonathan said, “Drop me an email…”

The door opened. and I walked through.

That was the beginning of a great collaboration, and now I need to tell the backstory –

Last April, a very inspiring composer friend and colleague of mine – Jill Jarman – began to write a piece for me. She finished the first movement and gave it to me as a gift. as. a. gift. wow. (that is British understatement, the American in me says OH MY GOSH THAT IS SO COOL!) There are (or will be) two more movements, but I need to raise the funds or some sponsorship for those, but that is for another story… The piece of music is called Resonance and it is all about all the different sounds the cello can make – and it is meant to be visualised – you know, like with cymatics. Uber cool.

I got to talking with Jonathan about it, and played it to him one day at my house and then he had the idea that it would be great if his students could visualise it and create a sort of post-photographic portrait of the music as their final project for #Phonar. We both share a common ideology about collaborating and freedom of information – and on the back of that Jill (the composer) agreed that I could record the piece and release it under a Creative Commons license that allowed remixing – and that way the students could dream and make, and it would all be legit.

I made a trip to Coventry last December to see Jonathan’s students present their final work. It was a blast. I decided that something that would make my visit more meaningful was to give the students the chance to really experience the music, so I brought a van full of instruments and we played… It was supremely fun. At the time I mentioned that I had a concert at Chichester in February and that I would like to show some of the work while I played the piece live. -That event is happening this Thursday and today in preparation I was printing high quality photos from the students. The image in the poster is from one of the #Phonar students. There will be poster-sized photographic prints around the Chapel while I play and the audience will be able to access links and read about what the students were thinking. It is a chance for me to celebrate their work, and to reinforce the connection that we have had in sound, image, face to face, and now indirectly through an audience. As an effort to reach out and connect further, I recruited a couple of the university IT people to help me to set up live streaming for the concert. I use Panopto a lot (it is the system we have)- not really to record my lectures as it was intended, but for other things – reflection, student work, and I guess lectures too… but this time it will be to stream the concert.

So if you are free Thursday Feb 26th at 7:30 pm GMT, tune in on this link for an hour of music! Resonance is second on the programme, and will start about 5 minutes in, after a short vocalise for voice, cello, and piano. I can’t promise the sound or picture quality will be perfect, but that’s because it’s a first for me – gotta start somewhere!

Cello and voice poster

#Muisquality update

I was interviewed yesterday about the project – you know – this whole co-learning California recording music adventure that my students and I are going on – and I asked the people (who were from the International Office at my Uni) to please film a bit on my phone… The interview is going to be made into a 5 min description of the project – interspersed with photos from our fundraising efforts to date, and some of the things that have crossed the pond between learners.

This is what was on my phone:

We are going to launch a big fundraising campaign – a crowd sourced one, but in the meantime my students are writing to companies faster than I can type myself. It is hard work, but SO inspiring.

And just to report, so far they have repaid £593.68 of the bill for the airplane tickets. That is money received – there is more pledged. -Long way to go yet, but definitely not bad going!

Walking and talking and singing that song

This morning I did something and I’m not sure if I am crazy or stupid, or maybe a bit of both. What I am sure of is that I believe in this. I booked the 5 airplane tickets for a project, that might actually be a way of life that is beginning to spill out into other pursuits. It’s all about that self-actualisation and doing something that really has essence and meaning, and connecting. Don’t get me wrong, there is incredible meaning in the simplicity of a cup of tea, but sometimes there is also meaning when you (or me or a student or anyone) allows themselves to go beyond what they expected, what they thought they could do. (Photo CC licensed: http://bit.ly/1KT1eSb)

Laura Gibbs posted an article by Carole Dweck about the perspective on intelligence and it goes back to the concept of ability vs. capability that Frank Pajares put so well when contextualising how we look at self-efficacy. I love that. This whole project is about capability. I can. I dream, but also I can. I want to do, and very fortunately for me – in May I will be on a do-ing journey with 5 of my students. We will be working with dozens of other students and teachers too, to create, learn, teach, and make some music.

There are people asking how do we get out of the box. This is my out of the box – my striving to go beyond and do something else. To be quite honest, I don’t quite know where this will take us. We came up with a blurb, and have started raising the money to cover the costs, because let’s face it, students today don’t generally have the kind of money that just takes them 5,000 miles away to realise a collaborative dream. They are going to have to earn it, and I am going to work my socks off to make sure they are able to make the most of the opportunity.

We started with a vision that started as conversations between 5 teachers/professors working across 5 different disciplines and then over the months it has become more tangible and taken on a form of its own. Here’s the way my students and I decided to phrase our understanding of it:

This project is an educational initiative that is about open sourced learning (free and connected) where individuals pursue their goals with passion and the hope of being able to actualise their dreams. Working through music, we will teach, communicate, reaching out to making connections with people, learn new skills, and develop confidence. Working across cultures and outside the traditional educational learning environment.

We’re going to California! Oh My Goodness!!

The one thing we do know is that we are going to document the whole thing – and record – we’re going to make music – an album. That in itself is incredibly exciting. This all started as a project to connect and open learning. It is challenging me and my students to really use the skills we have, and go forward. We are really being like new children walking – we know there will be scabbed knees and we will trip up, but I am confident and inspired in what we have already done and I’m willing to dive in wholeheartedly to see where we can take this. We’ve turned our boxes into cars and planes and we’re off on one hell of a ride.

ps watch out for the hashtag #musiquality on future posts about this project including plans, connections, and our funding adventures/opportunities! I think I’m on bake sale duty again in 2 weeks time. My brownies and banana muffins were a hit :)

 

 

Connecting it up… testing, testing…

Tonight I had a visit from my sound guru, Richard Earnshaw, to advise me on sound equipment for the trip. What trip?? Well….

I’M TAKING 5 STUDENTS TO AMERICA IN MAY!

(I am afraid that is an all caps moment, and if you knew me you would hear it in my voice)

We have been working with a class outside of LA and it is all very exciting, and we are planning all sorts of things… For one, we are going to make an album as a result of our collaboration. The 6 from the UK will make a sort of string quartet (two cellos, a viola, and a violin), a guitar, and a vocalist. Besides being one of our chief cookie bakers for bake sales, I sorted out the audio equipment yesterday. In California, we will be recording on location in the fringes of Yosemite and are hoping to capture ambient sounds as well as interviews and music.

So back to Richard and audio equipment…

After talking about a few different mics and discussing how and where the recording would take place, we tested out this supremely cool little H4n zoom device. All by itself it sounds like this (well, Richard sounds like this when recorded on it, but you knew what I meant… and he is very silly -well worth a listen!)

and some talking…

and then we recorded a bit of cello using my very portable stereo mic to see how well it picked up the sounds and the ring (in my kitchen?? I am not quite sure how this compares to Yosemite, but it’s a start). It is going to be really important to be easy to set up- and we might well be hiking somewhere and need to record – and not having a tag-along crew, well you know. We thought this little setup might just do the trick.

Back to work for today. Meetings with students and planning and typing and practising :) oh, and some baking. First bake sale is tomorrow!

Cello Weekend 2015 Join us!

Registration is open for this year’s Cello Weekend. Email me for details!

Connecting the dots

This year my students and I keep reaching out and opened doors, to see where it will take us. Before Christmas, as a creative exchange we sent various bits of recorded music to a class of art students. They listened to the music and they created. Nearly half a world away, receiving this 6 second video from the teacher made us feel like we were in the next room. Can’t wait to meet in person in May!

 

What’s the big cheese?

(read time 2 min) That’s right. The sketches on the post it notes in the photo all represent the same object. They don’t look the same?? Well that’s what happens when you only know something second hand. They were the visual interpretation of a single verbal description of the object. This week we were exploring the importance and impact of clear communication, and I started us off with a ‘bad’ example to show just how things could go awry, and the result was these adorable cheeses.

How many times have we had to say, ‘no- that’s not what I meant…’ even in a casual conversation? Clarity becomes all the more poignant when professional interaction relies on being able to communicate well. For me, as a teacher, I am aware that communication and the descriptions that introduce students to new things and ideas – as if showing them shadows of what they will later experience as reflections, and then embody in their actions – can be the first step in their own understanding, and if this is presented with clarity that students can use it as a tool to move forward, but if it is vague then the resulting interpretations can be as varied as our cheeses.

Everyone took a turn explaining and the importance of feedback and ‘checking up’ along the way was easily demonstrated, even when the explanations seemed clear, the results could be a bit wonky if we didn’t communicate along the way…

Exhibit A: The broccoli, explained by 10 people collaboratively, but without viewing the progress – only the result. We thought this broccoli might be called Sponge Bob.

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For our purposes, the concept of clarity and communication was translated into musical explanations – as often, in the beginning stages of learning, students don’t know what they are doing until they have done it.

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You know that phrase… I hear what you’re saying… yes, but do you understand?

A piece of the story…

Photo CC licensed: http://bit.ly/1ElgSUX (read time 2 minutes, watch time 3:40)

I received an invitation for my students and me to take part in a project – an externalisation of people’s individual masterpiece for their lives.

WHOA…. that sounds heavy, but really valid and exciting. The idea was that these students in California were questioning their lives and sharing dreams in an effort to find a way to make them happen. or something like that. They asked me to share something – music, images, words, video, anything that held part of my story.

They asked:

How did you get to where you are today?

Where are you going?

What is your masterpiece (dream)?

I passed this request all on to my students and some of them will be sharing and sending bits and pieces. Someone has already sent along a video of them performing some music, and more is in the pipeline. I love to think, and reflection is essential for me, both personally and professionally, so I am game. I believe in teaching it is really important to lead by example, even when that presents a challenge. So last week after cycling home (I often think on the bike. It is when I clear my head and sort things out.) I thought, and sat down and made this piece. It took me a few days to go back and watch it — I wasn’t sure if I dared or not — but I did. and here it is, unedited. It is certainly not my whole story, but in that cycle ride, this is the fragment that I thought I’d share.

Your story of where you’re at or how you got there may be a story, a factual chain of accomplishments, or a description of geographical moves – that is up to you. I think however you interpret it, it is a good question, and worth asking.

In the alphabet soup of life

Photo CC licensed: http://bit.ly/1B2Khzv

This morning I was inspired by Gardner Campbell’s Downstream Deliverables, where he reflected on two things: the impact of what we say, and the convergence of people who impact or have impacted him. When I read his post I had so much to say I decided it was too much for a comment and that I would write about it –

Firstly words. Words are so, so important – especially when they come from teachers. We have all heard about the pink elephant, or the white bear. No? Well, you probably just imagined one. Wegner, Schneider, Carter & White (1987) first presented the effects of asking people NOT to think of something. I love that. Teachers (and everyday people) do this all the time.

Don’t colour outside of the lines. Don’t be late. Don’t forget to do your homework.

For all of these, we must first think of doing it wrong before we can imagine doing it right.

Another one that gets me- and is possibly my favourite ‘faux-pas’ of all time is the word TRY.

How the heck can you try to do something? Seriously, have you ever tried to make your lunch or tried to teach a class? No. No, you have not. You have either done it or not done it. The magic here is that we do. We choose to do, and sometimes the things we do are partly completed – because we hit a roadblock and need help, or need to learn more before we can complete that task – and other times we do things and fail. That said, it is no bad thing to do and fail – as long as you (like my teacher used to say) get back on that horse. Trying was perhaps the first generation of the very nasty phrase that unfortunately gets used in real school settings nowadays ‘deferred success’. ouch. Personally, I would rather fail and get back on that horse.

I know it is a bit cliché, but no less potent because it came from a film. (Did ‘there is no try’ actually come from this film??? I would love to know because I have quoted it in the draft typescript of my book Fostering Self-efficacy in Higher Education Students and if there is another source, I would love to get that right!)  

The other point that Gardner made was about the impact of people, their words, and actions –  and really completing the circle, the cycle, that what flows from one may come back one day. That touched me and I thought YES! I know !!! You are so right!

I had a teacher who touched lives and taught his students to think for themselves and to believe in themselves, and he gave more than he had to give, and in turn the students gave back more than they knew they had. A year ago, 60 of this teacher’s students (past and present) came together as a giant cello family to make music together. We recorded the Adagietto of Mahler’s 5th Symphony – and it is being prepared for release on cd. That event was a meeting of people who have had positive marks left by this one teacher – and we came from across the globe and had many different professional destinations. Each person had grown into their own musician, but we all had that ‘familial’ influence of the same teacher. I cannot really describe how powerful that was in the space of a paragraph.

When in that moment – when downstream and the gathering and culmination of various experiences and paths is delivered to you, – for me that gave me a certain clarity, to perceive the convergence and soak it in. I took from it a perspective on the impact of my teacher, but also of myself- where I had been and where I had come. …and that river is still flowing. That is amazing. Hope to meet you down stream.

That is not really finished, but I hope you’ll agree that was too long to put as a comment.

It is Saturday morning and time for breakfast. I’m off to make waffles.

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“JUST DO IT. (NIKE)” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:JUST_DO_IT._(NIKE).gif#mediaviewer/File:JUST_DO_IT._(NIKE).gif