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#Phonar. yes, this was very very very …

I love teaching spaces that make me smile even before anything happens. When I walked into the Disruptive Media Learning Laboratory teaching space at Coventry University,

WAIT. I didn’t walk into it. I carried (with help from two fantastic gentlemen) an orchestra of string instruments from the van to the third floor of the building, and we entered an absolute teaching haven. Imagine minecraft becomes real, and there is a 3-leveled terrace of 1-meter blocks covered in SYNTHETIC GRASS!!!!! and there were beanbags bigger than my kitchen table!!! Oh My Days! I had gone to heaven early!

First, I had the task of getting through to the students in a very short space of time- figuratively and literally.

Everyone was surprised. They thought that they had arrived to present their final submissions for the term.

Last month, Jonathan and I had hatched a plan… and I said, sure I can come and teach them all to play.

Could I really do that?!?! Well, yes and no. I knew what I wanted to get across, and I knew what I needed.

Help from them.

In the short hour that I had, I needed to have each and every one of those students be actively engaged.

Need is a tricky thing.

Good for me, the students were up for it.

Small Phonar Pic

Ok. the back story. My friend Duane Padilla had done a fantastic solo violin version of a pop song called ‘Secrets’  by One Republic and basically he did it using a very cool tool that lets you build layers into the music. (This is also available as an app TC Helicon Voice Jam, which is superbly inexpensive) I said to Jonathan that I could get the students to play it … well approximate it !

The way the (fab) room was laid out meant that everything was hidden from sight until the students came around the corner, and there was a lovely look of surprise on their faces as they were confronted by a room full of instruments all prepared and positioned for them.

I dug in.

Then Duane turned up – from Honalulu via skype to wish us well on this crazy venture! It was after 11pm for him and he had just finished playing with his band… Back to the class…

These students were great. They began reluctant and one by one they somehow found that little bit of courage to do that thing they had never done before. It was magic to see the smiles and watch the way they were paying attention to different things – non-verbal cues, listening, and watching in ways that they certainly weren’t aware of earlier that day. In the space of 45 very short minutes, we did play a version of the piece, and there were a few moments in the middle when it all clicked and that was just like sitting on a cloud – like we were all on a cloud together. Magic.


Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 22.00.27

Sure people fell off, and they got back on, and they kept going. I loved that. See, after that first bit of courage, it wasn’t so bad, and actually they wanted to learn, and best of all they were doing it together. There were 7 different parts going on at the same time. (I think we were officially on a floor of a library – making a huge racket. Yes, that was excellent, and I mean that in the most polite and creatively positive way possible.)

Ok. this is verging on TLDR, so I am going to call it a night. A very good night. I am in excellent company and my thoughts are filled with music.

I hope yours are too.



3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hi Laura!

    Jonathan mentioned you were coming to teach the final Phonar lesson. What an exciting activity! Thanks for including an image of the space – it’s really conducive to experimentation.


    December 3, 2014

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  1. Let the music play! -
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