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Posts by Laura

MUS654: An Open Connected Course

MUS654 is an online version of a course taught at the University of Chichester. It is about considering and creating a year’s curriculum for a music student having private lessons. –on any instrument, voice, any style of music and for any age person. It is an individually guided, open course designed to be useful for YOU in your learning and professional practice.

From the official rubric, (and yes, I wrote it) the course aims

To provide students with an understanding of appropriate repertoire for players and singers, both the graduated repertoire of examination syllabi and also to examine ways in which a range of musics can usefully become part of the repertoire and learning curriculum…

Over the course of a semester the different ingredients that go into musical learning are examined, and you are encouraged to discover what is out there in the realm of published literature, find and fill some gaps with your own creations, and put it together with a rationale that links it all to usefully set the scene for a year’s learning.

This is not a textbook course, nor is it an attempt to create a textbook. In music learning there are an awful lot of individual variables – people, instruments, ages, experience, personal ambitions… and it would be silly to imply that there ever could be a single answer for how to teach.

I don’t know about you, but most people learn music in a very private setting. Some teachers are awesome and share what they do, but this doesn’t happen as often as you might expect. As a cellist, I never considered observing a flute lesson, or sitting in on a singing lesson. Now this is not to say the teachers wouldn’t have let it happen, but I never even thought of it, and because the opportunity wasn’t generally presented to me on a plate, it never happened. This is not a unique situation that only happens in music. As a lecturer, I can’t say I have observed colleagues teaching in Sport or Business Studies. Why not? Perhaps it is just practical pressures like time? – maybe, but I think as well, it is just not yet part of the culture to think this way and be completely open.

So this is my experiment (encouraged by a friend who is heavily involved with Connected Courses). Talking about a subject that doesn’t get discussed, but it is something all teachers have to face. Personally, I can say that I had to figure it out myself. Yes, I had a fantastic foundation from excellent teachers, but there is that added aspect of needing to step back and reflect in order to put it all together. Hopefully MUS654 will give you that opportunity, so that when you do come to apply your teaching, you are not working week-by-week, but have already begun the processes of looking at learning as the raindrop, the teacup, and the ocean it will become.

It starts on the 11th of September…. Hope you will join me!

MUS654 Overview


photo CC licensed


MUS654 is a course to get you thinking about, around, with, and through all the things you do as a performer and as a teacher so that whenever it happens that you are teaching (or learning yourself) you have the tools to structure a supportive and full environment in which to learn. It is a bit like baking…. you learn about the properties of the ingredients before you go rogue and make profiteroles from scratch. That gives a snapshot of insight into how the topics were chosen, and the content that you create will be highly individual. The huge resource is in reaching out to the community, because there are both a lot of teachers and a lot of musicians out there – and there’s no sense reinventing the wheel all by your (or my) self!

Feel free to take part in what you can and take from it what you want.

Topics at a glance…


1. The mechanics of sound

2. What makes a melody?

3. Scales and the relationship of notes

4. Studies and supplemental material

5. Repertoire

6. Technical issues

7. Planning a rationale

8. Phrasing and musicality

9. Demonstration lesson

10. Interlinking issues

11. Final projects


CC licensed

Each topic will have its own page to get the cogs turning. The point of it all is to give a holistic view that can then be honed to suit individual teaching and learning circumstances. Gotta think of all the bits before you can put it together if you want it to stick.

I have contributions from performers and artists from around the world that I am in touch with. You may think – hey! what about that?? – and you are probably right. The list is not the end, but just the beginning. So if you think there is something or someone (to interview or link with) who would make a valuable contribution to a session, then please get in touch!

Keynote at UEA 3 Sept. 2014

HEA funded Project Conference at UEA, Norwich

HEA funded Project Conference at UEA, Norwich

HEA Conference 2014: Experiential Learning ‘Speaking through Sound’

This is an extract from what one of the participants, Dr. Fabio Aricò, had to say about the session at the HEA conference:

“I recently attended the HEA Annual Conference in Birmigham. A great event overall, and I will begin my account of it talking about a great session I attended there on “Experiential Learning” delivered by the mighty Laura Ritchie. When we entered the session venue, the room was already set with violins, cellos, violas and scores: intimidating to say the least. Very few of us had ever touched an instrument. (It took me 40 years to ever go near a violin!) So off we went…. Laura’s session was a truly inspirational and humbling experience: I think I am a good teacher, and I used to think that I knew exactly how it feels being a student learning new material, drawing on my experience and my memories as a student. Yes, there is some truth in all this, and relying on our emotional intelligence is important (quite ironic that Alan Mortiboys, pivotal figure in the emotional intelligence literature, was sitting just next to me with his violin). The truth is that many moons have passed since I was a student, and I had to acknowledge that my emotional intelligence alone does not make up for the fact that I am no longer a spring-chicken in my teaching profession. I needed to be reminded how it feels to be a student struggling to grasp new material, something never learnt before, with peers all around me, who could judge me and make fun of me, but who could also help me and support my own learning. Thank you Laura for bringing me back to a more humble-self, you certainly left a mark.” Dr. Fabio Aricò Lecturer in Macroeconomics, University of East Anglia

Read the full post by Dr. Fabio Aricò here



Cello Weekend 2014 Photos


This was the 7th Cello Weekend, bringing together 35 participants from all walks of life. Over the course of the weekend, Laura led rehearsals, participants took part in chamber music, jazz, and Alexander Technique workshops. Some performed in the masterclasses while others observed, and everyone performed in the final concert. We worked with the composer Patrick Harrex to give the unofficial premier of his work ‘… a l’armonia sì intento …‘ With constellations of close harmonies that changed slowly over minutes, this beautiful work was a venture into new territory for some of the cellists.


Cello Weekend 10Composer Jill Jarman (above) explained her new composition for solo cello ‘Resonance‘ before Laura performed its premier. Rosina Mostardini (below center) travelled from Chicago to deliver masterclasses on both days. These were accompanied by Thomas Duchan (below right). Graham Elliott (below left) was our resident Alexander Technique teacher.


Cello Weekend 16


Cello weekend 13

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACello Weekend L2Cello Weekend bow

Until next year!
Cello Weekend Feet

1812 Finale (with balloon cannons): Cello Weekend 26-27 April, 2014

This is the last minute of the 1812 Overture as performed in the final concert of the 2014 Cello Weekend. Everyone in the audience had their own ‘balloon cannons’ and I had my special arsenal just at the tip of my toes. This short clip is from an impromptu video filmed by an audience member…

Something’s Happening: what they said…

Something’s Happening was an HEA funded, day long workshop run by NTFs at the Arts University Bournemouth. I was one of 5 NTFs involved and the event was organised by Dr. Kirsten Hardie. Here is what one of the participants said:

“The Cello session run by Laura Ritchie at the Bournemouth NTF conference was a truly exemplary instance of transdisciplinary pedagogy. What was remarkable during the session was the speed with which individuals were able to pick up the basics. This was because the session was wholly experiential. The powerful lesson for me is that we should require that our students become practitioners in their respective subject. This in itself transcends individual disciplinary conventions, and can be adapted for any subject. In addition the session reiterated the value of embodying knowledge – this, of course, is an essential of music, but it should remind us also of the recent work in Neuroscience that informs us that an embodied activity has a very strong chance of becoming a remembered one. The third key point, for me, was the fun that we all had as participants playing and making mistakes. Why can we not transfer these notions wholesale into our own disciplines? Learning is not about producing right answers at all times, it is about failing, and to paraphrase Samuel Beckett, ‘failing better.’”

Dr Nicholas Monk,
National Teaching Fellow,
Assistant Professor,
Deputy Director, IATL,
University of Warwick