A week ago I was in Los Angeles with a small group of my students and one of my colleagues. We lived together, travelled together, worked together, performed, taught, improvised, and laughed. It is a final-year credit bearing class at the University of Chichester that started as a student initiative four years ago. The first group’s story became a book (you can download it for free via the link) and they named the initiative Musiquality, bringing quality and connection through music and education. Each year since the students have created an educational outreach project that touches the lives of children and adults, and inevitably changes their own lives as well.
This year the students involved in the trip raised over £1000 performing at gigs and busking and I raised money too, giving a benefit concert and through leading my community orchestra. Together we raised just under $2000 and bought 60 ukuleles to use in workshops and then donate to the establishments we visited. Read more
I haven’t written on this blog in a very long time. Academically it is the busy season… strange though, classes end and it gets busy. I haven’t been idle, and have been writing. In fact I have been writing to the tune of 72,300 words that have come together in the form of my first ebook.
Exactly two years ago I was part of an epic journey with five of my students and it is time to share it. …just as soon as I learn about the last little bits of how to upload these files… Scrivener has been an awesome tool. While I get my head around ISBN numbers and the different files I need to upload, have a peek at the cover. Well, the cover so far – it could still change. I am very grateful to the friends and strangers who have given me feedback about the design so far.
Nearly there! In 2015 a group of my university students and I had an extraordinary adventure as we set to make a dream that would take us 5000 miles away to work with a group of students in California into a reality. It was one of those things that on paper just wouldn’t seem possible. We had no resources or experiences, but a whole lot of sheer enthusiasm and belief. It did happen and it was the most amazing time – from planning, learning, baking, laughing, packing, travelling, daring to go further, doing new things, teaching, meeting new people, going new places, asking, becoming a group, and saying thank you.
It was one of those happenings that really had an impact on people, myself included, and good things came of it. People kept saying to me, you should tell the story, and so I have. With encouragement and help from those who were with me, I have written it all down. We always planned to document our trip, and so had lots of recorded and documented conversations. The draft text is pretty much done – at around 200 pages, and it’s different to other educational books. It is a combination of an autobiographical story about education, but not theory, not something in the classroom, it is about life and real, meaningful, experiential learning. It’s also about our individual stories, and the commitment and perseverance it took to make it all happen.
We’ve kept both the lovely bits and the struggles to make a very honest account.
It includes the perspective of those who were with me – my students and the teachers have all contributed to writing this book.
As a learning situation, we were all in it together: learning, teaching, and supporting one another, and it happened completely outside the box. …started in the box and burst out pretty quickly…
Have a peek at the 1-minute trailer to have a glimpse into the story:
I’ve had another adventure in learning and teaching… and sometimes when things are so good, it is hard to begin to put them on paper. This post is a glimpse.
I’ll call it: ‘Part 1: Of Many’
I know that my students will have to carve their places in the world of music- that there are few traditional ‘jobs’ that exist anywhere. Graduates don’t walk out of education and walk into a single full time secure job in music. Part of what I do is work to develop experiences that hold a bank of skills so that as people progress they can build their metaphorical pantry. …With shelves full of ingredients someone can make more than a PB&J sandwich in the restaurant of their musical lives. I like (and feel the need) to grow and develop my repertoire of musical skills and experiences. Read more
Every day is a journey in learning and life and this past year has been no exception. I remember starting a conversation in January with ‘what if…?’ – having no idea how things would take shape. Everything was a question, from funding to how the collaborations would spin out. At one point I found myself in California last May in a breakout group of a dozen people – age 9-45, students, professionals, -a real mix of life, in the middle of Yosemite National Park and one of those people was Nik Koyama (who is someone also fuelled by the same passions and cravings for life, growth, and connection). As we walked, Nik asked me about the collaboration that was happening and unfolding and Nik asked: ‘what do you want to do with this? where is it going? what are your goals? … for a couple of months or next year?’ and I without hesitation I said that it wasn’t about then, about where we haven’t yet arrived, about where we’re going – what I really wanted was to be here right now and to let that happen.
All we have is now. Each now, one after another, and there is magic in that. It goes back to so many things- belief (self-efficacy of course!), permission to learn, to experience, to explore, awareness, attention, reflection, connection, and all of these create value. Educationally as a teacher I continue to learn to trust my students and I give them more and more freedoms. Freedom to design their assessments, choose their focus, make collaborations, reach out and go beyond what I can conceive. Read more
Many thanks to Fiona Harvey for live streaming our presentation at the RAISE (Researching, Advancing, and Inspiring Student Engagement) conference in Nottingham. My co-presenters Pete – a current final year student, and Jess – who just graduated, and I were very pleased to be invited to share a bit of our story. You can watch here:
(Fiona says the best bit starts at 17:55 – that’s where we perform some music!)
We would love to share our story, and what we did with you too. If you think we can spread quality and connection through music to you, your students, or your community – please get in touch.
A friend of mine asked for some stories of connection for an upcoming conference presentation he is giving… and here’s mine. (Alan, you’re in it!) It is yet another little glimpse into the #Musiqualiy story, and the stories keep folding and unfolding. Intricate as fractals.
This morning a friend shared this, page 155 from the Book of Embraces by Eduardo Galeano, (it comes right after the Culture of Terror section and before Alienation). (photo credit: Anji Gaspar-Milanovic) I haven’t read the book yet, but it is on order. The passage struck me for several reasons. First it made me think of a story told to me by Marjorie Garrigue, who was a pianist I stayed with during my summers at Meadowmount. In her youth she was a student of Rachmaninov, and she was 98 when I lived with her. I can’t remember if this was her story, or a story told by a teacher, or just a sort of musical parable- but it stuck with me, and here’s the short version:
Someone had an audition (maybe it was a performance?) and there were only a handful of people in the audience, but what the performer learned afterward was that one of those listening was a very influential musician himself and because he had prepared like it was the performance of his life and still performed, really performed, despite the small audience – that night a door opened because of the impact the performance had on those two or three audience members. – I hope it was a true story.
and so the page from Galeano’s book struck me.
It also made me reflect on my own conception of performance, and how that has shifted and continues to shift. Sometimes people judge the success of a performance on numbers – don’t all paths in society use metrics? It could be height, weight, salary, grades, views, or any number of measurables. Can you measure music’s connection with people? probably, but I would prefer not to have to label it in those terms.
Some of my most meaningful performances have been in the most unlikely spaces. This summer during the Musiquality adventure we played in a racquet ball court and then at Yosemite I played on a giant rock. The best bit of that was that it was all beyond convention. In school we are taught musical conventions, and yes, these are important. Rules, manners, heritage, culture, and tradition are all important in performance, but at the heart of it all still is the music and when the music comes first and is able to transcend the situation then there is something beyond words. This can happen in many different settings – including a traditional concert hall with people neatly tucked silently in rows.
I am certainly not against that. There is not only one way to have a meaningful performance.
Lately though, I have moved. My perspective has altered and I find I am willing to ‘play’ more in music making. That is something that wasn’t necessarily schooled into me – we spend so much time ‘working’ that there isn’t often time to play. As a late starter, I was always trying to catch up to the others … how many thousand hours had they practised more than me??… It would be foolish to dismiss the work, but the play is still somehow necessary and essential. I am pleased to be finding it and beginning to share it with others.
So on that rock, there was no concert hall and one little girl climbed right up next to me. The older students and adults assembled in a traditionally audience-shaped mass, but she didn’t know about that and just came by me.
And why not?
For me there is a great value in that connection, and it is a continual journey – really the Musiquality journey is all about bringing quality and connection through music. It is about participating in the process and being aware of your own perspective and how interaction changes, challenges, or enhances it.
I still have many many stories to share from the California adventure. One of the best ‘happenings’ was when I visited my grade school friend Anji, and upon arriving at her flat in LA, I noticed that her husband had a guitar… and within a few minutes we were playing. I had not met him before, and it was so lovely to play – to have a conversation – and a connection, and the audience of one was perfect. My only regret from that evening is that we didn’t record the other songs we played.
Like I said, I am on a journey. One year ago I was asked to just play (improvise) on a live-streamed skype call, and that was a big step forward for me. This year I am comfortable inviting others to play with me. The thing is – it’s catchy, this making music with people thing, and I don’t think we (I) do it nearly as much as we could or even should. I know I am typing now, but sometimes it is nice to talk without words too.
Music . . . was bestowed for the sake of harmony. And harmony, which has motions akin to the revolutions of the soul within us, was given by the muses … not as an aid to irrational pleasure (as is now supposed), but as an auxiliary to the inner revolution of the soul, when it has lost its harmony, to assist in restoring it to order and concord with itself.
The first Open Source Learning collaboration has happened…
We did it!
Six of us on this side of the pond dreamed, planned, worked for funding, and traveled to meet with wonderful people in America and to make amazing things happen. The thing is that the whole adventure was so completely delicious from start until where we are now that I cannot really fathom where to begin. -and so this will be just a taste of what is to come. We have a story that needs to be told and it will be told so that we can share the processes, personalities, progress, and productivity of it all with as many as care to have a look in.
This is us! From left to right: me, Victoria, IzzI, Freya, Jess, and Pete up top.
As a group we had many goals that ranged from the global goals of wanting to inspire and facilitate connection through music making. This was not a formal sit in rows and learn from a book type activity – and although all different sorts of learning are valuable, that was not the approach we took on this trip. We had the pleasure of joining an extremely welcoming and lively bunch of students and teachers who had gathered to celebrate life and learning in the fantastic setting of Yosemite.
The whole collaboration started basically with a phone call – well, a Skype – where I asked David Preston if I could come and he extended the invitation to include my students. The rest unfolded as a wonderful mille-feuille type flower, with initiative after initiative and more hard work and determination than we all knew was within us. From the funding, where I initially sponsored my students by purchasing their flights to the end where they sponsored me – paying part of my costs. I used the last bit of a grant to buy my flight, but the fundraising we did together paid for my other costs. In the past few days it has really struck me how amazing that is – my students sponsored me in this initiative: They paid my room and board at Yosemite. From start to finish this was a co-learning feast.
In America we first visited UCLA where we were exceptionally hosted by the Chief Innovation officer and Assistant Dean of Students Kenn Heller and members of his fantastic team. They shared with us some of what they do, with the low ropes course and a general red-carpet welcome to LA and we shared some of the music we had planned for Yosemite.
After our LA adventure we headed nearly 600 miles north to Yosemite. We were driven by one of the leading staff of UniCamp, who is also FATHER CHRISTMAS!!!! -no joke! Wally is amazing, and what a gift to be driven all that way by Wally and Kenn.
Our first glimpses of Yosemite were stunning and, unsurprisingly, literally took our breath away.
From there we went on to the Nature Bridge facilities, where we met the Righetti students, and the rest of the gang. Our teacher-collaborators were there with their children, and the adventure continued with good food, good friends, and good times. We began to melt, formulating happenings and creating … events, outcomes, experiences, and connections: from student to student, from teacher to student, teacher becoming student, everyone becoming a bit closer to nature. (can I just add that I really, really do love the trees)
We did take some time to record some music… both in the cabins and by the water’s edge:
And after our time at Yosemite, we went back to Santa Maria, where we made more music (there is a theme here!) – and this time we also did a workshop at a primary school. You can almost hear the rhythms in these snaps:
There was an awful lot more that happened. People achieved goals on many levels. There was inspiration, and hopefully the joy that is #Musiquality was felt and genuinely contributed to the nature and atmosphere of the Open Source Learning initiative. We have each come back enriched.
As our collaborator, and founder of the OSL Foundation, Dr. David Preston said (at 14:28 in Nik’s video below):
“Don’t forget to tell your story. Every single one of you has a wonderful story – not just about this weekend, but about who you are, and what you do, and what you’re learning, and what you’re hoping for, and what you’re fearing- all those wonderful things that make you you, and I want you to be more you out loud, because as I’ve gotten to know each and every single one of you, it’s made my life richer, and I want to say thank you for that.”
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.