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Posts tagged ‘community’

OER18 Reflections

This morning at OER, I typed as I listened to the keynote. David Wiley started with definitions. (featured image CC-0 by Alan Levine)

I have a tricky time understanding the labels. Names go with identity, and that is very important, but … I tweeted that I got stuck at the first half of his first question. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but if you’re talking definitions, that means semantics comes into it, and well that is a sort of provocation for me.

An analogy- I realise it is very extreme, and draws a simple connection where there are really a dozen steps, but it illustrates a point- We learn. People, providers, researchers, all like to label the learning. We breathe, and we don’t really talk about it because it is natural to breathe – we all do it. People do discuss air, but generally they label the air when there is something wrong with it- like pollution… If we label the air because it’s broken, does that mean we feel the need to label learning because it’s broken too? Perhaps.

I think many people learn inside of their labelled boxes. How did it get into this boxed state that we have to label the stages of opening the lid. Are we backwards in learning? or just looking at learning backwards?

The seeming desire for so many boxes across education is something that baffles me.

Perhaps we need to shift our perspective. (I’m gently referring to everyone with that we, myself included. For example, how comfy were people sitting in rows and listening to lecture after lecture? Ask yourself where you sit on that spectrum. I am realising more and more that I am past left field. You can probably find me digging and planting that field- metaphorically.)

I remind myself that people who put us in boxes, -sometimes others and sometimes we do it to ourselves – and it is not necessary that we are in boxes, or rows, or even chairs in order to learn. The labels, the definitions help us to understand and when well chosen, they help us to communicate and discuss with one another, but we don’t need them to learn or to teach.

When I met David yesterday (Wednesday) I asked him how does he feel about the imposed walls/rules around open. (he said whatever I asked wouldn’t be related to the topic of his talk, but I think this was) His initial answer had to do with how he talks to people who have never heard of OER and what he said was along the lines of (paraphrasing) – he gets people to use/do something first without calling it OER, and then people are more willing to adopt and accept, to come to the concept without baggage.

I explained that I do the same with music – I facilitate learning by showing and enabling people to do it, whatever ‘it’ is, and then I show them that they are using it- and they find it very hard to refute either their capabilities – as they have done it.

What I was really asking was more about the walls for those who already know about open as a concept. We talked more, and I appreciated the time taken to genuinely discuss with me. I was a stranger after all.

Fast forward to this morning’s workshop at 11am.

It was time for the workshop I was to co-deliver with my students: The sound of an emerging network. I was setting up the room in the break and there were lots of people around. When it came time to start we were left with a cozy group of 8 participants. Each of them was wonderful and they all did love it. Did the description with music in the content scare people off I wonder or was it just the extremely good other sessions? (these photos were all taken by Alan Levine CC-0)

The plan for the session included outlining aspects of how a community forms, giving a bit of my teaching theory to start- and using our recent student-led trip to Los Angeles as a practical linking example.

I could tie in all the elements of planning, goal setting, using and developing skills, and the pattern of introducing and realising co-creation with students. I did a few slides (I though people would like slides, and also I thought it would help to have theoretical things written down for anyone who did not speak English as their first language) and then my students taught the participants a battery of skills on the ukulele. (We brought 30 with us for the session) Slides are embedded at the bottom of this post.

Next groups were set the task of making a song. I gave them a general outline of various possibilities that included using or reusing aspects of what they had just learned… they were not pushed out of the nest without wings, but if the baby bird has not yet flown, sometimes they don’t realise they actually have wings. This scary feeling was felt by some in the room.

As they worked, we (my students and I) walked around, joined in and occasionally contributed a comment or two. At one point I asked one group if everyone was involved? And why not? Who took the lead? If everyone had the skills and the tools, what was stopping participation? Interesting discussions followed. One person blogged about it:

Today I have one major highlight, having experienced the teaching of Laura Ritchie and her amazing students. Laura is an exceptional educator – she introduces an element of meta to all her work, and practice – but in such a light-touch way.And I learned a little bit about playing the Ukulele – and thought a great deal about group practices, and left with a lot  more to think about, about my own patterns of behaviour in risk-taking group situations (for the record, I probably play it safe too much and am too quick to respond to a dominant voice. In a time-constrained situation this means I wait too long to have my own voice heard). Sarah-Jane Crowson

Well… there is a whole giant human side to life and learning that is more than resources. We have to understand people to work together. In a community there are different roles, different skills, different needs, and different goals. I will only ever know a small part of any of my students, and somehow I need not only to provide them with skills and tools, but also an open mindset for working. Open for me goes beyond the label. (yes, we need words, and I do love them, but there is so much more than I could convey in just these words.)

David made a point in his morning keynote about humility, saying we do not know how someone else might use, adapt, explore, and grow what any of us make. Well yes, and especially in today’s consumerist, proprietary culture, we need to be reminded of this. But. Let me add that we do not know how someone will internalise our teaching, how it will speak to them at that moment in their life and learning, and allowing for (I’m struggling for a word here…) flexibility, fluidity, perspective that comes with each individual’s experience is something I personally need to have in my teaching. I hope I achieved that today.

If you missed the workshop and are curious about what we did, you can see it here: (when I figure out how to upload slides somewhere open, I’ll add those!)

The final performances start at 35 min in the video. The performances are fab. Thank you to everyone who participated and to all who commented at the end. Those last 15 mins (from the performances to the end) are especially worth listening to. The reflections are golden.

After the session my co-presenters and I participated in a V-Connecting session and that was a chance for the students to share their reflections. What a rich experience! Thank you so much to the V-Connecting team for inviting us. 🙂

OER18 workshop Sound of an Emerging Network, Bristol, 19 April, 2018 from Laura Ritchie

 

The Butterfly, Learning, & Community: Book Club Post (August 1)

Is it August already? Yes, and today is a great day to type with the rain coming down outside. That butterfly pic was taken just yesterday… I’m sure summer will come back. Keeping to my schedule it is time for my August post for this Book Club about Stephen Downes’ book ‘Toward Personal Learning’. Several people have said they are reading too, and that is great. Please do join in either with your own post or a comment.

According to the schedule, this post could cover anything from p.81-177, which contains a lot! I have covered a little bit of it here. (6-8 min read. Featured image is a ‘silver washed’ butterfly taken by Jan Ritchie)

Abstraction and Myth:

About scope and understanding:

“We speak in myth be cause reality is ineffable. It cannot be expressed in words. All language is, as in the first instance, based in myth, based in some idealization, some abstraction.” p.81

“We comprehend the future in terms of what we understand today. This is the basis of the origin of these myths. This is really important to understand. When we start talking about what cannot be known we lose our place or we experience only confusion. We are lost in a swirl of chaos. It’s chaos that, in fact, characterizes all reality.We project our thoughts, our ideas, our beliefs, our features onto the chaos. This is how we understand the chaos. We look at the chaos and we see ourselves. In seeing ourselves in the chaos, we comprehend the chaos, but it’s a myth.” p.82

I liked this because I tell stories, speak in metaphor, sound, images. I love the idea of the chaos. I don’t love chaos, but instead the *concept* of an existent chaos that is beyond my brain’s organisational comprehension. Read more

Hear our voices: Sing for unity

Last night was the event, a time to be heard and a time to sing and make music. It keeps me thinking there really is no time like now.

A few weeks ago I put out an invitation for people to contribute to what would become a performance piece in a positive (action) event at my lovely university. This was the second event under the banner ‘love music, hate racism’ that we have held, and this like the first was scheduled to coincide with a day (this time the eve of 100) when music, art, and positive voices needed to be heard.

Huge thanks goes to Veronika for organising the event and instilling a real sense of collegiate community – in the true sense of those words. This time we had solo voice and solo piano, the ‘Singing for Health’ community choir (led by university students), original poetry by Kay Channon from her new book, historical poetry (read in the original language first and then translated to English), and an offering by me and Pete, which included a collaborative piece that you might have contributed to. (if you did, sincere sincere thanks to you!)

The thing that made this event so very special is that there were all sorts of performances and there was not an ounce of stuffiness. There was genuinely room for everyone and everyone’s efforts were respected and enjoyed. I did have a moment of nerves and doubt before the event began as the alumni singer rehearsed her aria and I heard her lovely operatic voice fill the hall. I thought, I am singing a Dylan song after she sings. The gulp in my throat was not about Dylan, it was about me singing, but that passed and it was ok. It was really ok, and I was proud to stand up and share what 10 people had come together to make.

The Singing for Health choir sang a magic song about the lightening tree.

Down in the meadow with the wind in the west, the lightening tree faced up to the test. It was hard when struck, when you took the wrap, the terrible wrap of the thunder clap.

Grow, grow, the lightening tree. It’s never too late for you and me. Grow, grow, the lightening tree. It’s never too late for you and me.

 

Beautiful.

We had a Bertold Brecht poem read in honour of Worker’s Memorial Day, and we paused to think of those who built the buildings we use, and for all those who have expended effort that often goes unrecognised. Adam Swayne played two very moving piano solo pieces ‘(speak to me)’ by Amy Beth Kirsten and ‘Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen’ by Stephen Montague. The second told the story of John Henry, building the railways until his end, and then his wife picked up that hammer and carried on.

It’s like our brilliant Vice Chancellor, Clive Behagg said in a speech earlier in the day, at his farewell (retirement) event:

It’s [a place is]  about the people.

We must never forget that. This event wasn’t about elitism, or perfection, but about inclusion, coming together, and respecting and receiving what others had to give.

I was very pleased to be among those who came together and made their voices heard in such a positive and celebratory event. Thank you to those near and far who contributed to the Affirmation Quilt and helped me share our voices together.

Making music everywhere: Cello Weekend 2017

Music everywhere. Cellos everywhere. Smiles, laughter, learning, good work, new strings, new learning. It is difficult to sum up what a magnificent weekend has just happened with 25 amazing cellists: students, professionals, teachers, children, parents – so many walks of life. There was incredible generosity to support from so many different angles- from a private donor, to three string companies each supporting us with strings, one sponsoring one of the workshops, and then there were the parents and teachers. We had cello cake and cupcakes! Oh my goodness… and the teacher who sat with the youngest students throughout the whole weekend to make sure they didn’t get lost.

Have a little look into what we got up to:

The recordings are taken with my phone as rehearsals went on (you can even hear me counting in the background…) and the music over the last few photos was recorded at the concert – by me, with my phone, while conducting. It was at that moment I thought – oh drat! I could have made a good recording with the zoom recorder in my bag… the bag over there… It’s tricky to get all the planning right when you are planner, orchestrator, director, and deliverer, and if the recording was the only thing that slipped, well that’s pretty good for me.

This last piece was composed by the gal singing, and I had talked to her and said we had a cello orchestra, so why not write out a string accompaniment? She made it easy, and that was great. We did not, however, get to rehearsing it. So only a very few (the youngest members) had heard it before we performed it. The thing is, it is a lovely song – about ‘our perfect world’ and the lyrics say – I’m dreaming of our perfect world, and you’re there… come, take my hand… – It is 100% positive. When we played it, the orchestra could be relatively together and in tune, despite not having played it – and it was a lollipop at the concert, not the main works, so perfection wasn’t the aim for this one – it was about the experience. But, because it was easy, people had enough spare attention to enjoy, look around, and soak it in. I had no score, only the parts, so I was looking at the players the whole time, and something magic happened. One by one, they began to smile at me. It wasn’t everyone, but about 5 just grinned, and I thought,  This, this is why we make music, why we teach, what it really means to learn. 

Ok, I get sentimental, and I admit to being very optimistic and enthusiastic, and it is without apology. I was moved by those smiles, and by the support of people – parents, partners, babies (yes we really did have a 2 month old baby at the Cello Weekend), and unseen supporters (Thank you Charles!). Thank you to everyone who attended and who made this weekend possible. To the University for the use of the Chapel, to the string companies: D’Addario, Jargar, and Larsen, and to the players. You are truly amazing.

I very much look forward to next year’s event.

Save the date: 

Cello Weekend 2018

April 14-15

Community in four words

Sometimes in the midst of the storm there is calm. I felt that today for a brief moment. Oh there are many reasons to feel the storm today. I don’t want to go there – I sat still for a moment and read the very eloquent post by danah boyd (thanks to Bonnie for tweeting it) and thought, mmmm (that’s code for ‘yes’). I admit to skimming the post and then read carefully, backwards- starting at the end – and thought.

(that’s not an unfinished sentiment. It was my action: I thought.)

Community. Trust. Communication. Personal. Stories. Interest. Talking. Inquiry. Curiosity. Care. Friends. Time.

It made me think about how we transmit and value information about one another. Last night I on a video call with America and Australia and Brazil talking about a new archive of ethnomusicology materials, and I was struck by the story that people told through their research – living for decades with distant cultures and stressing the importance of context and having access to all the notes, audio, soundscapes of the places and people. One bit of information in isolation was nothing. To me, as someone who didn’t know, it was at best misleading, and at worst – well I cannot imagine – and that is the nature of ignorance.

When we do not know about something, there is a need to genuinely learn and to teach, and in today’s push-button world, people have sometimes lost the art of explanation, conversation, and (I dare say) an awareness of others. I don’t mean this in any base horrible way, but in simple things.

An everyday example: I was speaking to a lady in her 70’s the other day and she explained how she was using her phone more, but her family didn’t know how to explain to her. Her granddaughter said to just google it, but had not explained the three touches needed to raise the search engine page on the phone, and so it was a mystery without obvious instructions and she was frustrated. I would be too.

There is an art to teaching, and we are all called upon to be teachers, whether in a school or not. Partly that is because we are all learning. Learning, teaching, developing, growing – unless we stop that awareness of ourselves and those around us, and that sort of stopping is different to standing still (because there can be great reflection in that); that is a choice to decay.

News, fake news, community and trust, – from one end of the spectrum to the other. I was struck in danah’s post that she hints at calling upon people from across layers of society to realise and want to make a difference: that people having a choice, but she says “I’m not sure that we have the will, but I think that’s part of the problem.” She is so right. It is like someone who struggles with any addiction, be it food, money, power – it is part of what fuel’s you and it is not easy to choose to live differently than those shouting pretty loud. You can shut your eyes, but closing your ears, now that’s not easy. -but it is possible, and that’s where community comes into it. Each person can make a difference in the world. One kind word, one wave, one song. Whether you reach one or one thousand, what you do has an impact beyond what you can see.

Tomorrow there is a positive thing happening on Twitter. Bonnie Stewart has cast an invitation to share 4 word stories about what community means. It’s all part of the #Antigonish2 movement. I’ll be there. Hope you will join us too.

Featured image CC BY-NC-ND by Phil Norton

Cello Weekend 2017 – Join Us!

It’s time to think ahead and book for this year’s Cello Weekend! This is a chance to come together and study at the University of Chichester campus for a weekend with teachers and students from the university as well as cellists from across the wider professional musical community. Cellists of all ages are welcome, and there is something in the programme for everyone – from the orchestral experience of playing the classics of Mozart and Bach in an all-cello orchestra, to exploring aspects of performance, practice, and technique, to having a go at experimenting with modern techniques used by folk and jazz players as they go beyond just playing the notes. You can even have a play on a 5-string electric cello… or you might stick to the classics and watch others perform.

This year we welcome two outstanding professionals: Angela East and Kay Tucker. Angela will lead a musical surgery entitled “Any Questions? Your opportunity to find the answers to issues that have puzzled you for years!” Angela is inviting every participant to submit a question in advance of the weekend. Kay will be speaking, of course, about String Babies! and how our approach to reading and understanding music impacts all of us.

We also welcome two fantastic student-professionals who are both currently studying for their MA in Performance at Chichester: Nikolai Krinitsky and Joe Chilcott. Each of these people brings insight and understanding that will give you a fresh look at your own playing and at how you understand music. Full biographies and information about our guests is listed below the poster (scroll down!).

There are opportunities at the Cello Weekend to learn, explore, play, and meet other musicians. For more information, please contact me. My email is on the poster below. Local accommodation is also available for those travelling to get to the weekend.

AngelaEast:

Angela has combined playing and teaching throughout her career. At first, she taught in a number of schools including Haileybury, Leighton Park, Epsom College and Eton, where she taught the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. She also taught adult beginners at the City Literary Institute, where she had the largest classes in the music department. At this time she was freelancing as a modern cellist, mainly with the London Mozart Players.

In 1979 Angela acquired a baroque cello and became co-principal cello with the English Baroque Soloists under Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Known for the ‘elemental’ style of performance (The Times), Angela East is highly regarded as one of the leading continuo players of the Early Music Movement., having played with many of the foremost baroque orchestras in London including Principal Cello in the first performance on original instruments at Glyndebourne under Sir Simon Rattle.

Angela trained to become a Suzuki cello teacher in the 1980s and is a level 5 teacher and a teacher trainer. As her playing career developed, she began to develop her home teaching practice and has taught numerous children, some of whom chose musical careers and many of whom still play.

In 1997 she became a member of Red Priest. As well as having performed all over the world in some very interesting and unusual countries, this group has provided her with the opportunity to perform as a soloist, to make arrangements of unlikely repertoire such as Handel’s Messiah and she has been a partner in Red Priest Recordings, with whom she made two solo recordings, one of the Bach Cello Suites and one called ‘Baroque Cello Illuminations’ that includes pedagogical material. This CD was chosen as CD of the Fortnight by Classical Music Magazine.

In 2005 she enrolled with the Brighton School of Alexander Technique and graduated in 2009, providing an extra string to her bow. As well as teaching young children, she now teaches beginner adults by combining cello with the Alexander Technique and, on the other hand, gives Alexander lessons to a number of professional cellists. She has now devised a course and is writing a book for parents of children who wish to learn an instrument (any instrument, any teacher) and her self-run teacher training courses are now in their fourth year.

Angela gives regular recitals; one of her programmes is entitled ‘A Tale of Five Cellos’ in which she plays the viola da gamba, the bass violin, the baroque cello, the five-stringed cello and a Ventapane cello of 1828. Her repertoire extends into the 20th century with the Kodaly Solo Sonata and a number of jazz pieces by Aaron Minsky and Mark Summer. She has performed many times on radio and television, including Open University programmes and has been awarded an ARAM for her distinguished services to the music profession.

She has contributed articles to journals such as Arco and Early Music Today, has published editions of the Donizetti String Quartets and her book ‘Play Baroque’ has been published by Stainer and Bell, with several pieces having been chosen for the ABRSM syllabus. She has contributed articles to Early Music Today magazine and to ESTA and Suzuki newsletters. She has taken part in over 200 recordings including some by the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Led Zeppelin and Eminem, and has founded two groups of her own – the London Baroque Soloists and the Revolutionary Drawing Room, with whom she recorded eight CDs of Boccherini and Donizetti, one of which was chosen by Stanley Sadie in his ‘Critics’ Choice’.

She has been a member of ESTA since the 1970s.

Kay Tucker:

An alumni of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Kay has been playing the cello since the age of 12. She gives recitals both as soloist and ensemble player and is a professional cello teacher. In 2002, Kay was invited by Trinity GuildhallExamination Board to select cello repertoire for the 2004 strings syllabus. She has recently completed setting the cello repertoire for the new Trinity Guildhall syllabus, running from 2007. As a member of the British and International Federation of Festivals, she has adjudicated at well over 100 national & local festivals throughout the UK. She is a Music Mentor for the National Festival of Music for Youth

Kay is passionate about the cello, and in teaching others to play well, whatever their age. She strongly believes that establishing a sound technique is fundamental to maximum achievement and enjoyment on the instrument.

Kay is widely experienced in teaching cello at all levels and to all ages. Over the years she has organised and given masterclasses & workshops. She is also a deputy teacher at the Royal College of Music. Students have gained music scholarships and exhibitions to independent schools and a number have been awarded places at the leading conservatoires. Most of Kay’s students have continued to enjoy the cello well into adult hood, some professionally

Kay encourages all her students to participate in chamber music and orchestras. Students have gained places in the West Sussex County Youth Orchestra, Surrey County Youth Orchestra, Brighton Youth Orchestra and the National Children’s Orchestra. Kay has had a number of works composed for her and her students; most notably ‘Mellow Cellos’ by Howard Thompson, and ‘Deep Space 5’ by Douglas Coombes.

Joe Chilcott:

 

Joe is a singer/songwriter who plays the guitar. He has just started playing the cello, but his strengths lie in his creativity with the use of his guitar. Joe is able to imagine a world of sounds and to create these on his acoustic guitar, using every part of the instrument. You can listen to some of Joe’s work here. He is studying for his MA in Music Performance at Chichester and notably, he was in the semi-finals of the UK Open Mic competition in November 2016. I promise his session will produce smiles and beautiful music.

 

 

Nikolai Krinitsky:

Is a cellist who comes originally from Moscow. He studied in Moscow, and completed his undergraduate degree at the Royal College of Music. He is now studying for his MA in Music Performance at Chichester. Nikolai possesses an impressive level of technical skill, and surprisingly, also a great humility as a performer. These two do not always go hand-in-hand. He is gentle and approachable, and has a way of encouraging performers to find the joy of the music they are playing. His insight comes from years of performing and also from his own skill as a composer for the instrument. He has composed many cello studies, caprices, and a sonata. His performance class is sure to be inclusive, encouraging, and full of genuine appreciation for music making.

 

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:

cellodown1 celloclass1 celloclass2

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:

concert3    concert 2

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See you next year for the 10th Cello Weekend ! 

April 9-10 2016

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