Reading time: 6-7 minutes
A lot has been happening at Spitalfields Music during the last 6 months. We have been discovering young, creative music talent from our visits to Neighbourhood Schools, witnessed the amazing synergy mindfulness and music can create through Mindful Music workshops, and we are absolutely thrilled about our upcoming Spitalfields Music Festival that is opening next week.
And not to mention our Trainee Music Leaders! We are very proud and excited to share that our Trainee Music Leaders have successfully completed their 6-month Trainee Music Leaders programme. Raye Harvey, one of our cohort of 5 Trainee Music Leaders, reflects on the mini projects she has done as a 2022 Trainee Music Leader and shares some top tips as a music leader she learnt throughout the programme.
Manchester based RNCM graduate, violinist and singer-songwriter, Raye comes from a large Indian-Caribbean family, loves travel, collaboration, working in different genres, and is passionate about making music accessible for all and increasing diversity in classical music. She has been a mentor for young creative musicians from London, Manchester and Sheffield, and workshop facilitator in Sheffield schools and the Manchester Band of Boroughs project. Raye also performs extensively as an orchestral and session musician, as well as releasing solo material.
Mini project 1 – Session 1
For the first mini project I was working with a Year 4 class at Thomas Buxton Primary School in East London, looking at the topic of refugees and immigration. I was paired with Charly Jolly, another TML, to plan and deliver two workshops to creatively explore the themes of empathy and community responsibility.
I was quite nervous at the outset of this first project as I felt quite inexperienced in planning and leading my own workshops, but coming out of our first Spitalfields Skills Lab with Abimaro Gunnell, I was excited to work with another trainee and try out some of the ideas we’d learnt. It was so reassuring to be paired with Charly, to feel the shared responsibility and support each other. We made a plan with various games, songs and icebreakers we’d both been inspired by in the Skills Lab, and aimed to write a new song with the students from the perspective of someone who’d been displaced from their home.
We had a brilliant response from both the children and their teacher, especially at the end of the final session – after recording a performance of their original song “Regretful Refugees”, one particularly excited child told us it had been “the best day ever in [their] life!”.
During the workshops there was a real sense of buzzy, creative energy – we struggled a bit to keep focus and Abimaro suggested that using something like a countdown sorts would have been a good way of focussing energy.
I learned so much from observing Charly as she has lots of experience with younger children, I immediately adopted some of her brilliant attention-getting tricks.
Top tips I took away from this session;
- Always ask questions! And set realistic achievable goals for everyone. Don’t be afraid to expect more, and repeat things to improve the quality
- It’s helpful to keep narrating what you’re doing, when you’re doing it, giving boundaries.
- A healthy workshop dynamic has a mixture of leader talking to participants, participants talking to leader, and participants talking to each other (peer to peer).
- it’s better to do some things really well rather than getting through the whole plan.
Mini Project 1 – Session 2
In the second session, we already felt like we had useful feedback to take on board and improve some elements straight away – the pacing felt immediately better, we knew to prepare the space with a flipchart and other equipment, and the dynamic was already more relaxed than in our first workshop.
A lot of our feedback for this workshop from Fran Lobo centred around how to tie activities back to common themes, including warm ups and creative games. It really pushed me to think about how I can extend my activities to be more imaginative and involve actions and other extensions. I really want to work more on challenging and having high expectations of the participants moving forward.
As was echoed in our feedback from this session, I think my communication style had already improved hugely from the first session, and I was really happy with how much clearer and more succinct I’ve started to be.
One of the highlights of the second session was Charly improvising on the saxophone as the students came back from their break – it was so captivating and a really unique and effective way to catch their attention.
Mini project 2 – Session 1 (4th May)
Coming into the second project, my main goals were to keep developing confidence and clearness in my communication and leadership style, and to try to refine the planning process from what I learned in the first mini project. This project also took place over two 2hr workshops, this time with a Year 1 class at The Aldgate School also in East London. The theme was based around healthy habits and wellbeing and drawing the community together. During this project I was working with Charly and Cathy, two other Spitalfields TMLs.
Planning with three people, we definitely had to accommodate each other’s different ideas and find a way to split the roles, but I was really excited to start to expand my warmup activities in creative ways. I’ve really appreciated the balance of feedback and reflection with recognition of all the things that have gone well – through all these workshops the children have been so engaged and enjoying themselves, which is so confidence-boosting.
I felt that we had a great balance of leadership; everyone was assertive at appropriate moments. A lot of our reflection was around the planning of the workshop and how we could refine the activities – more song writing, shorten some sections that took up time such as introducing ourselves and our instruments simultaneously. We discussed how it’s easy to want to try out every new idea when in fact it would be more effective to repeat and extend just a few activities.
One of the key things Fran gave us to think about was how to treat the workshop and each activity within it holistically; why am I doing this? How does it link to the rest of the session? I think it will take time to have as much of a thorough viewpoint as this but I’m excited to try and develop that going forward.
Main tip – less is more!
Mini Project 2 – Session 2
My personal goals coming into this session were still mainly based around communication style, planning and flow, and creativity.
We knew from the first session that this was quite a noisy space with lots of possible distractions, so it was great to see how effective a simple activity like a hello song is – and the children really enjoy singing it as it’s already familiar.
I feel like I’m starting to get comfortable in my style of warm up, I’ve had a lot of lovely feedback on it, and this time I felt able to adapt and add in a random action that a child started doing – this is something I wouldn’t have felt flexible enough to do a few months ago! It also felt like a good recognition and validation for the child who wanted to contribute.
Following on from Fran’s suggestion, we acted out a story that I told to introduce the sloth and included some animal characters that we’d invented as part of the song last week – again this felt like a huge achievement for me as I’ve always felt very attached to my plan and struggled to come up with spontaneous adaptations in the moment.
For me this session clearly showed the ways that I’ve developed over the traineeship so far, as well as the areas that I’d like to keep working on – such as saying less and doing more!