July 2020

One incredible team. Thank you.

When it came round to showing the summer concert online, it was a nervous time. For me – how would it work, would it show correctly, what would it sound like, was it worth all the effort? For Heather who had put the concert together – how would it be received, would it all be together? What was shown was a fabulous team achievement. So many musicians involved, so much time spent putting it all together right across our school.

The online concert seems to have embraced all that was great about Team Music during the past few months – getting on with it and enjoying that little bit of normality, if we can call it that. Feedback from so many people has highlighted how having music lessons and activities, even if online was so good for so many reasons. Some families have been able to be more involved in their young musicians’ learning. Musicians have been on time for lessons, ready and having practised. The sense of connection has still been there. We have listed to past performances online, we have collaborated in projects, we have laughed, we have stayed in touch. A masterclass or two, an amazing Rock School recording project using Soundtrap, online rehearsals and catch ups, fantastic curriculum work created, an adult choir rehearsing online, a singing showcase, many online performances and much more. Most importantly, the learning continued from day one from the youngest to the most senior of our musicians.

It has been an incredible team achievement. Families, alumni, teachers, support staff, governors, leaders, musicians joining us in September, our education partners and most importantly our musicians. It has been an inspiration to see everyone come together to support in a way never seen before. Music has been a sense of release, a sense of normality, a sense of fun.

So, thank you to everyone. If you donated for our concert to help our musicians next year, if you supported our move online, if you supported a musician, if you turned up for lessons, if you listened to a recording, if you responded to an email, if you watched a video, if you helped keep us going, if you completed your practice, if you completed even more practice than normal. Being part of Team Music is quite amazing. Next term our music will continue, slightly differently, but we will be still creating just as much music.

Going back to the Summer Concert. With 180 families watching at that moment online and 1300 views so far, who would have thought that our amazing musical community would come together in such a way. That is the power of our music and our community. Team Music.

Be proud. Thank you.

Mark Taylor

Director of Music

April 2020

Online learning.

Adapting is the name of the game. How does Team Music adapt to these different times? Like everyone else, we move online.

Being a school that uses GSuite for Education, we are better placed than some to be able to do this. Google has the infrastructure, the technology. We already use Google Classroom through our work and the music website is a Google Site. I am a great believer in the power of technology and the ability it has to transform learning. Of course technology cannot replace the teacher in the room but it can help a great deal.

Last year we made the decision to move our music sequencing from Garageband on old macs to Soundtrap on Chromeboxes. I kept on saying as a reason that work can then be completed at home. Wow. Now it certainly can. Every student in exam classes, Keystage 3 and Year 4 has a Soundtrap account. Soundtrap is a superb online sequencer. In these times of working at home, Soundtrap has proved to be a lifeline for learning to continue. Not only can classes continue to work at home, but choirs are being set rehearsal tracks and virtual choir recordings using it, with some brilliant results. The sharing facility on Soundtrap is amazing.

As we are a Google school we can also have online face to face instrumental lessons in our safe environment. Whilst setting this up with all our partners has been a challenge, families and students especially have asked for this and engaged with the setup process, which has been superb. Trial lessons were conducted and training given so that everyone is comfortable with this new way of teaching. So many education establishments have moved online like this and we have been very careful to get it right for us, using the technology we already have. Our primary musicians are next to come online in the same spectacular way. 92% of musicians have currently moved online with face to face lessons.

We are also working to get our musicians engaged in our wider department – sharing musical videos, chatting to each other online, maintaining practice, sending in recordings for virtual ensembles.

Going forward, it is about our musicians not being ‘in limbo’ but moving on with their learning, making progress. Those long term goals are still there and we need to do all we can to ensure they meet those goals, be it musical ability and milestone to exams or diplomas.

What has been wonderful though is how everyone in Team Music is staying in touch, often by email, supporting and wishing well. We are still one team in music, still creating music. The videos coming in of students, particularly in the Larch, performing pieces are wonderful.

We are using Twitter to post recordings and performances – past and present.

Simon Balle has a rich musical heritage, with so many amazing memories. It also has a rich musical future with everyone working together, even if online for now. This is something we can all be proud of.

Mark Taylor, Director of Music

January 2020

Was George Ezra in Rock School?

Yes he was, and the Rock Gig last night showed how so many musicians and bands are following in his footsteps. Every Tuesday after school, the music centre is transformed into a wall of rock and contemporary music for 3 hours.

What amazes me about Rock School is how inclusive it is. Musicians who are not always in the limelight of our more traditional ensembles start to shine and grow in confidence. Students who sometimes struggle academically and socially come alive. They are performing to a large crowd of parents, families and most worryingly for some of them, peers. Students support each other and at the same time create incredible music and incredible memories. It helps remind them why they are at school and what a special place Simon Balle is.

Rock School continues to grow. Some Year 7 bands start next week, inspired by hearing our incredible Year 12 musicians. They start their journey learning how to work in a team, compromise, work hard and commit. Everyone has to start somewhere.

The message from last night’s gig was, for me, how everyone supported each other. How so many performed in several bands, how they stepped up, how they had their moment in the spotlight. The musicality was exceptional – tight, musical and confident. So many parents told me it was the best gig in years. There were so many there supporting, so they must be right. It is clear that putting on a gig like this with so many students is a team effort – from the instrumental teachers to the band tutors to the support setting up.

Last night all these musicians shone and we should be very proud of them. They are following where George Ezra performed all those years ago.

Mark Taylor, Director of Music