Tiverton High, which is a Specialist Visual Arts School, has a wonderful music team and department led by Ian Wright (Head of Music) and supported brilliantly by Joel.
Ian and Joel work together to provide a flow of activities all of which are focused on providing students across all their KS3 year groups with tangible instrumental skills that enable them to access the curriculum. These skills are essential for students who wish to proceed to accreditation in KS4.
The music team provide a range of activities, based around units of work, Gigajam lessons and musical futures activities that all build up and contribute to achieving the desired outcomes of the National Strategy for Music.
The video attached to this blog is just one of the many activities all the students are involved in. This one is based on a unit devised by Ian and Joel to write a song called Valentine Rock.
In essence it is an outcome which demonstrates the range of knowledge, understanding and skills the students have acquired through their classroom work.
1. The students develop rhythm, chords, time keeping and performance skills by working with Gigajam lessons for guitar, bass, keyboard and drums.
2. Ian and Joel take time each lesson to take groups of students to play together in a small band, whilst the other students are working with the Gigajam lessons. In a Gigajam lesson you will have students learning four different instruments at the same time, say 6 guitarists, 6 bassist, 6 drummers and the remainder learning keyboards.
3. Small bands are created and rotated so that 6 or 7 bands have a 5/10 minute band workshop with Ian each lesson, in addition to their time developing their instrumental skills. This is great for the students and the teacher as they get some quality attention from Ian and he learns about what they are doing and how they are developing.
4. The individual skills learned with Gigajam are enhanced in the second teaching area by Joel in a different unit of work as he takes groups of individual instrumentalists (say all guitarists) and provides teacher led whole class activities, focusing on the instrumental skills learned with Gigajam.
5. Over a period of time the students are building the skills that enable them to play the songs, written specifically by Gigajam, that are built with the skills the students have developed.
6. What then is really lovely, is that Ian and Joel provide them with an additional opportunity to take their skills and Gigajam songs to create their own versions by writing a song based around the components of a Gigajam song’s rhythm, style, chords, and then add their own lyrics and melody.
7. You can see that the framework of our song, The First Time (audio file) has been quite radically altered into Valentine Rock by the young ladies in the band. They captured their performance on video.
The chords in the Gigajam song The First Time are Am, F, G, C.
Gigajam is about providing structured lessons that support the development of instrumental skills. Ian uses the Gigajam courses as a ‘platform’ for supporting his students when they need to learn skills to perform, compose, improvise etc.
This is just one of the ways Ian and Joel create music making opportunities for their students. If you are interested in knowing a bit more Merlin John wrote an article for Futurelab on their work.
Ian and Joel place a huge emphasis on knowing what their students can really do. Really understanding what skills the students possess is possible because they have created a model that gives them time with students so they can really work with them, but whilst a class lesson goes on and the other students are engaged, working and on task. Additionally, the Gigajam analyser software means that students are continually assessed, so both they and their teachers know what skills they have.