It's been a while since my last blog, partly because it was such a busy end of term. I've managed to enjoy some rest time - and get plans into action for my upcoming travel fellowship, which is quickly approaching. One month to go!
All flights are booked and I'm booking/arrangning accomodation right now. This is the exciting bit - though it's also daunting too. My first stop will be Helsinki, flying out to Finland's capital on 6th September. I'll stay in Finland until 23rd September, also be visiting places such as Espoo and Jyvaskyla, where I'll be meeting choirs, schools and music educators. It'll be fascinating to see how music is used in the Finnish education system and how musical opportunities are provided for in the community too.
Finland has one of the best education systems in the world, and yet they do far less testing than we do. They also place more importance on creativity like music (there are 100 government subsidised music schools across the country) compared to the UK so I'm really looking forward to seeing how this all works.
Once I've been to Finland I'll be off to America and Canada to look at some amazing choral organsations that have a huge impact on schools, communities and many young lives. There's so much to be learnt from they way they do things 'across the pond', so I'm very much looking forward to meeting these choral communities.
Finally for now, my dad has been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease this year - something that came as a big shock. in fact, I almost contemplated postponing my trip - but dad wouldn't hear of it. At least it will give him something positive to focus on whilst I'm away - and in return I'm raising money for the MND association in conjunction with my fellowship. You can find out more on my 'just giving' page.
Since I last wrote a blog on here, a few things have changed! I decided that, whilst planning the general order of my travel stops, I should also double check the days when I would like to visit specific choirs/rehearsals/schools. Clearly some are only available to visit on certain days of the week, depending on where I am at the time!
Having looked at the day-to-day visits it became increasingly clear that, due to the way I'd planned to start in California and work my way east, it proved difficult to fit everything in. So instead I tried it back to front, starting in Finland first and working my way west. What a difference this has made! Suddenly my itinerary seems to fit together better this way.
Starting in Finland, I'll be visiting excellent young choirs such as Vox Aurea and Tapiola. I shall also be visiting the Sibelius Academy and Sibelius High School in Helsinki. After this, I intend to travel to the city of Jyvaskyla (north of Helsinki), where I will observe classes at the Polytechnical School Of Music, the Conservatorium Music School and extended primary and high school music classes. I'm fascinated in finding out how and why the Fins give music a much higher status that we do in the UK. Their education system is world class too, with much more emphasis on creativity, so I wonder how this greater creative emphasis affects pupil learning and general development?
In my next blog, I'd like to just focus on my project outline and the objectives I'd like to meet when I return to the UK!
Time seems to fly by so quickly these days! We're already at the end of the first week of the Easter Holidays - and whilst it's good to have a break from the busy schedule, it's given me time to really start putting together my itinerary for my Churchill Fellowship.
I'm planning to start my travels in California, where I will meet with the Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir (who visited the UK in 2017). I'll also get to visit the Kodaly Centre at the university, and more of this method of teaching in action at some schools. I'll then move on to the Indianapolis Children's Choir (who see an amazing 2500 young people each week!) & Anima Singers (Chicago), before traveling to Canada to visit the Hamilton Children's Choir. All of these organisations provide an outstanding choral education with truly inspirational leadership - something that makes a massive impact on their communities, change lives and shapes them for the future.
I'll then travel to Finland to find out how they embed music within their school system - and how their 100-strong, government-subsidised musical schools create a thirst for creativity. Their approach to eduaction is vastly different from the UK - not only do they start school later and have a shorter school day, they raise the profile of music and fund it to a much greater level. Oh, and their education sytem is world class because of this! I will visit schools, colleges, universities and choirs to see for myself them impact music has.
I can't wait to learn from and be inspired by all of this. In my next blog I want to focus on each of my planned stops a little more, and I'll share by project objectives!
Planning for my Churchill Fellowship is starting to take shape, but there's still a long way to go. I'm actually quite daunted by it all, yet excited at the same time.
Last Tuesday (12th March) was a seminar for all new fellows - this was held in London and was a superb opportunity to meet and mingle with other new fellows. Some were in my category, others were not, but it was fascinating to hear of their plans. It was also brilliant to meet others who have compeleted their travels and projects - and hear how their experiences and new knowledge opened so many new doors for them.
There were also other little surprises and goodies: we were each given a large, hard-back book on Sir Winston Churchill to read - it is, after all, because of him that these fellowships happen - as well as a pack of very professional business cards!
The day was over in a flash and I was back on the train homeward bound. But I've already made lots of new contacts, picked up plenty of tips and received good advice from all sorts of people. On with the planning process then...
I am thrilled to announce that I have been awarded a Churchill Fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT). I am amongst 150 other luck people in the UK who has been granted this honour! My project is entitled: Harnessing the power of singing and its effect on learning.
Education in the UK, and more specifically music education, is on a cliff edge right now. If something doesn't change sometime soon the future of music in this country is in serious doubt. Music is possibly the most poweful subject in the curriculum and yet time and time again, I'm seeing that music provision is patchy. Often, it's only those that can afford it that get it. Some primary schools so little or no music at all - yet the power of singing is easy to use and embed in our schools, if it's given a chance.
The WCMT funds citizens from all over the UK to travel the world, researching innovitive solutions to today's pressing problems. On returning to the UK, they are expected to share their global insights locally and nationally, with colleagues, professions, organisations and communities.
My journey will take me to America, Canada and Finland to look at the very best musical practices, and how embedding it in their education system or community makes a difference to how their young people learn and develop life skills.
I shall be updating my blog on a regualar basis on the lead up to my 6-week travels, which will take place during the autumn of 2019. I'm nervous and daunted at the same time - but I can't wait to get my plans started!