For the past nine months, I have been working as the Trainee Workshop Leader with Music in the Round as part of the Soundplay Project. There was no initial training for the position, just straight into the workshops to learn on the go. This practical way of learning is invaluable for workshop leaders as what is discussed in meetings does not always work out as expected. Seeing how different children react and learn the songs is fascinating and you have to think on your feet all the time.
Between the ages of 3-5 children can be easily distracted – by the instruments in front of them, by hearing something that reminds of something they just have to tell everyone… So it is vital to keep yourself and the children actively involved in the sessions. Throughout the project I have been shadowing Polly Ives and Vanessa Johnson and one vital skill I have learned from them is how to keep children focused. Whether it be stopping them fiddle with the instruments, by getting them to copy where you put your hands/woodblocks (“hands on your head, hands on your knees”), singing a different song that they know well then going back to the previous song or hiding the instruments under scarves/ribbons, it is essential not to make it seem like discipline. If a child feels they are in trouble then they will lose interest.
Although we have lots of children who get really involved in the sessions, there are always a few that prefer to observe. It is often easy to overlook these youngsters and focus all your attention on the confident individuals. Over the course of the project, we have worked on finding ways to involve all children as far as possible. In doing this we have explored different languages, more instrument use, role-play (this term we are looking at “People Who Help Us”), solo singing and ensuring they are involved when we ask questions (fast or slow, loud or quiet etc). These children seem to thrive more in a one-to-one environment and often come alive during freeplay, when they can feel free to explore the instruments and toys independently.
Usually, the sessions are run by Polly or Vanessa and I lead a few of the songs with the number of songs increasing through the term. However, a few weeks ago I was thrown in the deep end and had to lead two workshops by myself as Vanessa was ill. If this had happened at the beginning of the project then I would have backed out but thanks to their fantastic leadership skills and advice, I felt confident enough to lead both sessions. Luckily, I had Kate by my side to enhance the music-making. Without having to make this leap, I wouldn’t have realised my ability and been able to see the result of all I’ve learnt whilst training on the job. It was a fantastic experience and really helped me gain confidence in what I do.
Thanks to the invaluable guidance and support of Music in the Round, ESCAL, Fraser, Kate, Polly and Vanessa, I feel that I have gained enough knowledge to successfully carry out my own music workshops. There will always be space for improvement, as with any profession, but thanks to Polly and Vanessa’s expert help, I have learned many new skills that I hope to put into practice with other groups of young children.
Trainee Workshop Leader