Behind the Bars – Lockdown Music Lessons


Lockdown teaching has caused plenty of headaches across the many different subjects and music is no different.  Neither Zoom, Teams or Skype was built with music lessons in mind and though they may be fantastic solutions to a problem, they are by no means the perfect solution to teaching music virtually.  In this blog post, our Head of Music, Mrs Leeson, explains how she has adapted her lessons to the virtual world.

When teaching music to a class in Years 7 to 9, Mrs Leeson always prefers to incorporate as much practical music into lesson as possible.  ‘I see no point in teaching music without, well, music,’ she says.  ‘When teaching music theory, I try to tie it in as much as I can with practical music making.’  Distance learning threw a spanner in the music works big time, as performing with others live over Zoom or Google Meets is frustratingly difficult.  What’s more complicated, many pupils do not have any musical instruments at home.  It is difficult to teach music to a group of youngsters in a room full of musical instruments (we all remember the mad rush towards the more exciting and popular instruments at the start of the lesson).  Now consider teaching music online with a classroom full of children who do not have access to a big range of musical instruments.
These obstacles caused Mrs Leeson, and many teachers of music like her, to think outside the box.  ‘I tried to find alternative ways of connecting music theory and history learning to actual sound and actual music.’  Using online notation platforms such as Noteflight and Chrome Music Lab, Mrs Leeson can continue teaching music theory.  As for practical learning, Mrs Leeson gets the pupils to practise at home and come together in virtual performances.  Under normal circumstances, Mrs Leeson’s Year 9s would be practising together to create a Samba Batucada (in case you’re wondering: https://youtu.be/jQLvGghaDbE).  They would be performing this at the Easter Concert and it has become a bit of a Scarborough College Music tradition.  ‘It affords Year 9, each year, their final opportunity to perform together in front of an audience.’
This year’s a bit special.  Mrs Leeson set all the Year 9s the task to find items that could be used as Samba instruments.  And boy did they find them.  From bins to graters and bottles filled with dried peas.  ‘I then set them the task of learning all the different samba rhythms at home.  If we are back in school before Easter, then we’ll get together, suitably distanced and create our Samba Band in Lisvane Hall.’  There will be an alternative to that performance if the pupils cannot perform together and Mrs Leeson has already got plans for such an event.  Leave that to Mrs Leeson – if anything, she has shown to be as resourceful as she is musical.
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