It was fantastic to catch Sean Gregory, Director of Creative Learning at the Barbican and Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Sean took the time to speak more about the continuing professional development in creative leadership offered by the Guildhall School to help me write an article for Music Education UK (Spring 2012). I attended the first weekend CPD back in 2005 and I was engaged immediately by the approach; something that was very much a product of the musicians present yet strongly led by the tutors who modelled the process of leading workshops and collaborative composition. The approach has been a significant influence on my own writing as well as my approach in teaching composition in the classroom. This single weekend has since developed into a series of weekend courses that can be attended as a stream or individually and includes a focus on composing, creative skills and workshop leading. The Guildhall School offers a highly competitive MMus in Leadership and these weekends would give a participant a taste of what is possible on the degree.
The CPD has a broad range of attendance from practitioners (performers and composers of various styles and practices) to teachers. I personally thrived in such an environment; the weekend offered the chance to explore creativity in a safe and supportive environment. Everyone was involved regardless of ability and there was a sense of being coached in the skills one could adopt in a variety of contexts. I particularly enjoyed the moments of taking notes after a session – which were all recorded too – as reflecting on the process is something we teachers seldom have enough time to do.
I attended a composition weekend a few years later and was further provided with a wealth of approaches; different starting points for new music were particularly welcome. The collaborative composition approach not only creates new music but also allows understanding of how pre-existing music works; it was exciting to hear from Sean of the ensembles that exist at the Guildhall School that extol the Connect programme approach in jazz and folk idioms. The amount of work happening in the surrounding Tower Hamlet schools is also fantastic – the connections between a world-class arts institution, conservatoire, an orchestra (the London Symphony Orchestra) and local schools demonstrates how unique the Guildhall School is positioned in providing innovative opportunities in developing leadership. Future possibilities see potential accreditation for the CPD weekends which would no doubt please those seeking evidence for portfolios and future employers.
Musical Futures explored the Guildhall School’s Connect programme in a case study written by Renshaw – he was responsible for starting the Connect programme in the early 1980s which has since become an embedded part of the Guildhall School’s educational offering for undergraduates, postgraduates and more recently research postgraduates. I strongly advise teachers looking to reinvigorate their approach to whole class creative work to take the plunge and explore the courses offered. You will come away feeling rejuvenated and full of ideas and strategies to work with any group of students. Above all you will experience first hand how powerful collaborative learning can be and how collective ownership of the composition experience leads to powerful musical engagement for all.
Further information at Guildhall School website