Concessions and Change: Enduring Principles?

Our fourth post in our (re)learning to teach music series. The posts over this week and next week focus on the tasks in John Finney’s chapter ‘The Place of Music in the Secondary School’.

On page 7 of Learning to Teach Music in the Secondary School (3rd Edition) John Finney provides a quote from the Scottish Education Department (1955) ‘writing of the choice of music for instruction in listening’ and some advice for music teachers which extolled four principles: 

  • Recognise the interests of young people
  • Acknowledge their prior knowledge and experience beyond school
  • Move from the known to the unknown
  • Nurture critical judgement and discrimination

Today we asked ourselves if we had seen these principles in practice in our own work – and if we would discard one of the four (one we might consider to be least relevant) and how we would replace it. 

Vaughan Fleischfresser @VFleischfresser

As I reflect on these principles, I’m reminded of the quote by Dr Kevin Maxwell – “Our job is to teach the students we have. Not the ones we would like to have. Not the ones we used to have. Those we have right now. All of them”. If we are to teach “the students we have”, then these principles must be authentically embedded in our teaching. Right from the fledgling moments of my career, I have come to learn that to ever do otherwise is to greatly hinder the quality of education provided. Reflecting on my own work, I certainly see these principles in practice every day. Having said that, while they should, they haven’t always occurred, nor have they always occurred organically. We have to build in time and effort to achieve them. We have to let go of full control to achieve them. We have to move from ‘knower of all’ to facilitator and co-learner to achieve them fully. When this balance is achieved, that which they can achieve is amplified beyond recognition.

As for the one I would discard as being least relevant – what a near impossible thought to contemplate. Rather than tossing a coin, I will choose ‘Move from the known to the unknown’. Not from the perspective of being the least relevant however, but from being the one most likely to occur naturally due to the synergistic workings of these principles as a whole. When you recognise and incorporate their interests, acknowledge their prior knowledge and experience, and nurture critical judgement and discrimination, then the likelihood that they’ll move from the known to the unknown independently is quite high. To help fuel and expediate the collective synergistic workings of these principles, I would replace it with – “Create something new every day”. I’m a big believer in the power of improvisation, or informed creation, as I sometimes call it. By adding this principle, the others are shared, analysed, discussed, and grown right before the ears and minds of all concerned. This, in the long run, helps “all of them” move from the known to the unknown.

David House @House_dg

Four principles for comment: Recognise the interests of young people – this occurs at our school in a variety of ways, from informal discussion in the classroom, to noticing the tendencies of students to use music they particularly engage with as influences during creative work, through regular acknowledgement of interests during Tutor-based work, to our House Music competition which throws the initiative to each tutor group in producing a short musical programme with no external pre-conceptions as to content.

Acknowledge their prior knowledge and experience beyond school – this starts from before students start at the school when a parental questionnaire on musical involvement and interests is issued [combined with a chance to apply for tuition from our Visiting Music Teachers], it continues with a Music Portfolio [currently in its first year of use] in which students keep a track of involvement, interest and achievements in music both in and out of school [this is developing alongside the whole school move to using Teams and OneNote which forms the platform for the portfolio], and culminates in a rich VI form portfolio which includes all subjects, additional work, reading, investigation, work experience etc. and informs the detailed writing of UCAS and other references.

Move from the known to the unknown – vital for us, and this ties in closely with comments on ‘educating taste’ made yesterday. Opening ears and minds to music from over a thousand years and across the globe is something we look to put into as much work as we can. This is not always starting from the known in terms of a musical style or genre, but might start from the ‘known’ way in which music can be seen to work and follows a pattern of ‘guided listening’: “Having discussed how the melody and accompaniment combine in that song by Coldplay, now try the same exercise with this song [Elvis Love me tender] or this one [Schubert Die Forelle]” for example.

Nurture critical judgement and discrimination -again a vital area, but one which I find has to be handled very carefully. Acknowledging students’ interests might lead to well-known music being used, I do find occasions where there is a feeling of “you really like that” either being voiced or implied: from the outset we might look to take as objective a view as possible, approaching music with open ears and minds. This is not just in a classroom listening perspective, performing with ensembles has frequently led to music being worked on and performed to a high standard but the realisation from all concerned that it is not “great” music – there have been many occasions when I have set out with a degree of trepidation at learning particular music with a group only to find that they rise to the challenge and end up loving it. With that in mind I would not discard any of the above as least relevant [sorry to dodge the question], but rather than replacing one of them I would add two principles: “Presenting music which is challenging and rewarding to spend time with” and “Encouraging working to the highest level”.

Elizabeth Dunbar @HuntSchoolMusic

Examples of the 4 principles found in Music education at Huntington

Recognising the interests of young people

One of the most important principles in our work is to make sure we bring young people with us on the journey. This shouldn’t however be misinterpreted as ‘dumbing down’. With a decent amount of experience in curriculum design or as a director and arranger, there isn’t really a limit to the type of repertoire you can use in any aspect of your teaching. Experience informs you of what works best in different scenarios and while scale and resources might restrict your ambition, style/genre really shouldn‘t. When a student suggests something, the first thing we do at Huntington is listen to it and evaluate whether it’s got legs or not. If it’s a non-starter, we try to suggest an alternative from the same musical sphere, which we know will work.

Two performance occasions which are heavily driven by the interests of our students are ‘Live Lounge’ and the Arts Festival. As these events have developed and grown in scale and support, we increasingly see how invested our students are in them. That is because there is a strong sense of student ownership from repertoire choices, to hosting and logistics. Students see this way of working as the norm.

Recognition of the interests of students is also reflected in our curriculum materials, which we update pretty regularly, so there’s always a range of repertoire in lessons that bridges the move from the ‘known’ to the ‘unknown’ in students’ learning.

The move from the known to the unknown.

This is inextricably linked ‘the interests of young people’ and is something I talk about in blog 3 on the issue of ‘taste’. It is how we encourage students to be musical explorers and take the path less travelled.

I refer you at this point to Vaughan’s broccoli story from blog 3 for the perfect food analogy. Reactions are going vary enormously but by exploring the known and the unknown side by side, perceptions gradually shift, tastes broaden (on the whole) and there we have one of the most important ‘education’ bits of Music in schools. I’m going to fuse the first two headings of this blog, in order to make room for my replacement (addition) at the end.

Acknowledgement of prior knowledge and experience beyond school.


An understanding and appreciation of students’ prior knowledge is fundamental to how we teach today. We feel it acutely as secondary Music teachers, because of the vast range of experience we encounter in students joining us in year 7 every year. Students’ prior knowledge will range from the experienced NCO­-GB student, to those who have had absolutely no exposure to Music education at all.

So how do we tackle this?

Firstly, by building an extracurricular programme that has something meaningful for everyone to participate in, that is based on musical experience not age. Secondly, by writing a curriculum that can be accessed by everyone.

This links with 2 points I made in blog 1 on ‘What makes a good teacher’. I describe a good teacher as: Someone who has the ability to imagine tackling a task from all the different starting points that exist in a mixed ability class.

Someone who gives students the tools and the confidence to express their musical opinions in an informed and intelligent way – which leads me nicely on to…

Nurturing critical judgement and discrimination.

I refer to my blog 2 entry here on the question of teaching ‘taste’, where I talk about teaching students ‘how to hear’, so that when they formulate an opinion, it is an informed one. One Huntington yr13 Music student in particular, has been reading this series of blogs and her response to this topic is this:

“Music education should encourage people to make their own decisions and form their own judgements over pieces of music because this is how the evolution of ideas occurs and how musical boundaries are broken.”

Nurturing critical judgement is a vital part of what we do. It should be derived from a subjective response but then supported with evidence. At Huntington we cultivate an understanding of the balance of objective and subjective from the very beginning. KS3 classes commonly evaluate live presentations of student work that contains elements of performance, composition, improvisation and arrangement. They know there are objective elements to consider, but when it comes to discussing the outcomes, we also teach them how to evaluate holistically. We ask them in the first instance for their gut reaction.

  1. I can hear a few recognisable bits, but it needs quite a lot of work still, it doesn’t hang together yet’
  2. ‘yeh, this makes sense, it’s got this, it’s got that, it works’
  3. ‘ooo, I really like this, not sure why but it’s really good’

The class listens for a second time, now with the objective criteria in mind and then we find a middle ground that takes into account both responses. We even use the ‘within tolerance’ technique when conversations get heated. The class in effect becomes a team of moderators.

It takes a lot of training and modelling to begin with, but students respond really well to this sense of ownership.

Discard and replace? Since I fused the first 2, I don’t need to discard any of the existing principles, so there is room for this addition:

Teach primarily through sound

Make it in sound, model it in sound. When a student hits a problem, get them to show you the problem in sound. Resolving problems in sound is immediate, understandable, and prompts a response in sound. It can be used at any level and it isn’t slowed down by lengthy explanations.

Steve Jackman @sjeeves

I found today’s reading really interesting, particularly the description of an “experimental lesson” where students were invited to bring a favourite record to class. The teacher’s lack of respect towards their chosen song was definitely a missed opportunity to connect with the principles outlined- recognise the interests of young people, acknowledge their prior knowledge and experience beyond school, move from the known to the unknown & nurture critical judgement and discrimination.

I’d hope in today’s classrooms students are encouraged to share and that if they are brave enough to do so that this is used as a positive starting point to nurture a critical discussion. I confess it’s been a while since I have done an activity like this at KS3 (with GCSE & A level it’s a regular occurrence), perhaps this is a good activity for me to do with my students online this term?

Widening the discussion a bit regarding the point about the Music curriculum becoming increasingly irrelevant, I feel a greater sense of urgency today than ever before that this is the case. Yes schools are now teaching the guitar, ukulele and other band instruments but it’s not enough, it’s 20+ years behind. We need to meet students where they are at, acknowledging their experiences, teach them how to make the music that they know and like, then hopefully, willingly take them to the unknown.

Ewan McIntosh @ETMcINTOSH

I would say that recognising pupils own musical interests is key to helping hem along their own musical journey. Looking at the text from the 1920s and ’50s it is clear that the musical thinking of ‘the right sort of culture’. It is interesting that the ‘music that one might hear in the cinema’ is seen as somewhat more simplistic even though Korngold, Hermann et al were doing a lot of their best work in the ’40s and ’50s and cinema audiences were being exposed to a range of quite sophisticated music. Any, after this digression, acknowledging pupils own interests is key as this can be used as either a way into different pieces of music or a way to demonstrate techniques that link together the ‘canonic’ works with other types of music that we as teachers might value.

This will also help to link in with their own prior knowledge and experiences in music. When my pupils arrive in Year 7, the range of their own experiences are vast from the pupils who due to their culture listen to no music at home through to pupils of professional musicians who themselves are accomplished performers. One of the first things that I ask pupils to do in Year 7 is to fill in a Google Doc that asks some basic questions about music and their own experiences so that I can get to know a bit about them and use some of this to inform my planning for the year. The pupils also appreciate that you are taking an interest in them and are open to the music that they are familiar with.

This initial fact-finding also helps me when moving the pupils to the unfamiliar as by finding key features of the unfamiliar that appear in the familiar or looking at links between the 2. Where the unfamiliar may have been used in the pupils own cultural ‘bubble’ is a good way of linking as is using video to try and show pupils some of the contexts of where music is performed or has been commissioned for. We are very lucky in Birmingham that Services for Education and the CBSO hold KS3 concerts each year with a free ticket for every Year 7 pupil to attend. This means that all my Year 7 pupils at least get 1 opportunity to see live music performed by a great orchestra in one of the Worlds great concert spaces, Symphony Hall Birmingham. In terms of the last statement, this is the most difficult. I think that by giving pupils a broad, musical and critical vocabulary to be able to describe what they like or dislike about the music is the most useful way of helping pupils to improve their critical judgement. Being able to say why they prefer Stormzy to Mozart using musical argument is a much better skill to possess than just saying Mozart is better because middle-class society say it is. One thing I do at KS5 is to play them different recordings of their set works when possible and get them to say why they prefer Rattle to Barenboim conducting or vice versa as this gets pupils to as well as getting to learn the music, really improves their own critical arguing skills. I think the 4 principles are sound but if I had to get rid of one it would probably just rephrase the last principle to ‘develop musical language so that pupils are able to critically judge and discriminate’

James Manwaring @twbsmusic

I consider it my job to know who young people are as musicians, where they have come from and where they want to go with their music. This consideration embraces what goes on in and out of the classroom. It considers their prior learning and also the pathway that they are on as a musician. What interests young people is therefore of huge importance to me as they will drive what I do. I always seek to use their interests as a platform from which to start on. If I can fuel their interests, then I can then take them down other musical avenues that will expand their interest. Recognising interests is sometimes a challenge and it is important not to get too wrapped up in it, but it is entirely possible to quickly work out where students are at with their learning and experiences.

Their prior knowledge and experience is also very important as it shows me what I need to cover and what expectations I need to have. If students haven’t had successful music lessons in the past then it can be harder to get them engaged. Breaking down barriers can therefore link to their interests and I often use the interests of students to help bring them back on track. Some students have had the most incredible prior learning experiences in music. These students will need to have opportunities to build on this and continue to develop. But some students still see music as a “doss” subject where they don’t need to bother. I always enjoy the challenge of ensuring that these students start to enjoy and value music.

How students move from what they don’t know to what they do know is all about assessing this prior experience and their interests. But I think a crucial piece of this is not focussing on what they don’t know. Sometimes this is manifested in some form of test in lesson 1. This test is designed to find out what they know, but instead it can often highlight what they don’t know and therefore “put them off”. I don’t like to put students off but I like to dive in to the musical journey as quickly as I can. Also for some of them they haven’t had enough experience of say, composition, to know if they are any good at it or not.

Our job as teachers is to constantly assess where students are at and look at how we can help to move them forward. I think in music this can be tricky when we only apply the obvious or standard criteria – can they play an instrument and read music! Whilst this is relevant, there is so much more to a musician than simply playing and reading. I am reluctant to say that movement from known to unknown is least relevant, but I feel like of that list it is the least relevant to me.

I am a firm believer that given the right opportunities and direction, students will indeed make progress. When we try to standardise this, especially in music, we can miss this progress being made altogether. A student who managed to clap back a rhythm might have made more progress than one who sang a bar of music – starting points are crucial. What I like to do is ensure that students are working on a topic or within an area that they can make progress, however far or extreme this progress might be. All too often we get ourselves into the trap of presenting an “ideal” music student as something that is unobtainable by the masses – and then we wonder why they don’t take GCSE.

And finally, Critical Judgement and discrimination, crucial to the development of musical learners. Not only do we want them to be able to identify mistakes but we want them to be able to discern the pathway forward to improvement. I am constantly explaining to composing students that if they hear something wrong then there is something wrong. It is their piece after-all. So much progress is made when students learn that they can make judgements about their work and then do something about it.

Rachel Barnes @RachelBarnesMus

Upon reading page 7, I was drawn to two statements about the music curriculum in the 1950s: “singing plus” and “overemphasis on technical matters frequently got in the way of musical experience and enjoyment.”  These statements reminded me of Monday’s blog about whether music was a subject or an activity to participate in.

Working in secondary music, I am forever refining what to include (and omit) in a 3-year KS3 curriculum.  My instinct is that the four holistic principles above are an excellent starting point upon which to build a curriculum.  However, is anything missing?

There have been numerous debates about curriculum approaches; while I was studying for a PGCE at the Institute of Education, Musical Futures‘ informal learning model was in a pilot phase.  I feel that recognising the musical interests of young people is much more prevalent in music departments than in the 1950s, but building on these interests in a coherent curriculum model possibly less so.  Barriers to this could be repertoire and technology.  The statement by the Scottish Education Department in 1955 on page 7 of ‘Learning to Teach Music in a Secondary School’ chimes with a recent debate – all we’d perhaps need to do is replace Johann Strauss with Stormzy!  But it is the musical skills and knowledge that are taught through this repertoire, this facilitating knowledge, that should underpin a curriculum, and those are missing from the four, punchy principles above.  We could argue that musical skills and knowledge are implicit in these principles and are nurtured through them.  While I hope we’d agree that nurturing critical judgement and discrimination should have a place in a music curriculum (and indeed, it does by focusing on listening and appraising), performing and composing skills seem to be awarded more attention in 21st century curricula.  My instinct is that the vast majority of (secondary) music curricula include more than singing; instrumental skills are nurtured to varying degrees of success in a classroom curriculum.

I’d argue that is our responsibility as music educators to ensure that young people’s musical horizons are widened.  One of the highlights of my teaching career has been to take secondary school students to matinee performances at the ROH, and I have been thrilled to see them sit utterly transfixed by the music and drama.  Moving our students from the ‘known to the unknown’ is vital in deepening their musical understanding.

Reaching forward to the unknown, and also reaching back to acknowledge young people’s prior knowledge and experience might prove to be a stimulating starting point when creating a curriculum.

Steven Berryman @steven_berryman

I do agree with John Finney that the principles extolled in the advice from 1955 are quite compelling. For me it champions music as a living practice (‘at first it should be too unlike that which the pupils are accustomed to hear in the cinema or at home’). Start with the pupils, though whether or not I agree with the choice of waltzes and polkas before Bach and Beethoven is something I’d ponder on further – but I do like that our author from the fifties sees music that makes you move key to capturing interest. I do think the good, the bad (and the ugly) in music are no more; we have such diverse classrooms with such a wealth of musical identities.

As a composer I have endured/enjoyed plenty of squeaky gate music, seemingly unusual performances; I thought I was flexible, and interested in a wide range of music (in my early teaching days I studied taiko, gamelan) yet pupils and colleagues see me as rather classically minded. Most of my day is listening to Radio 6 (but I don’t share this enough). When I spend the time to chat to pupils about their musical interests they can be so animated, yet they instinctively perceive a hierarchy (“you won’t like this”…) and consider “their” music to be inferior to “my” music. Something for me to work on. One activity I always use in my first music class in Year 10 (GCSE) is something I poached from my IB training. I give them three question stems:

  • I wonder if
  • I wonder what
  • I wonder why

I then ask them to come up with questions about the music I play them. I deliberately play music free of any obvious or conventional category. We’d share the questions. I’d then ask them to swap their paper around and let others respond to questions and extend with more questions. I didn’t care about the answers; I wanted to know how the pupils were thinking about music and what they were hearing. I wanted to gauge their interests but didn’t want to ask them if something was good and bad. I wanted to model that good and bad were not appropriate or necessary. Their homework would be to find three pieces of music to play to the class for us to write questions about. What they would bring revealed their interests; from this starting point my curriculum for developing their listening would begin.

I am a big fan of shocking with the unknown. If I changed anything about the four principles I might reverse unknown and known. There is something quite joyous seeing the expressions on pupils’ faces when playing some previously unknown music. Gradually revealing and connecting to their known musical experiences can be a lot of fun.

I’m torn with judgment and discrimination. I want them to be critical listeners so they can unpick and investigate the purpose and process of the music they are hearing; if only for them to enjoy those moments of realisation that you can make sense of the sound (“ah this is from Japan!”). I find interest is sustained when you can make sense of the music, but I don’t think excessive knowledge drilling makes this sense known. Pupils just need to endure/enjoy/engage with lots of music (I don’t have a problem with someone being a listener – for in every conversation we have to take on that role) and they build that sense through experience rather than knowledge organisers.

Kate Wheeler @Katemariewheel2

When pupils arrive in year seven understanding their previous knowledge of music education and needs is key. From my experience music provision in primary school can be an integral part of the curriculum with some pupils arriving already capable of playing an instrument. Other pupils arrive with little experience of music so baseline assessments are essential for planning and moving forward. Over the past few years, I have formed links with our feeder primary schools by setting up musical transition days and including them in our annual concerts and I have found this helpful as I am able to identify key musicians and set up peripatetic lessons for when they arrive.

Recognising the interests of young people, I believe to be very important and more so at key stage three. Making the curriculum relevant to their interests keeps them engaged and enables pupils develop a love of learning and a love of music. Many pupils I teach at key stage four only started their musical journey in year seven and the speedy progress they make is due to the fact that they have developed their love of music through classroom music making and participating in extra curricular activities. When they get to key stage four, pupils move from the known to the unknown, as we teach Btec pupils start to learn more about The Music Industry through workshops and practical activities alongside nurturing their performing and composing disciplines that they began at key stage three.

Nurturing critical judgements and discrimination happens throughout key stage three and four in a variety of forms. At key stage three we encourage and promote the use of oracy using word banks and sentence structure so that pupils are able to give constructive feedback to others during activities. At key stage four will still encourage the use of oracy however as there are written elements to the Btec Level 2 music course we focus more on written responses, feedback and judgements.

All four of the principles are key to running a successful music department and developing the talents of young musicians. When trying to choose the least relevant I keep changing my mind and coming up with more arguments for keeping that particular principle. After an hour of going back and forth I can honestly say that I cannot choose, maybe if I had another hour or two, I could narrow it down further. Sorry!

Alex Laing @KHSArtDirMusic

“How would you recognise the interests of young people?” is the kind of question that crops up very frequently when one is interviewing people for a job in instrumental music teaching.  In my experience the answer supplied by the applicant is almost always along the lines of: “I would engage their interest by giving them music that they like”.  So a common conception among music teachers appears to be that you can only create enthusiasm for the subject via pupil-led repertoire.   Do we believe this?  I’m not sure that I do.  I think I follow the philosophy put so well by Vaughan Fleischfresser in his yesterday’s contribution – in other words: “You may not like broccoli (or spinach or celery or turnip or….) but it’s good for you and you may learn to like it”.

So I may as well come clean from the start and say that if I had to discard one of the four principles as being least relevant it would be this first one.

Have I seen the other three principles in my own work?  Yes – and in practice I don’t think they can be separated and pigeonholed. All of them are important and need to be adopted as a combined strategy. One of the things that we find when teaching music in schools is that some pupils are more obviously musically advanced than others, some are more confident than others, some are more experienced than others. Of course one has to acknowledge this experience (principle no 2). For instance, some may have high-powered instrumental lessons outside school or have experience in local or national youth orchestras or choirs.  Such pupils will have very different needs (and perhaps also musical interests) from those who have only just begun to learn an instrument and/or have no musical back up at home.  Obviously in individual lessons, one can tailor each session to the individual and pitch the teaching at the right level.  But in a classroom or group situation one has to be much more inventive in moving from the known to the unknown (principle no. 3), since these things will be different for each pupil. Fortunately, ways of getting over this difficulty also help one to nurture critical judgement and discrimination (principle no. 4).   So I would merge these three principles into one strategy – at least for group teaching.

How can this be done in practice? One of my favourite techniques is to ask questions.  The best ones to ask are those that engage most of the pupils involved in a positive and affirming way.  Here I quote from an article I wrote in 2016 for ARCO (the magazine for the European String Teachers Association):

“Who has the melody?” – especially when the answer is not the first violins.

“What music are you playing here?” – especially when the answer might be considered to be “nothing much” or “just quavers” or “something boring”. Then I counter (with humour): “NO! You are the heartbeat, or the machine – the most important thing happening!”

“Who are the most important people in the room?” – the answer is always the double basses!

“Who here is clever?” Bows and hands tend to shoot up, which gives me lots of choices as to who should answer the real question, which could be something quite subtle about what the music is doing or saying or what we should all be listening to.

Questions like this help significantly to build camaraderie and to keep the students alert and focused. Not only do the musicians start to listen more – to the double basses, for example –  but the basses themselves, who can often feel far away from the action, bored and neglected, take much more pride in their own playing and everything improves. When this happens it is really important to acknowledge, praise, and thank everyone for the improvement. Positive reinforcement is a powerful ally!

My other favourite tactic (wherever this is possible to set up) is to run joint performance classes with small groups, in which the students play to and listen to their peers.  This can be quite stressful at first and needs careful handling. The house rules are that when each performance is subjected in turn to peer-group review, there must always first be something positive said about it. Each member of the peer audience must find an aspect that they can commend – whether it be technical, musical or emotional – and they must express this positive response clearly to the performer.  Soon an atmosphere of joint enterprise and team-work begins to emerge and pupils begin to focus as much or more on what has gone well with their performance rather than dwelling (as is only too common) on the ‘mistakes’.   Criticisms may then follow, but must be justified by specific illustration, and they must also be couched in a positive way, with suggestions made as to how that aspect might be improved.  There may be disagreement in the group about some features of the performance, and then discussion has to be managed so that a shared view may eventually emerge between performer and audience. What gradually happens, if the group meets regularly, is that the performers and audience alike all begin to realise that to understand something properly you need to be able not just to do it, but also to teach it.  Then pupils learn to become their own teachers, which is what one should always aspire to.  One of the surprising bonuses that I discovered when I first started to run such classes is that not only do they build confidence and collegiality, but they sometimes reveal that the less able practitioner may be the better and more discerning listener and commentator. This also helps to build an atmosphere of mutual respect, support and responsibility.

It will be obvious that I am not (primarily) a teacher of academic music but an instrumental teacher who also does a lot of coaching and conducting.  But I have found these techniques have adapted well to classroom topics, whether analysis, appreciation and especially composition where surprisingly often the more creative pieces are produced by the better listeners and not the top practitioners.

And what would I substitute for principle no. 1?  I would say to pupils: “Your interest and things that you like can change and develop.  Keep going with the broccoli…….”


1 Comment

  1. More good stuff – thanks all. This has set me thinking, as “Move from the known to the unknown” is very similar to one of Mrs Curwen’ s 1886 rules, which I often cite “move from the known to the related unknown”. I have always taken this maxim to apply to ‘stuff’ – knowledge etc – rather than pieces of music, rather like Steven’s “shocking with the unknown” I do think that being logical in a learning sequence is very different from presenting new or unfamiliar music to kids, after all you can present a logical learning sequence without having to start with Gregorian Chant and then work up to the C21 before you can start on ‘axis of awesome’ material with your Ukuleles!

    But what this does is show the breadth of materials that are available in music. I remember back you olden dayes having to teach an A-level syllabus with the unhelpful topic of “Music from 1550 to the present day”; Hmm (that’s a lot of material!)

    Anyway, we have a lot of ‘stuff’ to deal with in music, and so how ‘we’ do this depends on us, our contexts, and our kids, I believe?

    But back to the blog, isn’t it interesting that these seemingly straightforward Q’s produce such a diverse range of highly considered responses which show the breadth of experience?

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