Guest blog for Music Education UK July 2017
A blog post I had written for Music Excellence London has been republished on the new Music Education UK website and can be read here.
Joining City of London School for Girls back in September 2015 was an immense joy as I had visited the Barbican hundreds of times since being a student to see concerts, films, dance and exhibitions.
A John Cage weekend during my postgraduate years sticks in my mind as being the best of those experiences. This was my first opportunity to engage with one composer over the course of a weekend and to attend events in different parts of the Barbican Centre. The Musicircus performance in the foyer spaces was the beginning of my collaborative obsession:
'John Cage's Musicircus is simply an invitation to bring together any number of groups of any kind, preferably in a large auditorium, letting them perform simultaneously anything they wish, resulting in an event lasting a few hours. There is no score, no parts, nothing specified except the concept. 'You won't hear anything: you'll hear everything', Cage said.' (Peter Dickinson, writing in The Guardian, June 2014)
There were performers everywhere and I was enthralled by how music brings people together. We collaborate so readily as musicians in performance and my own desire to collaborate came from my composing.
Author for Rhinegold Education
Composition chapters in GCSE Music Study Guides (OCR and Edexcel) 2016.
Pre-Higher Education Creativity
This edited volume explores how selected researchers, students and academics name and frame creative teaching and learning as constructed through the rationalities, practices, relationships, events, objects and systems that are brought to educational sites and developed by learning communities. The concept of creative learning questions the starting-points and opens up the outcomes of curriculum, and this frames creative teaching not only as a process of learning but as an agent of change. Within the book, the various creativities that are valued by different stakeholders teaching and studying in the higher music sector are delineated, and processes and understandings of creative teaching are articulated, both generally in higher music education and specifically through their application within the design of individual modules. This focus makes the text relevant to scholars, researchers and practitioners across many fields of music, including those working in musicology, composition, performance, music education, and music psychology. The book contributes new perspectives on our understanding of the role of creative teaching and learning and processes in creative teaching across the domain of music learning in higher music education sectors.
An article for August 2014 issue of Music Teacher magazine exploring the difference between ABRSM and TCL theory examinations.
An article for MusicEd (Asia) including an interview with the pianist Christopher O'Riley and reflecting on how we can reuse pre-existing material to devise new works with students.
Voice from the Front
Short article responding to the Henley Review, published in Music Education UK Issue 3, September 2012.
Darren Henley's Review of Music Education in England emphasised the value and importance of music-making as a practical skill and how much this can enrich and aid the development of young people's lives. This comprehensive survey lacked a detailed account of class music lessons and accentuated the role of extra-curricular music-making. A music education based on the development of creative and practical skills in music is in no way a bad thing but how important is content in class music lessons and particularly the use of Western art music? Are we offering our pupils a rigorous subject-based curriculum in music or is it just a series of practical activities that develop confidence in singing, playing and composing with a fleeting acknowledgement of the great works of music history? In my view, exploring the great works of the Western art tradition should form an essential part of the music curriculum, balanced with non-classical and non-Western. We should strive to create culturally aware pupils who not only have an understanding of the breadth and depth of 'classical' music but also feel confident in being part of, and perhaps even contributing to, the vibrant classical music scene on offer today.
Music Education UK
Review of Pedro de Alcantara's 'Integrated Practice' (OUP 2011)
"The Integrated Musician" - Pedro de Alcantara, OUP 2011
There are numerous publications in circulation that provide a wealth of advice on the issue of practising as a musician yet few really grasp the holistic nature of learning an instrument - a synthesis of mind and body - as well as Pedro de Alcantara's recent book exploring coordination, rhythm and sound called 'Integrated Practice'. This makes a welcome addition to writing about the Alexander Technique and the application of its principles to music however this book is a testament to the breadth of the author's experience as a teacher and he draws upon influences beyond the Alexander Technique and music with real aplomb.
The book is organised into three parts starting with rhythm. There is a well paced explanation of prosodic concepts and how they are relevant to music and the chapters in this opening part progress well from basic rhythmic structures to larger 'superbar' structures. Teachers will find lots of activities that will not only be of interest with regards to their own practice but those of their pupils. The author illustrates his ideas with expertly chosen examples and his writing gives one the confidence to apply the concepts to one's own practice. Classroom teachers will find this section interesting for when coaching ensembles and chamber groups as there are ideas here to help improve rhythmic awareness regardless of the genre or style of repertoire.
Piano Professional (EPTA)
Classroom Music Spring 09/10
Classroom Music Summer 09/10
Classroom Music 10/11
Review of 'Sound Foundations'
Piano: Inside/Out - Zubin Kanga @ Kings Place, London
I always find it interesting to read discussions on the validity of extended techniques and less conventional methods of sound production; perhaps occasionally - and naively - considered to be 'gimmicks', repertoire that exploits a broader pallette of sound production can offer insights not only in the possibilities of writing for particular instruments but also open the audiences' ears to something new. The pianist Zubin Kanga (currently a research student at the Royal Academy of Music, London) gave a brave programme of piano works at Kings Place in February that gave a snapshot of the unending potential this instrument possesses.
Piano Professional 10/11
"Steven makes his points well and I'm pleased to see that he goes beyond merely advocating a place for classical music in the curriculum. His excellent teaching resources on using the Spectrum piano pieces in the classroom show that he is prepared to look for engaging, worthwhile solutions to this challenge." David Ashworth Project Leader for Teachingmusic.org.uk