Our first two 'Day One' training took place on Friday 30th September and the following day (Saturday 1st October) at Hotspur Primary School. Over the two days 34 members of staff from schools were led through the Vocal Leadership Training Programme by Sing for Pleasure's Imelda Shirley and Katy Cooper. Gary Wallis-Clarke, Executive Headteacher of West Jesmond Primary School and a National Leader of Education. On the Saturday Catherine Beddison joined the tutor team to work with the 8 intermediate conductors. Richard Scott led the repertoire sessions on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning exploring songs from other parts of the world which included accompanying djembe drumming.
For the vocal leaders and intermediate conductors this was the first of five day courses. As well as introducing the programme and covering the day one material we were keen that everyone had a clear aim of the project. I am keen that participants experience during the course the special power of singing - that it makes them feel different - changed their mood or stimulates them. They can then harness the emotional impact of the singing to work with other staff and children in their own schools. We hope that improving vocal leadership will bring about corresponding changes in schools' ethos and climate for learning.
Feedback in person and through social media was very positive. The following section of an email after the day is typical:
It was absolutely brilliant - excellent facilitators who managed to be entirely approachable whilst also being clearly incredible at what they do. The pace was spot on - never a dull moment but at the same time enough space to get to know the others on the course. I learnt a huge amount and am already looking forward to trying the techniques with the choir and whole school singing sessions.'
We knew from the last VLTP that we ran that there was great bonding between the participants - indeed some of the group are still meeting on a monthly basis for an informal singing session. Eight have returned for the intermediate conductor training whilst at least six of the others will be joining one or more of the repertoire sessions. An interesting piece of research published in the Royal Society's Open Science Journal describes how effective singing is in helping people to form relationships very quickly:
The ice-breaker effect: singing mediates fast social bonding
Eiluned Pearce, Jacques Launay, Robin I. M. Dunbar
There will be a fuller analysis of the questionnaires that each participant completed at the beginning of the first day. It is evident that there are people tasking part with a full range of confidence and belief in their own competence. The schools represented have very different singing environments and some indicate that children and staff 'dread' singing sessions in school. There is however a huge amount of enthusiasm for improving singing and considering the impact that this has on each schools' ethos and climate for learning.
VLTP Day One Course Content
Following the session led by Gary Wallis-Clarke participants were led through a series of learning activities including:
Participants were all given pieces from the Sing for Pleasure Song Pack to prepare for the next session.
Richard Scott worked with teachers on a range of songs drawn largely from his work with the Grand Union Orchestra. For some pieces he encouraged participants to use djembe drums showing them correct techniques. A Zulu carol was particularly popular and I am sure it will be heard in Newcastle schools this year.