I learned all my samba and djembe skills from watching Simon teach various Wider Opportunities classes over the past few years. He’s also made a vast difference to my own ability to keep a steady pulse, play several rhythms at the same time and all the other arcane and magical things that music teachers end up doing.
This is his current mantra;
PULSE SILENCE AWARENESS
PULSE, as in Keeping it. Controlling it. Internalising it. Maintaining it.
SILENCE, the Holy Grail of ensemble and class teaching. How every piece should begin and end. What should follow every activity. The sound you make, or rather DON’T make when sitting down, standing up, picking up your instrument ready to play.
AWARENESS, as in paying attention to every little detail, keeping your fingers away from the skin of the djembe while waiting to play, holding your instrument absolutely still, listening to what other sections are doing when it’s not your turn to play, watching and learning everything that is being taught or discussed all the time.
This year I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have had nine primary classes where SILENCE and AWARENESS have already been in place; the children come in calmly, listen attentively, focus on the activities and learn quickly and effectively. I’ve also got ten primary classes where this doesn’t happen, and I have to battle against a constant undercurrent of fidgeting, chatting, aimless tapping of instruments and frustrating waits for everyone to get ready.
You can certainly see the difference in level of achievement and quality of music-making. So, I have two types of challenge in my lesson planning; for one group of classes I need to have a bank of extension activities and resources at my fingertips for when they exceed expectations yet again, and for the others, a bank of strategies and activities to develop self-awareness and self-control before being able to teach anything which takes more than three minutes to explain.