I’ve just had a bit of a wake-up call about the importance of regular music lessons.
At the primary school where I teach music all the way through from Reception to Year 6, I thought it would be a fair assumption that if I get my year 3s together, issue them with samba instruments, do a quick warm-up and explanation, they should be able to play a decent, if simplified, version of samba reggae from the Beatlife Book by the end of a 45 minute lesson.
Indeed, that is exactly what happened when I tried it. They all had nailed their grooves and could hold them when playing all together, watch for section breaks and stop signals, and even do a pretty good stop.
The I went to do one-off samba workshops with classes in schools where I don’t normally teach. Revelation. What I took to be perfectly achievable, reasonably straightforward lessons plans for years 3, 4 5 and 6 turned out to be much harder to achieve. In the end, each year group did manage to play their sambas, in simplified versions. I had the sections playing similar/identical rhythms, combined the separate surdo parts into everyone playing the same thing. Year 6 were the most proficient; but they had done some samba several years ago and therefore had more experience of playing rhythmically, watching for signals, keeping a pulse.
I’m going to have to rethink my plans for future workshops in the light of this experience.
It has also been a very encouraging experience – what I take for granted with the children I teach “in my own schools” is actually a reflection on the fact that they have benefited from all the music that they have experienced over the years. It really does make a huge difference to their ability to learn, play, control, perform.