Bem-te-vi ... Two

And breathe....intertwined personal and professional reflections

Waking up after my first night on the 14th floor I absorb the different quality of the light; the sudden arrival of morning rather than a slow dawn,  and the sharpness of the shadows cast.  It is both startling and  refreshing. The next thing I notice is an extraordinary sensation of lightness, a lift in my shoulders and a feeling of space….as I realise that today I am responsible only for myself. This brings  a powerful elation, and surge of wakeful energy. I breathe slowly. Three months away from Sage Gateshead – and from my ordinary life routines –  is a remarkable gift. My brilliant colleagues in our Learning and Participation team are spreading their wings too, as they take on additional responsibilities for the period that I am away, and I can see that we will all learn profound and valuable lessons from this experience. It will be interesting to find out how easily I can let go of the need to connect with too many of the small decisions and trust them just to get on; and to find out how easily they can learn to trust themselves.

So, now responsible  –  for the moment at any rate!  –  only for myself, I go with Giuliana Frozoni, Guri Santa Marcelina’s extraordinary programme director, and my good friend, to participate in part of a training programme  for all the choir and vocal teachers from Guri. The concentration is immense as they tackle Norman Dello Joio’s amazing ‘To St. Cecilia’.  This is the second week-long  block of the training programme, which began with a week in January. The thinking behind the programme, conceived by Paulo Bezulle,  Guri’s  visionary supervisor for the singing teachers,  is to immerse them in the process of making great vocal/choral music themselves in order to  inspire and challenge their ambitions for their students. It also provides a context for peer-debate, networking and shared evolution of a vision for the choral and vocal practice. I recognise the ambition for this training programme, and can see that there will be many things to compare/contrast and learn from in relation to Sage Gateshead’s new programme of training for our musicians which starts in September.

This business of the balance between musical skills, performance skills, pedagogy, facilitation and teaching skills is the subject of constant debate in the music learning / community music professions. Do you need to be a great musician to be a great teacher or facilitator? I think this is going to be a core question for the next three months. I have seen here, in England and other countries throughout the world, many examples of inspirational teaching and leadership / facilitation from people who do not identify themselves as performers, or even as great musicians; and yet I have also seen how getting closer to that sense of total emotional, technical and performance-driven immersion that performers experience constantly does surprise and inspire teachers/facilitators to find new ways to go deeper  in turn enabling students/participants to realise themselves musically beyond their own expectations.

I am also beginning to understand how the concept of social pedagogy, and the deployment of complete team of social pedagogues and social workers alongside the music educators, sheds  a different light on the question. It changes the role of the music educator, or at least re-balances it, so that the consideration of each student/participants’ total well-being is shared amongst this wider team, meaning that the leaders don’t necessary need themselves each to have all the skills required – musical, technical, intellectual, personal, facilitative, didactic  – for the holistic support of the individuals in the groups    …we will keep returning to this.

Meanwhile, back with Dello Joio, I am asked if I am willing to coach the English language pronunciation in the last third of the piece – of course, yes, delighted – and I read the adapted Dryden full of feeling, in my best projected tones. ‘Ah but could you do it in a North American accent please, because the composer is American?’  Now there’s a thing….can I find my buried inner American at no notice, sight-reading a text I’ve not looked at for over a twenty years at least??? I breathe slowly, and proceed in a new voice, working through the  sounds with gesture, movement, imitation, repetition, laughter, focus, intention, shared purpose….responsible now for being the best role model and voice coach for these words that I possibly can…..and so the new life begins.    

Roots and Wings