Haytor View Early Years Music Project, Autumn Term 2015 – Blog 3

Haytor View Early Years Music Project with BSO Devon Associate Hugh Nankivell
Wednesday 7th October 12.20-3.15pm

The work I am trying to explore with early years has a pattern which I am really enjoying developing and exploring. In the class session there are three stages to that:

Provocation. What is the starting point for the session? How do I initiate proceedings? This is usually in a semi-formal setting, perhaps we are sitting in a circle listening to an instrument or singing a new song or looking at a film… The provocation might be as short as 5 minutes or as long as 40 minutes.

Exploration. Immediately after the provocation – what is the response of the group and how do they take any of the ideas that emerge from the provocation and run with them. This is informal, the children are exploring in their own time and their own way, individually or in groups. At this stage it is my role to observe, and support, to follow and to play with them. Much of this time might not be music-making. This session can be between 45 and 100 minutes.

Sharing – to share with the group anything that has emerged during the exploration time, usually by asking the children to come and perform. Again this is in a formal/semi-formal setting, sitting in a circle together, or all facing a ‘stage’ area for instance. This normally lasts between 5 and 20 minutes, depending on the shape of the session and the amount of material wanting to be shared.

The fourth stage of the session is my challenge – to choose a provocation for the following week. This could be me looking through film of the explorations and choosing something to show them back about their behaviour/performance, or it could be me composing a song for them based on something they did, or it could be me bringing something in (a metronome, a music-stand, a viola…) or many other starting points.

The photo is of a leaf with the song lyrics on - when we were collecting leaves and making up the stage we had no paper to hand, so wrote on a leaf
The photo is of a leaf with the song lyrics on – when we were collecting leaves and making up the stage we had no paper to hand, so wrote on a leaf

A key thing for me is monitoring my own behaviour. I need to be clear at the start with the provocation, but then very open and accepting and listening and observing throughout the exploration. I then need to assist in the sharing and then often the preparing or the planning or and thinking about the next provocation is really where my ‘work’ lies. I need to analyse what has gone on with the group, listen back to audio recordings, look at film footage, talk to other staff, look at notes I made and much more. This change from being clear to being open to assisting to preparing is really important to remember. The hardest part is the being open session, as I need to be following the learning paths of many children who might not be being involved in music-making.

Yesterday our provocation was a film of the group performing from the week before. We watched it and laughed and joined in.

One girl then took the lead in organising the group and the exploration then consisted of me following her, and one other boy, as they took us on a journey of ‘organising a concert’. This involved many things including: writing an invitation, drawing a map, trying things out with unsuspecting adults, having wild ideas, working indoors and outdoors, collecting flowers, sticks and leaves, making a stage, engaging in dialogue, travelling into the car park, finding the ukuleles, going in the lift and eventually (after about 75 minutes!) making up two songs. There was very little in the way of music-making in this session, but music and planning a concert had been the provocation and was in our minds throughout.

The sharing was back in the classroom telling the story of our journey and the two songs with the rest of the group.

So the two things that really occupy my mind now are:

  1. how do I feel about following a child’s journey when not much music is happening and wonderfing if my constant interventions (am I like a fly buzzing in her ear?) about music are annoying or helpful? – and
  2. what should be my provocation for next week – so that I take the learning on to another stage.

3 thoughts on “Haytor View Early Years Music Project, Autumn Term 2015 – Blog 3

  1. Hello Hugh.
    I think a great deal of our work as community musicians is not about the music. It’s about the context of the music and creating the right framework for the music to develop. If that is right then spending a session planning a gig is totally justified and right. With our Youth Leadership group of 14-18 year old young people at the Hothouse 75% of the time is spent on everything but the music. The outcomes of the work are much more weighted on the personal and social aspects though then when it come to the gigs or the events the young people are involved in creating new music, rehearsing it and then performing it.
    Could the ‘buzzing’ in the ear be annoying? Only if you are doing it without sensitivity.
    Next week, surely, is the concert. Can you bring in the orchestra! Ha Ha..


  2. Thanks Hugh, that was really interesting to read. I’m learning all the time and am trying to observe myself better. I’m especially trying to ensure that I don’t put too much of my own goals or ideas into the “exploratory” stage – it’s tricky to get the balance right!

  3. Hi Hugh, Sarah Moody here, it sounds great and brings back into focus all the early years work I’ve done with much fondness! We know young children don’t catergorise their learning into pockets. They benefit most from a multi-layered approach where they are able to follow their interests to its natural conclusion, whether it’s musical or not. To my mind, it’s more about being able to explain the music funders why and how their project is achieving outcomes rather than manipulating the children to fit their pre-prescribed outcomes! I know how it feels though when you’ve spent a whole morning not doing much music with a child, it feels like your not doing your job properly. It’s useful to remember that the impact of an intervention at this young age may not be seen until a child is older (if ever) and everything has an influence at this age.

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