The following account of our recent Music Bridge training in Northern Ireland was written by Valerie Whitworth, a Music Bridge trainee.
Derry, January 2016
Five days of great training that already has transformed my teaching.
Three of us had a one day introduction to the training, which dived right in at the deep end. Sharing physical warmups and name games. The penny dropped that while no formal introductions, we were experiencing what participants in Musicians without Borders programmes go through. No time to think, talk, just getting on and jumping with the process of getting to know each other through making music together.
This makes for a powerful experience as it brings you into fight or flight ….we are all equal in this and it is up to me to step up and out of my comfort zone. I have to choose to participate, to show. to demonstrate, reveal a bit of myself. Who I am, where I am at, what I can do amongst peers, most younger than me, many more skilled musicians, etc.
The leaders Danny, Amanda and Meagan were very encouraging and supportive and made the process fun and enjoyable, whilst giving appropriate and helpful feedback. We were being assessed and given new ideas and suggestions as to how to communicate non verbally, and with clarity.
The song writing intro exercises really pushed me, I had got used to just getting through them, a bit like going to the dentist,and holding on until it was over. This four day training has totally changed how I feel about it. I am now really excited by it and can’t wait to use and share my new found skills.
Joining in with the first and second year trainees on day two was a bit confusing as we didn’t know who was who, but eventually it all became clear. Easing three new participants into a course / group which is only just getting established is not easy, and is a tough challenge for everyone involved.
Day two pushed again in areas that I feel challenged in, as I am sure everyone participating does at different times. I felt as though I did really badly in an exercise which made me feel very uncomfortable. I know that I have learnt through this, and will continue to do so. Working with others who you have just met to devise something in a short time is tricky. However the teaching methods used the next day in the song writing exercise really showed to me how to improve on this. By incorporating everyone’s ideas and saying yes…makes everyone feel happy, supported and included! I continue to learn about myself through the training, the things that I feel comfortable with, and things that make me uneasy.
It was inspiring to watch Eugene and Danny work with a group of 60 Italian teenagers, and draw them out of themselves and participate fully in a powerful workshop. Witnessing these young people transition from inhibited reluctance to engaged and active participants was a joy to watch. One teenager said with heartfelt emotion, at the end of the workshop that, life had been very hard for the last while with all of the problems, but that Eugene had brought them alive inside!
Whilst dreading more of the song writing the process and the prospect of delivering a workshop to 35 Italian teenagers in the afternoon, the experience was made SO easy and painless by the methods we were shown. I learnt from Danny’s presentation as to the benefit of drawing out people’s creativity by positive encouragement, and to let go of my own judgmental and negative inner critic in the process. The year one trainees benefited from the experience of taking part in workshops lead by the year two participants the day before, and learning from them. Seeing areas of possible problems, and how to try to avoid them.
The workshop we led with the Italian teenagers was challenging, from the start, in that we were swamped by the sound of the workshop being held upstairs. Matt managed to overcome this and grab everyone’s attention very skilfully started by working with the dominant rhythm, but managed to then find our own space within it, and everyone’s focus and attention, was brought right into the moment.
I took over at this point and felt happy that I did a reasonable job moving into the vocal warm ups. I remembered to take it a bit slower, and started by warming up the face and small noises, which worked well, and led into a four part improvised groove that I made up on the spot. I felt I contributed well to the workshops, and helped the other trainees, when I felt I could add to what was happening. Sean did a great job of getting a song happening with the students, this process worked really well. Seeing some of the students who had been very shy the day before, blossoming into active creatives and involving their friends and others in the process was a fantastic privilege to witness.
We took the song upstairs and saw what the other group had achieved and then shared our song. What unfolded then was an amazing instantaneous music jamming, dance party, that erupted, with everyone in the room feeling touched and energised by the magic that we had created together. It truly was a magical event.
A welcome wind down and space for reflection after the challenges and growth that had taken place over the last few days. Some helpful constructive feedback: To stay in the circle when possible, to avoid cutting some people off, and losing their attention. I was very pleased to see that some of my input to the sessions was acknowledged, and has really boosted my confidence, recognising the skills that I already have, and feeling very excited as to where I will be able to go with these freshly honed skills and new materials.