Following the fun and lasting benefits of last year’s Summer School, I felt excited as the train approached Chichester this year. Once again, the presenters were all entertaining and gave easy to apply teaching ideas. There were many great conversations over meals and the chance to catch up with people from last year. Since the week was shared with the PGCert course, there was the added enrichment of meeting people from several continents. Ad hoc activities sprung up during breaks, including tutors kindly covering extra topics, and chamber music. We were treated to evening concerts covering a wide variety of music styles and much wit.

Starting each day with Sian’s Dalcroze session was a delight. Since it’s based on the principle that theory should follow practice, we were moving to music from the start. Some of the activities have already been helpful in my teaching. For example, we walked to music and showed the pulse and strong beats in any way we wished, later using tennis balls and balloons to develop this. Expressing other aspects of the music, such as the mood and the articulation, followed naturally. A nice activity which would work in a small space, was acting out phrasing in pairs, taking alternate phrases of the piece (ours was Schubert’s Rosamunde Entr’acte), and creating a dialogue.

Bojan covered the basics of how we handle violin and bow, with lively activities and imagery to aid the learning. Threads from the Dalcroze continued, eg the importance of pulse, and listening. I will use a method he showed us to learn pieces: the teacher plays the first phrase repeatedly, the pupil joins in when they are able to. Once this section is secure, the teacher adds another phrase, the pupil joins in, and so on, always maintaining the pulse. Some of Bojan’s methods for scales are now part of my teaching, eg building up a note at a time whilst varying the rhythms. This helps to focus on the left hand shapes rather than the note names.

Ted’s themes were spiccato, shifting and vibrato. His prerequisite basics also provide many teaching tips. We can help pupils explore their bow holds by looking at the role of the thumb, and seeing which fingers are doing the work, when the bow is at the tip/middle/heel. We can introduce from the early stages the 7 basic right elbow positions, and how to move through these smoothly. This complements Bojan’s recommendation of teaching early the tuning of the violin in double stops. Ted also reminded us that playing the piece with our pupil can help them do the bowing well. It underlined that I should play more during lessons !

The Blackwell’s workshop was colourful and especially relevant since I’ve only recently started to teach very young children. Kathy took us through several games for pulse and rhythm. She advised plenty of rote learning, ie ’sound before symbol’. An orchestra was then quickly formed and we enjoyed playing some of David’s new pieces.

Gavin taught us the basics of conducting technique, a unique and welcome opportunity. Again, we formed an orchestra and several of the group, including complete beginners, conducted with aplomb.

The smooth running of the Summer School enabled us to relax and immerse ourselves in the music. I’d like to thank Stentor for sponsoring a generous bursary via the ESTA Nannie Jamieson Nutshell Fund, which enabled me to attend such a helpful and enjoyable event.

Nannie Jamieson Nutshell Fund