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Musical Inventions

Musical Inventions was a creative composition project, supporting Key Stage 3 students to engage with musical composition and develop their skills and confidence. NCEM is a keen supporter of young people's creative music-making, offering a variety of composition-based education projects and running the annual Composers Award in association with BBC Radio 3. The project also linked to the national BBC Ten Pieces initiative, using selected works from the Ten Pieces as inspirations for developing new compositions in the classroom. NCEM has been a Ten Pieces Champion since Autumn 2014, creating an array of high-quality opportunities for young people at primary and secondary levels.

Drawing together the insight of professional composer Kate Pearson, with the in-house expertise of school music staff from Fulford, Manor CE, Archbishop Holgate's and York High schools, the project worked to provide rounded support for young people studying in Years 7-9 at these City of York secondaries. In Spring Term 2016, young people had the opportunity to view the BBC Ten Pieces Secondary film, in order to hear a variety of compositional examples, before meeting with Kate to begin developing their own creative responses to the music they heard. They continued to refine their work at school independently and with the support of class teachers and local student musicians Ali Cummings (University of York) and Lucy Drewery (York St John). Composer Kate revisited each group part-way through their composition development process, in order to support in the refining of ideas and the completion of pieces.

The project culminated in a showcase event at the National Centre for Early Music on Wednesday 15 June 2016, as part of the NCEM's celebration of the York Festival of Ideas. This performance saw groups from all partner schools come together at a national music venue to share their compositions, to receive feedback from a professional composer and to celebrate their work alongside peers from across the city. Particular inspiration had been taken from Gabriel Prokofiev's Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra, especially in terms of combining traditional and non-traditional instruments within the same piece. The diversity of compositions performed was remarkable, with creative responses ranging from a new work for shoes and spoken word focusing on the current plight of refugees, through to a party piece (quite literally!) for samba drums, party hats, party poppers and whistles.

Young people and staff said of the performance:
  • "That was amazing - I was so nervous but really enjoyed getting to show people what we'd made"
  • "I enjoyed hearing what other people had come up with from different schools. We all had the same starting point but all came up with different things that were all interesting in their own ways"
  • "I don't normally write music and wouldn't have thought to do it without having had this help"
  • "It's opened a lot of eyes and ears to new music and the experience has been brilliant for all
The project also provided training and development opportunities for university student musicians wishing to develop their teaching skills, through shadowing opportunities alongside school music teachers and mentor Kate Pearson. Students studying at undergraduate and postgraguate levels at both York and York St John Universities were offered this opportunity to enhance their professional skills. The project also built in CPD for school staff, offering Kate Pearson's advice on composition within the wider school music curriculum, from the point of view of a professional composer and educator. In particular, opportunities were given to trainee teachers in the early stages of their careers, enabling them to get as broad an input to their professional development as possible. Those who took up the CPD offered had this to say about the experience:
  • "I'm training to be a teacher so working with four different schools all at once was interesting, seeing differences in teaching approaches"
  • "The legacy for me will be having had experience of a new kind of leadership role"
  • "The ambition NCEM has for music in schools is inspiring - the opportunities have been fantastic!"
  • "We would love to do something like this again"
The project was supported by York Music Hub, the Innovation Fund and the Mayfield Valley Arts Trust.