Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A good question:

I got this email today from Andy, they're all good questions so I thought I would reproduce the email in whole and then answer it to the best of my understanding. So here goes:

Hi Casey,

As a long-time reader of your blog, I have a question that perhaps you could address in an upcoming issue.

What is a workshop?

I hear you talk about workshops. I have the impression they are

1) Maybe directed at children, but often adults.

The workshops I have been involved in thus far have all been with secondary schools (high schools) but yes, they can be with anyone. Workshops that I have heard about have included ones in prisons, with the London Symphony Orchestra, pediatric wards in hospitals, an Islamic Centre, etc.

2) Short-term in nature, often only one session – so you are leading strangers.

Yes, but again the ones I have been involved with have been few. Mine have lasted anywhere from 2 hours to 2 days. We are working in January on something called "The Globetown project" which involves (I think) three secondary schools and a couple of primary schools and will last the entire term. So some are quite long term indeed. If they are long then I have noticed that they tend to get termed "project" rather than "workshop." Tara is hoping to use the skills she learns in this programme with her regular teaching which would make it, in effect, a year long project/workshop. Kinda.

3) Often participants are only casual musicians, or perhaps not musicians at all.

Yup, though not at all necessarily. I think eventually you figure out what sort of participants you enjoy working with the most and then do that- be it experienced musicians or people who aren't entirely clear on what a beat is.

4) The goal is to foster the participants’ creativity, rather than teach some specific content.

Yes, though of course there are exceptions. In the Globetown project there is a massive performance at the end where the pieces that have been written over the course of the project will be played so we'll most likely be specifically teaching them opening riffs as a basis for their composition, but in contrast to the aims of Eurhythmics- there isn't usually specific musical content to be taught- like "how do you play two against three?" or "how do you hear the difference between a major and minor third" Though especially in a longer term sort of project that may be something that you want to bring up. I'm constantly thinking of things in terms of eurhythmics and it ends up confusing me a bit because I keep thinking that everything should be aimed towards teaching a specific musical element.

5) The goal is not necessarily to get impressive musical results, it may be team-building or self-esteem.

Absolutely, especially if you're doing a workshop in a corporate environment. The other group at Aldeburgh went to a school that had a music programme, but no sort of ensembles so their workshop was the first time that the students had been able to play together- it was apparently pretty phenomenal to watch the transformation of the group- so definite team building there.

Am I on the right track?

I think I can safely say "absolutely" and "thanks for asking these questions."

Where is the demand for these workshops? Schools? Hospitals? Businesses? Community groups? Why don’t those places have ongoing music education rather than one-time visiting workshops?

I have no idea. Almost all of our tutors are active workshop leaders and there are a lot of them, but I have no idea about the lay of the land in this case. For the schools I think it is often a special treat, sort of like a field trip- for everyone else? No clue.

Do participants typically choose to participate and pay fees, or is the workshop part of an institutional program (such as a school/hospital/retirement home)?

It depends, the first workshop that I participated in right before my audition was a "professional development workshop" for teachers and the like and that was fee based, but the secondary schools that we went into it would be just an event for the students.

Are these workshops a common thing in Europe ? In America ?

I think they are quite common in England (and Iceland) and wherever graduates from this programme have ended up, but they are definitely next to non-existent in America. Jeff Sharkey (Peabody's new director) chose to go to Peabody instead of Cleveland Institute of Music because he feels like Peabody is better set up to start something like this.

Are they a new idea? Are workshops a substitute for school music programs that are now being discontinued?

An emerging idea, certainly. I hope they're not a substitute for school programs- more of an enrichment activity: 'here is how to do something musical in an incredibly different way from what you're used to experiencing' sort of thing.

What is the difference between a “workshop leadership” major and a “music therapy” major? I know a music therapist, she plays harp at a hospice – If I was in a hospice, I would be happy to have her come visit.

There are definitely overlaps- but I think the most important difference is that music therapists have training in psychology and medicine whereas we don't.

I am familiar with workshops in Appalachian vocal harmony, mandolin/guitar, and songwriting, both at Old Town School and elsewhere (e.g. adult summer camps). Are these in the same category, or something different?

They could be in the same category- I think it depends on how they're taught. Again, I've only been involved in three workshops so far and they have all been led to some degree by the same people (Paul and Sig) so I know that there is a wide variety in what counts as a "workshop" in terms of GSMD's leadership programme and I really just don't have the experience yet to know what more that encompasses. I think it is safe to say that they all involved accessing creativity in a somewhat unusual way and are (very) unlikely to be about something specific- like learning to play an instrument or forming a bluegrass band- though they could I suppose be about improvising in a certain style or arranging depending on whatever instrumentation shows up that day.

Love, Andy

love, CASEY


Anonymous said...

Yes, he really does have good questions. I enjoyed hearing the answers. Love G&G

Mical said...

Sent a fairly long comment to this, but it must be lost in the ether!! Gist of it was: I have been involved in many, many 'workshops' in other art related topics. All were learning related on a specific technique or class of techniques. Some were as short as a few hours to as long as 2 weeks. Occasionally they were scheduled for specific times over a period of years. The main components were: teaching/learning/sharing/interacting. Workshops have always been a 'hands-on' experience, not just a lecture format.
Love you and all the London experiences!

Casitareina said...

I think Peggy Zhering's class is quite a lot like the workshops that we're being trained to give. Particularaly the first day when she gave us particular instructions like 'two tools, eyes closed, with rubber cement' and the like. The results were very much unique to the individual and yet also very much within a larger structure.

I was talking to one of the second years last week and he was saying that he thinks our Leadership Programme is a lot like getting a visual art degree. We're given specific tools that we need to learn to use, but then the end result is a body of *our* own work. I like that description.