Wednesday, February 27, 2008

So pretty much? I rock.

I'm so happy right now I keep grinning and squinching up my shoulders and toes in order to get some excess happy energy out. If I were a runner I would run, but instead I'm just sort of hopping in place and smiling.

This morning I joined my flatmate Meredith to travel down South for the East meets West project in Poplar. The project is reaching its culmination; today was the penultimate rehearsal and the performance is next Friday. Unfortunately it is looking like I'm not going to be able to make it to the performance because I'll be working on a project in Kensington which is just about as far away from Poplar as you can get and still have both be in central London. But no worries, I will be there all day next Wednesday and that will be when the musicians and dancers are in the same place for the first time- it is sure to be hilarious.

The songs for this project have taken on a surreal nautical aspect. This morning we spent time thinking about various jobs on ships and broke up into four small groups to make actions and short rhythmic sentence pairings that we then used as verses. 3 of the 4 groups decided that they were pirate ships. Probably this was inevitable, but we had to figure out how to discourage the 9 year olds from using this as an opportunity to make finger guns and shoot their classmates.

I couldn't be there for the afternoon session because I had an assessment meeting with Sigrun for the Globetown project and since she is heavily pregnant it was at her house which I wasn't sure how to get to. Meredith convinced me to join everyone for lunch though, and I am very glad I did.

The East meets West project is being run by a woman named Lucy Forde (not to be confused with any of the seven other Lucys floating around). She is extraordinarily good at making the kids feel involved and validated while at the same time carefully steering what is going on in the room. On the walk to the small Italian cafe where we all had lunch I got to pick Lucy's brain which was totally informative and fun. Lunch was lovely too and it was great to sit and chat with nearly everyone involved in the project. You know how you can tell the college freshmen coming out of lectures because they are the ones excitedly discussing concepts they were just introduced to? Lunch was kind of like that.

I then returned to Guildhall and caught up on emails and phone calls. I had to call Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs because I need a National Insurance number in order to not get taxed through the roof. Currently I am on *EMERGENCY TAX* which, while extortionately high-amuses me with the concept of anyone freaking out and declaring it an emergency because they are not sure what level to tax me at. In any case, it doesn't seem like it would be a pleasant thing to have to call HMR&C, right? Sort of like the DMV...but to my great surprise and pleasure I ended up talking to a woman who was not only pleasant and cheerful but actually took a moment to tell me how much she loves her job...how cool is that? So I am now set up for that and for a consultation with a nurse about my Gambia trip immunizations. So sweet- I'm on top of things.

Then I traveled down to Sig in Sydenham and got a little bit lost so I asked a woman with her wheelchair bound daughter where to go and they walked me most of the way there while telling me about a barbecue they had been to on that street. The meeting with Sig went really well and she said that I had made noticeable progress even just over the course of the project which I was not only pleased to hear- but also already knew because I had seen that for myself and knew that I had worked hard and well during Globetown.

I know I haven't written much about my thoughts and reactions to the Globetown project but one of the things I discovered was how much I really enjoy thinking through various aspects of leading- Nick and I talked extensively about who was going to lead which portion of the session, how we were going to lead each section, and then even the choreography of where each of us would stand so that it was very clear at all times who the kids should be paying attention to. I really enjoy thinking through how various actions from the leaders are going to affect the kids' attention.

I've also always been a big one for intentionality so I'm really enjoying thinking about how to bring what I understand of eurhythmics sensibilities to the workshops that I work on. I want to see if I can make sure that every activity that we do from the introductions to the warm ups to the music we write and create can have a musical concept behind it and a musical purpose. It's like a big fun puzzle.

This evening I made myself a tasty dinner and listened to a bunch of sea shanties to get myself in the mood for electro-acoustic class where I am using LogicPro to write a sea shanty. When Daddy and I were in Greenwich on Sunday I took my Handy Zoom H2 recorder with us and recorded some really great clips of water lapping and then later the docks for the Thames Clipper creaking with the waves. I'm a big fan of the shanty "Row Bullies Row" which is in 3/4 time and D Dorian so I decided that my shanty would be the same.

I love electro-acoustic class. I like the people in the class (a mixture of 1st and 2nd year leadership students) and I like playing around with the program and I like our tutor Mike and I really like composing and creating things that I get to hear immediately. (In addition to being a big one for intentionality, I am also a big one for immediate gratification.)

So this evening I wrote a sea shanty. It doesn't have words yet but it has a clear phrasal structure and it has super neat atmospheric sounds (courtesy of Greenwich) and I *like* it! And I'm doing all sorts of patting myself on the back (see the title of this entry). I have a lot more to learn, tons and tons more to learn but currently? At this very moment? I feel like I can do anything.

Monday, February 25, 2008

So here is the thing

I have now scheduled Finsbury work for practically every free hour I have and while this is great in some ways (I made enough from my first pay check to pay for my plane ticket to Baltimore) this also means that I have not-as-much-time-as-I-previously-had for blogging.

(I don't know if you noticed, but that was an apology/excuse for writing so little lately.)

Ma and Pa were here this past week, and we had some good times. All three of us managed to get sick though, so in a 7 day trip that wasn't, you know, ideal.

We did get some very nice walks in though: on the first day we went from Buckingham palace through (this may be wrong?) Green park, (st. Jame's park?), and Kensington Gardens, and then on Sunday Daddy and I wandered around Greenwich and took the Thames Clipper back to central London. On Wendesday we saw the English Concert play in a marvelous concert.

When I first saw The Academy of Ancient Music at Interlochen 5 years ago- I was totally entranced by 3 things: how much fun the cellists were having, how amazing the sound of the ensemble was, and how cool the bass was (and how cool it was that the bass player let me play it!)

So the bassist of course was Peter who is now playing with the English concert and on Wednesday was playing the same instrument that he had at Interlochen (we think the bow was the same as well, but he wasn't positive). The cellist that I loved so much at the Interlochen concert was playing a solo (her facility with instrument is inspiring and she looks around while she plays: at the conductor, at the audience, at the rest of the ensemble- but never at the cello or her hands...), and the second movement of the Vivaldi that they played literally made me gasp.

So you know. Full circle and all.

Last week I rehearsed and recorded the pieces for the London Contemporary Dance project. The recordings aren't terribly good because we only had one rehearsal and then recorded. The recording is just for the dancers to get an idea of what the music will actually sound like and so it is okay that they were a bit sloppy. I do so enjoy playing in ensembles with people. I also enjoy that the composers are competing to see who can treat the musicians the best. Candy and handshakes everywhere!

So basically life is good, and I am a whiz at alphabetizing.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ow.

I spent today in rehearsals for the London Contemporary Dance School project. You may recall that this project involves 5 composers and 5 choreographers creating pieces for two (three?) performances coming up.

The composers are now "done" composing and their music ended up in my school mail box last friday. I spent this weekend looking over the parts and realizing that a: I haven't played the upright bass in months, and b: I haven't *learned* music from sheet music in over a year...I've barely even read any sheet music in the last year. In any case it was a struggle and I was really concerned about embarrassing myself in the rehearsals today. I am in 3 of the 5 pieces and as of last night I was pretty sure that I would be fine on Jane's piece, be able to fake Matthew's, and horribly butcher Rupert's.

I don't know that I needed to freak out as much as I did though because two of the composers brought in brand new parts today and all of them took the pieces at much slower tempos than what they had marked.

As it turned out what I'm really going to need to work on is Jane's piece because the opening line is supposed to be a very fluid bass solo and is totally exposed. Unfortunately I am back to playing timidly on the contrabass.

Matthew needed me to be a jazz player because he wrote an entire page of pizzicato driving 8th notes. His piece hurts to play, so I convinced him that it would be better for everyone involved if I did that page with the bow and he agreed. (He even claims now that he likes the sound better! Of course, before there was no sound because I would just stop playing...so maybe take that with a grain of salt.)

I was terrified of Rupert's piece. The tempo markings were swift to say the least, the rhythms are intricate and random and change every bar, and there are all sorts of harmonics that I wasn't entirely sure how to find on the bass. It turns out however that the tempo is slower than he was claiming on the paper and the piece is very well constructed so that even though the rhythms are crazy- it works together with all of the other parts and is quite a bit easier to play with the entire ensemble rather than by ones self.

Rupert has also clearly had someone teach him how to treat his musicians at some point: he offered us his snack, said "thanks" frequently and sincerely, was very clear in his conducting, gave constructive criticism when needed, listened to the musicians when we pointed out that something was unplayable, and ended the rehearsal with the firmest handshake ever.

We are recording these peices for the dancers to rehearse with on Tuesday and Thursday. We start actually playing for the dancers starting at the beginning of March.


Oh, and the reason that this post is titled "Ow" is because even though I didn't embarrass myself playing wise (yes!) I did manage to have the bass slip in such a way that the tuning pegs fell (hard) onto my forehead. I haven't done that since 1996.

I did it twice today.

I have twin raised bumps on my forehead now that look like a V.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Globetown rehearsal

videoThe dress rehearsal for Globetown went very well. The video should give you an idea of how many kids we were dealing with. The final rehearsal was over 3 hours long without a real break. The primary school kids in particular were remarkably well behaved while the rest of the schools were doing their run throughs. We were seated in a circle around the perimeter of Morpeth's smaller gym. Each school sat in a group with their own instruments.

This was the first time since the launch of the Globetown project 5 weeks ago that the students were all in one room together and the first time that they had heard any of the songs that the other schools had written and been working on.

In addition to the individual schools' songs the kids also learned the tune to the sun song and the words to the asteroids song (asteroids-interplanetary, asteroids- dark and dangerous, asteroids- useless cosmic garbage, asteroids- mysterious). Those two choruses combined with "Welcome to the solar system" are the big tutti bits of the final concert.

Soft Bear's bath




I wanted to give you an update on Soft Bear. He is clean and dry now and no longer smells quite so much, but look at the water- ew.

Royal Opera House


On Saturday Latana took me to the Royal Opera house for an educational lecture that they were giving in an upstairs studio. They invited a bunch of music students (and clearly some other people, but definitely a bunch of music students) to come and view how rehearsals are run at the opera house. They are putting on Mozart's "The Magic Flute" currently. The lecture/demonstration was run by their assistant director: a bulgarian woman who had amusingly bad english. The singers they brought in were the 3 ladies (The Queen of the Night's henchwomen) but one of them had the flu so they last minute brought in an older Mezzo-soprano who is currently singing with the London Opera in the Mikado. The older woman knew the part in English and the two who are singing in the Royal Opera House's production knew it in German which meant that immediately everyone giggled whenever the 3rd lady sang.

Since Tamino (the prince) wasn't there because there wasn't a singing part for him in that scene the asst. director asked for a volunteer from the audience. Then she asked for some volunteers to become the monster who is chasing Tamino around at the very beginning of the opera. Of course I volunteered. That is what the pictures are from. There were ten of us and we decided to become a many tenticled monster thing. The difficulty was in trying to stay in one group while chasing Tamino around the room/studio. Having 10 people run in a bunch is quite difficult...

Anyhow- it was totally fun and I enjoyed the 3rd lady stand in that Mommy and Daddy and I are going to go to The Mikado while they are in town.

Spellcheck continues not to work, I apologise for grieveously misspelled words.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Venus and Mars

Bonner's planets are Venus and Mars. They have pretty great lyrics:
(venus)
Beautiful but dangerous
fatal yet glamorous
fire most mysterious
clouds of acid poison us
(mars)
standing on the surface of mars
lonely and very very cold
gazing up at two moons
icy rocks and rusty dunes
(chorus)
oh what beauty, mystery
exists in outer space
oh what bright and shiny stars
mars and venus eclipse them all

neat, huh?

The structure of the song looks a bit like a pallindrome: chorus V1 V2 instrumental break instrumental break v1 v2 chorus. Sig leads the vocal parts and since the boys don't really sing (they growl) the girls are the only ones who sing the chorus and most of verse two. I lead the percussion enterances and Nick leads the wind instruments and the break.

singers piano clarinets flutes trumpets trombones
singers twinkle-thing drums shakers cabasas
singers xylophones xylophones xylophones

There are four bangladeshi trombone girls. They rock. They are the best instrumentalists we've got- a lot of power and they're actually in tune. They're pretty awesome. The shakers are a bunch of squirrelly little boys- we've been working on egg shaker skills. Hold two shaker eggs firmly in one hand and then shake from your elbow but make small motions....

Globetown Project

The concert for the Globetown project is this Thursday so today and Tuesday are the finsal rehearsals at the primary schools. The team at Globe School wanted a bass line, so I went and played with them today. Globe School is a very vertical school- six stories, but only one building. It is also, paradoxically, a short school which meant that I kept knocking the top of the electric bass on the ceiling of the stairwells.

The Globe school has a lot of steel drums, so they feature heavily in their song which is about the Gas Giants (Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, and Jupiter). There is also a full row of guitars, a row of recorders, and a couple of trombones, clarinets, and trumpets. My favorite lyric from their song is "Giant spherical orbs" because what better time to work on vocab words than during a music workshop?

Today we rehearsed and ran the song for about an hour and half and then we played it for the assembled students of the school. The youngest kids were totally rocking out during the performance and bouncing around in their seats (mostly in time! I was impressed).

We had an evening rehearsal at Morpeth secondary school this afternoon. We haven't seen them in a week because of half term break. There is still a fair amount of work to go with them, but it's coming together. This whole thing has been really exciting getting to see all of these pieces coming together and the kids learning fairly long bits of music entirely by ear.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

London is Wonderful in the Sun

The weather has been gorgeous here for the last few days. On Friday it was so gorgeous and it had been such a long week that my flatmate Meredith and I decided we had to get out of the City and we went to Camden. It was shutting down as we got there, which was fine because that meant that all of the food was half price. Not a bad time to go really...

On Saturday I went out to Greenwich to meet a friend of my friend Emma Shubin's. Her name is Jenn Raven and she is a flautist at Trinity College there. We met up at 9:30 in the morning because she had to teach lessons later in the day. She has been taking a course in community music there so we talked about what that was like and also how the Guildhall program is set up. We were both getting very animated about it and disturbing other people in the cafe. Emma, who is our friend in common, went to Longy and was very active in the Dalcroze Eurhythmics department there. Jenn and I each have a small background in dalcroze as well and we discussing how we thought that the creative workshops and dalcroze would work remarkably well together and how we thought that should work. It was a lovely breakfast and very nice to meet her.

I then hung out in Greenwich a while longer because Caroline, the flautist from the first years lives there and we were going to have lunch together. Since it was such a gorgeous day I went to the Greenwich market. I love that market. One man had a stand for handmade felt hats that he then proceeded to put on my head. As he put each had on my head (and jostle it around for a proper fit in his estimation) he would talk about whether or not the colors really worked on me and if that sort of hat style worked. He was very opinionated. I didn't have enough money to buy one of the hats, but even if I had I think there was only one that would have met with his a approval and that he would have allowed me to purchase. I rather enjoyed his pushiness.

Speaking of felt, I also spent quite a lot of time at a yarn stand near the back of the market where the young German woman who was running the stand gave me a basic needle felting lesson and then let me stay there for over half an hour amusing myself with it and not buying anything. Eventually I ended up buy a 5GBP kit with four different colors of wool, a sponge, and a needle felting needle. When I met up with Caroline and showed her the little blue heart I had been working on I promptly broke the felting needle, but the nice German lady gave me a new one and made me promise to be more gentle.

Caroline lives on the top floor of a house owned by a retired art dealer. The flat is quite cluttered with the art dealer's stuff, but the walls are exciting to look at. Caroline took me to the park where time starts (is it called the meridian? Like the equator, but a lot more arbitrary?) When we entered the park I literally gasped. It is lovely living near school and not having any travel time to speak of, but living in the middle of the City it is easy to forget that trees exist. Sometimes I have to go wander around Bunhill fields which is the closest greenspace to school. It is also a graveyard. The park in Greenwich is filled with winding paths and large green fields and old gnarled trees. I was so happy. There was also, for some reason, a large gathering of people in costumes. Really random costumes. We got no satisfactory answer as to why this was even though we politely asked the pie and the pile of mashed potatoes standing next to the fork and Cruella DeVille.

I hope it stays nice and springtime-like here, but I suspect that we will have a few more cold fronts before that happens.

Monday, February 4, 2008

First day of work

Not as boring as it could have been.

I actually get trained on Thursday, but they went ahead and put me to work today anyway. (I would like to point out that I was not only awake, but dressed and at work by 8:30 this morning. Which I realize isn't impressive for a lot of people- but this is me we're talking about and I was functional before noon.)

Everyone is very nice at Finsbury Healthcare and they gave me many, many cups of tea.

I spent a lot of time filing doctors' correspondence, putting tabs on new patients' folders, and playing with letter stickers (for identifying the first 3 letters of patients' surnames.) The letter stickers are on rolls in boxes that have been taped together so that you have this two foot tall box of multicolored alphabet in front of you. That was my favorite part of the day.

I need to figure out what to wear for the job- there are so many files that they are quite difficult to get in and out of the filing cabinets which led me to sit on my knees a fair bit. I can't wear jeans, but my fancier work trousers are really not going to hold up if the get dragged across the floor as much as they were today. Khakis maybe? I've never owned any khakis. Well, that I liked.

The girl whom I'm replacing because she got promoted was being trained today in how to answer the phones. There wasn't a whole lot interesting to listen to in the office, so I was evesdropping a bunch and basically? I am really happy that I am not going to have a career in medical administration. Even though she will be talking to people and talking to people is much more up my alley than alphabetizing, I would still so much rather be in my job than her job. Finsbury Healthcare does a really good job of promoting from within, so a lot of the people working there have been there since they were doing my job as students. Which is admirable, but man am I glad that I will not be follwing in their footsteps.

Anyhow- it was a very successful first day, but I need to remember to bring snacks next time because I got very hungry. Though not thirsty- the tea took care of that.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Oh!

And I start work at Finsbury Healthcare at 8:30am on Monday!

It's been a busy week...

In an effort to continue to keep you posted even though I am not posting as much- here is what I did this week:

Monday- Caught up on various emails, took a long walk and discoved a totally cute little park with (for some reason) inverted slides. In the evening I went down to the electronic music lab to play around with Logic Pro for my electronic music class. I meant to stay down there for one hour and instead left after two because the school was closing- it was super fun.

Tuesday- Met up with Nick in the morning to go over our plan for Bonner Primary School on Wednesday. Sig gave us very specific requests for things to prepare so we talked about who was handeling what, where we would stand for various portions, what order we would do activities in, what we would say...everything basically. And we wrote a two bar break for the song to teach the kids. In the afternoon we had another session at Morpeth Secondary School.

All of the Leadership students are involved at Morpeth. At Morpeth I work most with a young electric bass player named Yves. He's cute, and really quite good with the bass. He catches on quickly and humors me by swaying along with me while we're playing. It took me forever to figure out what his name actually was because I heard "Eve" and I was fairly sure that "Eve" was indesputibly a girl's name. What with Eden and all. On tuesday I finally just asked him how his name was spelled.

Wednesday- Bonner! Nick and I were supposed to meet at 9:15 in order to actually get to Bonner a bit early as opposed to just barely on time which is usually when we get there. I went down and knocked on his door all ready to go with the bass on my back. Nick answered the door in pajamas asking me what time it was. Fortunately we were just meant to be leading the half of the workshop involving the instrumentalists, so Sig switched around the two groups and had the singer group go first. Nick walked in the door just as the class was starting.

This turned out to be a good thing because it meant that the two of us had a chance to talk through our plan with Sig before our half of the workshop. I led the warm up which then led into teaching the composite rhythm for the percussionists to everyone vocally. Once we had done that Nick took the wind players (trombones, flutes, trumpets, and clarinets) to another room to teach them the notes for the melody and I had the various percussionists set up in the front of the room. We rehearesed for a while and then the winds came back in and we tried to get everyone to play together. That didn't end up working very well...and teaching a body rhythm for the break. Then all of our time was over.

I then took the tube and the DLR down to Bygrove Primary school for the East meets West project. That one was downright relaxing after the morning. We recorded the various soundscapes and choruses that the kids have been working on in order to send the recording over to the Holy Family primary school for the dancers to work with. We also played a bunch of games that weren't really related to music, but were very entertaining. One of them, a form of tag called Cat and Mouse, involved pairs linking arms which got a bit ridiculous when the adults (of whom I am the shortest, it is a very tall group) ended up paired up with the 6 year old children. No one threw up.

At six I had my second electronic music class, this time we worked on using a sampler tool which we will eventually use to create our own electronic instruments. I would explain more what that means, but I don't really understand yet either. So sorry I can't help you with that.

At seven we had a rehearsal for the "Earth" portion of the Globetown project. Have I explained this yet? We are re-writing The Planets, so each school has their own planet(s), the Leadership students are Earth, and everyone is Asteroids and the Sun. (Bonner's planets are Venus and Mars.)

Our basic plan for Earth is to move from a pastoral, primoridal sounding section with acoustic instruments to an electric section involving samples from speeches and the electric bass, electric guitar, and maybe Kate with her electrified Oboe. The problems were that a: we were all very tired, b: Emma hadn't had a chance to deal with the speech samples yet, and c: we had no amps. The primordial/nature bit is already written and figured out, so pretty much we spent two hours talking about what we thought the electric part should sound like but having no way of actually testing anything out. It was an incredibly aggravating process. Emma used the time to work on the samples which was agood use of time, but the rest of us had a difficult rehearsal. We decided that we really don't have enough time to write this democratically and to have individuals lead the rest of the process.

Then I tumbled into bed and slept and slept and slept.

Thursday- Our assignment for Creative Ensemble was to prepare material for a half hour long workshop with the Leadership students. When looking for clips for Emma to use in the Earth piece I had found a site that had mp3 files of various famous/important American speeches. I became particularly enamored with MLK's "On the Mountain" speech. I spent the morning transcribing a 40 second portion of the speech. By transcribing I mean that I wrote down what all the words were and then set up my computer next to my bass and figured out what pitch he was saying each syllable at. It turns out that he spends a lot of time in the g, g#, a, b range.

That afternoon we had another Morpeth rehearsal, it was fine. The music is coming together well and we had one kid on the clarinet who had only had one lesson so far. We were all impressed with him for giving it a go.

In Creative ensemble Kate led a workshop with a counter melody for Earth. She had such a clear idea for what the rest piece could sound like that I think she is going to lead the rest of the process just so we can finish the piece in time. She ended up taking over most of the Creative Ensemble time which was fine because we really needed to work on Earth and frankly- my ideas for the MLK thing are still a bit half baked. I'm looking forward to having more time to really figure out what to do with it. I'm also quite pleased that I got as much transcribed as I did- it's a very good start.

Friday- I was so glad it was Friday. It's been a long week. In the morning I was interviewed for a BBC documentary about social networking sites- specifically Facebook. We talked for about 10 minutes and I talked about how without facebook Sarah wouldn't have known that I was in London and so wouldn't have invited me to her wedding, and then I wouldn't have gone to India! So for that reason alone I am thankful for Facebook. Meredith was interviewed right after me and couldn't stop giggling- it was pretty funny. I have no idea what the documentary is really about nor when it will air. There was a mass email sent to our Guildhall email addresses asking for volunteers.

That afternoon Nick and I had our second session of leading Bonner's instruementalists by ourselves and it went remarkably well. We showed up a good 40 minutes early (probably overkil, but we weren't late! Result!) and led a remarkably cohesive workshop on the break portion of the song. We had talked a lot about how to teach the break and how to focus the students' attention on the one who was leading at that moment and just generally supporting eachother in our various roles. It went really well.

In the evening Meredith and Dave and I went to Sarah's house for a "Yay, Dave doesn't have the flu anymore!" sushi party. The party involved quite a lot of homemade vegetable sushi, chocolate cake, and fancy chips/crisps. It was a nice ending to a long week.

Saturday- Not that the week was *really* over. Today Jo and I went to Whitechapel for a African Dance class. It was totaly fun and I now have blisters all over the bottoms of my feet. The same teacher has a free class tomorrow that Jo is trying to get people to go to. I told Latana about it and she was excited, so I may be going to another African dance lesson tomorrow. We'll see if I can move or not...

Also, Today in rugby news- Wales beat England for the first time since 1988. One of the girls in the TV room was very, very excited. "We haven't won since the year I was born!"

The spell check is not working, so I apologize for any egregious spelling errors...

Self Reflective Paper

This was an assignment for the end of last term. We were meant to think and talk about how we had developed as people and musicians over the term and write about it in 500 words. This is what I eventually turned in:

Percussion: I now have a better grasp of what various instruments are and how to play them than I did before. I’ve always been fairly good at keeping rhythm, but my approach to percussion instruments before Neville’s class was to find and copy the rhythmic pattern without any idea of how to achieve various different tones and timbres from the drum. I think the highlight of this learning process was when the Brazilian musicians visited and I was able to pick up the Samba dance steps quickly because I realized that it was the same sort of heel/tip motion that we had been doing on the congas, but this time with feet instead of hands.

Improvisation: Prior to Guildhall the ability to improvise seemed like a mysterious magical skill that I really wanted to have but had no clue how to go about acquiring. I was happy messing around on my bass and coming up with random musical lines, but I had no idea how to structure anything, how to make what I was playing sound like actual music.

Ever since Aldeburgh I have felt completely comfortable coming up with a riff on demand. I now can’t help but listen for how riffs are being used in commercial music. Seeing how the components have been structured in various workshops we have done, I now try to figure out how they are structured in what I am listening to so that I have even more examples to draw upon.

Working with Pete Churchill on melody construction skills was one of the most useful 3 hours I have spent in class at music school ever. Using the tools that he gave us I sing and work on making cohesive melodies while I am walking around London. Literally anytime I am walking by myself I am practicing improvising melodies.

Workshop skills: In learning various musical games and songs I think what really began to develop was an awareness of what types of games/songs/activities would work well in a workshop environment. As a summer camp counsellor and through my work with eurhythmics I have been exposed to a fair amount of material, but now through this class I think about those activities differently. I am more likely to consider how to break them down so that they can be taught effectively. Conversely, because of my dalcroze training I am always looking at what specific musical elements the new songs and activities we learn could address or be used to teach.

Seminar: I adored Jan’s classes/lectures. I appreciated having a class that was more theoretical than practical, it was a change of pace that helped to put everything that we had been doing in all of the other classes into perspective. The tools that we have begun to develop with him are ones that I feel like I can use both for thinking about specifically what I would like to focus on in my work (as well as figuring out what my ‘work’ is) but also for what I need to continue to develop so that I can reach the artistic levels that I aspire to.

My entire experience of musical training up until this point has been rigid and directed towards becoming an orchestral bass player. The idea that I could take a path more akin to that of a visual artist: finding out what it is that I am truly driven by and interested in and pursuing that through the medium of music has been a novel and liberating concept. In many ways it is as if I have been finally given permission to do those things that I have always secretly wanted to do. What has my experience been in this first term? One of flowering, of excitement, and of relief that I am finally able to pursue those things I have always wanted to pursue and not known that I really could. During the first term I don’t know that I grew so much as opened. The growing is happening now, already this second term has a very different flavor and is much more about addressing those things that I now know that I need to learn.