Danielle Jalowiecka is a professional recorder player and has performed across the UK and Europe, live on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4's 'Woman's Hour' and regularly plays and gives workshops with the Gold Vox duo in London. She has been the lead recorder tutor at Arts First for the last three years.
A Recorder Rebellion
As an educator there is nothing more satisfying than being convinced that what you are about to teach your group is sensational. You can't help but love it when you are convinced that what you are about to show your pupils is going to change each of their worlds in an unimaginable way.
Much, if not all, of this is down to the material you are working with.
When I first began teaching in Islington, Arts First gave me a copy of a music book called Recorder Rebels, aimed at primary-aged children, which had previously been published in collaboration with Cambridge Education. I looked through it and chuckled, it was nothing if not inventive.
The first tune, 'Mister B', is in a Reggae style meaning you can have 30 heads bopping along to some Bob Marley before you even say 'recorder'.
Children leave half an hour later with huge smiles on their faces having crafted an understanding about the history of Ska and the concept of call and response in music.
All of this combined with having learnt a note, how to produce a sound, and the concept of beats and rests.
The best bit? They have no idea about the amount of core information they've just soaked up, nor how solid a start they have had on their individual musical journeys. And it's only their first lesson!
Recorder Rebels is a brilliant example of how to engage whole classes in learning together in a supportive and fun way. The composer behind the tunes, Nathan Theodoulou, is a musician who taught in class environments and knew first-hand about the pitfalls of existing tutor books.
He said: "I designed Recorder Rebels specifically for use for whole class teaching as opposed to taking recorder books that were already in the market, but aimed at individuals, and trying to use those in a class setting."
Nathan also sought to create a scheme of work which handed the emphasis of creation and exploration to the pupils. "I hoped that giving opportunities for children to learn to read notation while also being able to improvise and compose their own music will mean they can have lot of fun playing with others,” he said.
The book approaches the order of learning notes on the instrument in much the same way as other existing tutors, however it concentrates on the dexterity of left hand notes before moving on to lower pitches in the right hand.
For teachers using the material this means that a whole host of harmonic options, accompanying riffs and wide range of varied repertoire can be covered in the first few sessions allowing for fast-paced achievement and progression.
Tunes such as ‘Blow The Blues Away’ and ‘Funk-E’ introduce 12-bar breaks to encourage children to improvise using guided notes and rhythmic ideas. It suggests listening to jazz musicians such as Count Basie to get ideas of how to use riffs to layer ideas.
It is ideas such as these, while also guiding children through listening activities, which create such a comprehensive scheme of study throughout Recorder Rebels. “It focusses on as many areas of creating music as possible. These are such key skills that create rounded and talented musicians of the future", said Nathan.
The theme that runs through this book is not of rebellion, necessarily, but of fun. The variety of pieces range from historic dances through to calypsos and covers a lot of important musical ground along the way.
The revolution comes in that it is not a traditional way of teaching the instrument and instead is a fantastic tool that highlights a convincing path for educators to be moving along, especially in an age where heightening curiosity around a subject creates such brilliant results.