As I write on National Apprenticeship week, and with our impending celebrations of 30 years of Music House for Children, I reflect on the sheer volume of brilliant teachers that have crossed our doors since I opened them in 1994. Many were just starting out as I had done before, with little experience, some study, but with a similar, shared passion of wanting to impart their musical knowledge to children.
As a teacher in the 90's, my mantra was "Yes" to all those who wanted nursery music lessons, and who wanted piano lessons - wherever they lived. My motorbike and I became a moving kaleidoscope of ribbons, instruments, bubbles and puppets as I roared across the capital from one nursery group to another, to home tuition, to church halls; to children's centres, homes, schools and finally, to Music House for Children in West London where I cemented my vision of inclusive music for everyone.
I bought my teachers with me - an inspirational team of freelancers who formed a satellite workforce meeting, reaching and making a difference to thousands of children. Many remain in touch today, teaching music and continuing to ignite a great love of music to children around the world. Many became apprentices benefiting from our training courses to address the deficit in practical know-how and direct management of the different age groups.
Reflecting on my early training, I quickly realised that a degree, diploma or other academic study were all completely inadequate for teaching the real thing. No one told me how to approach a child running round in circles whilst we played instruments. Or, how to transfer screaming to singing, how to calm a post-natal mother during baby music and how to teach piano to a child standing on the stool. There was no advice on how to change intolerable staff behaviour during music lessons. Or how to respond to no-show of a pupil, address a last minute cancellation of whole nursery workshop or why a 3 year old should have three different piano teachers. Or even, how to address a barely dressed, lovestruck parent at a pupil's home.
This is real life. I learnt so much and loved it all.
My combined academic knowledge, practical experience,
and appreciation for the extraordinary diversity of demographic groups was ideal for in turn, supporting other music educators - many of whom were just out of college. My earliest training scheme started in my approach to recruitment. The carefully chosen questions I asked at interviews provided the all important clues to a teacher's entrenched belief in what, and how children should learn, the resources they
used and flexible approaches and skills applied.
I quickly provided opportunities for teachers and apprentices to be monitored during lessons so I could feedback on a practical level. By observing, I was also able to note how different institutions and families responded. I became a key part of the triangle that is now applied to our training courses - i.e. that teaching is a three way street involving the child, the key adult and the teacher. Yes, this is a nod to the brilliant Reggio Emelia approach and critical to all parties as we move into a much needed new chapter in our antiquated educational system. Since 2001, we have provided resources and practical courses in early childhood music. Now our online courses are available on Music House Courses. Have a look and get in touch! Masses more tips, nuggets and courses will be available as we move into our fourth decade.
Apprentices are the emerging super-power of businesses. If you are an apprentice, don't forget that. With your thirst for continued knowledge combined with hard work, humour, good manners (they are free!) and the ability to listen you deserve the very best a company has to offer. For all the companies considering apprenticeships, think ahead with these hard working youngsters in mind. Accepting a free workforce for freebie's sake is short-sighted, non-visionary, indicative of the top dog's business acumen and is frankly, mean.
What advice can I give to you wonderful apprenticeships out there? Don't just wait for your school, parent, college, job to tell you what's good for you! With your teaching, music or other professional passion in mind explore your options, investigate different companies and get in touch. In a time-short world, try to get out of social media and into the grass roots of what is tangible, sociable and real. Keep in touch with the uniqueness that makes up you and don't be afraid to make mistakes.
I remain hugely proud of all the teachers (nearly 1,000) that I have worked with.
Now, in 2024, I am incredibly proud of extending our apprenticeship opportunities to Burlington House 6th form students who can engage in a variety of musical experiences - from performance to teaching, sound and lighting, staging, marketing, promotion and composition. As a collaboration with @bushhallmusic and @nextdoorrecords we have been nominated for an Award with Spark Charity as best Work Experience Provider of the year. See you there!
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