A Year In The Life…

Reflection – My Music Teacher Year September 2018-July 2019

Those of you who have read my posts since January may have noticed a silent period between Easter and July. It’s always busy in my job, but some times of year are complex due to the number of things happening at once. My busiest times are Nov/Dec, mainly due to the annual Carol service at York Minster, and March to July as my Y11s complete coursework, my external work as an examiner kicks-in and final preparations for the summer production are full on. This year was busier than ever as there were 5 performance projects in the final 4 weeks of term, of which one was a 4-performance full production of Disney’s High School Musical.

In addition to the 672 students I’m responsible for every week, work with my amazing staff team, managing the 100s of individual music lessons and running rehearsals (at times, 9 per week), I try to focus my energy on investing as much time as possible in our young people, developing projects to support their learning. I also actively look for opportunities (like this one!) for sharing my practice to encourage other music teachers.

This week I’m away in the far north of Scotland resting and reflecting. I remember when I first started teaching, it was difficult to know what was coming in the calendar year. So as a guide, this is what happened, when, on top of the bog-standard contracted teacher stuff this year.

SEPT New GCSE Music Production Via Tech pathway begins

SEPT Performing Arts Leaders Applications & Auditions

SEPT Tune of the Week development for research begins

SEPT Open Night – MCO Live – 2 hour open orchestra rehearsal

OCT Spoke at National Music Ed conference

OCT Podcast for Youth Music

OCT Autumn Showcase Performances

NOV Presentation Evening

NOV Visiting primary schools to teach songs for York Minster

NOV Hope Community Choir recruitment and rehearsals

DEC York Minster Nine Lessons & Carols

DEC Senior Citizens’ Christmas Party

DEC Final Whole School Christmas Assembly

JAN Blog launched to help other teachers/schools

JAN Designs and Launch – KnowMusicShirts – clothing to highlight key musical understanding

JAN High School Musical Rehearsals begin

JAN London Les Mis Residential

FEB Final recordings for GCSE Music Coursework

FEB Meetings, rehearsals, and development for July’s Selby Abbey

FEB Videos produced and distributed to teach 4 songs to 120+ primary schools across the north of England

MAR iPad Music Competition

MAR Battle of the Bands York

MAR Development of choir tour to New York for 2020

APR Open ‘Voices’ choir Rehearsal with Archbishop of York, John Sentamu

APR Full Production & Release of “The Fight” (year 8 songwriting winner from 2018)

APR Ticket sales and promotions for HSM

APR ISM Conference at Birmingham Conservatoire

APR-JUNE GCSE Composition Examining

MAY MTA Conference at Bromsgrove School

MAY Photos & Programme design for HSM


JUNE “The Fight” Worldwide Release & Performance at York HubFest, NRM

JUNE High School Musical Production

JUNE Music leadership at Belfrey 9am begins

JULY Full Production performance for Y6 Transition students

JULY Service at Selby Abbey

JULY Y7-10 Presentation Evening

JULY Ultimate Showcase 2020 Launch & Survey

An epic year on many levels. Student confidence and independence in music seems stronger now, which I consider our greatest achievement. Fingers crossed for results as always. Next year…

1. hoping to understand challenges of music at KS2 more to hopefully encourage primaries to engage wholeheartedly in music with their young people. Our year 7s arrive from over 30 primaries and the range of prior experience is vast.

2. our performing arts leaders have been a real success – they’ve grown in so much confidence. Next we raise the bar, with cohort 1 leaders challenged to take leading roles in designing/managing the product of performance.

3. work/life balance – as much as I enjoy my work, next year I’m aiming to have a maximum of 2 extra projects in any month.

Out of Office… I’ll be back in September!! Time to re-create

The Story of “Performing Arts Leaders”

In the summer of 2018 we surveyed many groups of people across our community to gauge opinion on a range of factors relating to Manor Performing Arts. One aspect was the summer production.

The challenge is how we can have a summer performance event that has a positive impact on the learning and experience of the 672 students who currently study performing arts at Manor for 2 hours every week as well as the 100 or so others who no longer study music, dance or drama, but who love to take part in our events.

A single full production is a great project to do together, but there is always a restrictive limit in the number of parts available or indeed the space available to safely perform on the stage.

Many people in our survey wanted an opportunity for everybody to be involved, but equally many also wanted a single full musical theatre production. Therefore a decision was taken to produce a single full production every 2 years and an ‘Ultimate Summer Showcase’ every year in between, which would feature many performances from different productions.

For this year, we chose to present Disney’s High School Musical, involving 40 of our young people. As the number is such a low percentage of our performing arts population, we began to consider how those 40 could share their experience with the wider community and this was the start of ‘Performing Arts Leaders’. For this to be successful, we needed to find young people who are passionate about development in Performing Arts.

Students applied for this opportunity in the autumn term, initially in writing and then through 3 stages of music, dance and drama auditions. Students were applying to be a Performing Arts Leader, which in this academic year would also give them a role in High School Musical.

This was the criteria we challenged students to consider. We were looking for young people who:

– are ambitious about their learning in performing arts

– want to achieve at the highest level possible

– are ready to share what they learn with others

– are determined to find a solution, even when it seems impossible

– want to learn at every opportunity from specialists in performing arts

– are always looking for opportunities to encourage others

– want to be part of a team

– have 100% commitment to a project, attending all meetings, rehearsals and events with exceptional organisation and punctuality

Our Performing Arts Leaders are an incredible, inspiring, encouraging group of people. They go above and beyond in everything they do. They make a genuine positive difference to the people they work with. They are like a family.


What’s next…

Summer 2020’s production will be an ‘Ultimate Showcase’ featuring:

Manor young Musician of the Year

Manor young Dancer of the Year

Manor young Actor of the Year

12-15 full production performances of ultimate performance choices from our community. These could be from: musical theatre, pop music, film, dance or anything else

Collaborations between dance, drama and music

Specific performances for KS3 and Ks4 students

Performing Arts Leaders’ Performance

Live music tech performance

Live multi-art performance

There will be 3 identical performance nights at Manor as well as a performance in the centre of York as part of the York HubFest 2020 Festival.

Performing Arts Leaders 2018/19 will be invited to continue as leaders for 2019/20, however the responsibility will be greater in 19/20 to include:

– Taking co-responsibility with staff for the design and delivery of performances

– Leading rehearsals and encouraging peers and younger students

– Taking a leading solo role in the showcase as part of a larger company

Students not wishing to continue as leaders may still partake in the showcase not as a leader, but they must confirm their plans to the PA staff by the end of the summer term.

In the autumn term students will have the opportunity to apply to be a performing arts leader if not in the 2018/19 cohort.

The planning and development team for Showcase 2020 will be led by a team consisting of performing arts staff and selected performing arts student leaders.

The impact of Performing Arts Leaders through High School Musical has been significant. Many of the 40 young people have had a life-changing experience. These 40 have already begun to disseminate ‘best practice’ across the academy. The ambition for 2020 is to give as many young people as possible the opportunity to experience a public performance in performing arts as well as then taking our show into the city to encourage many young people across the city.


July 2019 – students, teachers, parents and friends reflect on, and share their ultimate performance art performance through an online survey.

September – December 2019 – new Performing Arts Leaders recruited. Leaders team confirm the show items. Whole student community given opportunity to sign up for specific items – no audition required. The commitment for rehearsals will not be year-long. Each item will come with a 10-12 week commitment.

Before January 2020, the focus will very much be on the York Minster Carol and autumn performances, as well as GCSE coursework development.

January to June 2020 – rehearsals, preparations for each item.

June 2020 – showcase at manor and in York

iPad Music Competition – Results

Many congratulations to all young people across the country who have begun to discover the joy of creating music on an iPad.

Our 2019 iPad Music competition has now ended.

Congratulations to our winners who each received a £25 Apple App Store Voucher, a copy of “How to Write Great Music: Understanding the Process from Blank Page to Final Product”, and a hoodie of their choice from KnowMusicShirts.

Y7: Harvey Wood

Y8: Hollis Lansford for “Dark Matter”

Y9: Lucas Farnier for “Fearless Warriors”

Enjoy their original music creations in the video below.