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First things first -- We Don't Talk About Bruno presented by Tutti Music Academy is complete!! The students did such a brilliant job at helping me put this together and it was incredibly well received by the students, parents and audience at the presentation night. I was so proud of all my kids, and I hope you enjoy this video too! You'll find part two of this riveting series below the video.




PART TWO: THE START OF PEX2


PEX2 has been so rewarding and challenging so far. It started a bit rough in Week One, and I found that I really struggled with the difference between teaching primary and middle school students, especially year seven.


Year Seven is so similar to primary in many ways, you have to communicate so clearly with them and be sure to fully explain all instructions and concepts to ensure their understanding, but they have this growing need for both individuality and belonging and I found it so hard to approach this in my teaching. Teaching a group of students whose names I don't know was hard enough as I didn't know them and didn't know how to approach them as individuals, but because I couldn't help them with this students took their own measures to stand out as individuals. I found that the more I was able to get to know them and support them in this, the more students seemed to respond to my instructions and actually enjoy the lessons I was teaching because I was able to differentiate more and cater to each students personal needs.


They also have a very different attitude to music. My primary classes are designed to be largely focused around actively making music and learning theory through playing and discussing (teaching from behind your instrument style). In high school, the focus seems to be largely on starting with theory and writing (which does seem to calm students but doesn't seem to particularly interest them) and then finishing the lessons with 20 minutes of practical on whatever instrument they are learning that semester. Students in my PEX school were studying the orchestra for theory while learning keyboard for the practical component, but there was rarely any overlap in these aspects of music study, and little to no composition. The Stage 4 NSW Music Syllabus does encourage teachers to integrate these aspects in their classrooms, but I found it really difficult to do this within the program the school had designed. In their study of Morning Mood by Greig, I tried to have students move between playing the melody and listening to the melody, but in the set up of the school this is quite impractical, as the keyboards are located in a different room, and aren't set up in a particularly group 'friendly' way, and are certainly more suitable for individual work and practice.


I think this program could be improved if more keyboard friendly orchestral pieces were used for study that it would be easier to integrate theory and practical. In my first lesson I taught at the school, I tried to teach Haydn's Surprise Symphony to Year Seven using boomwhackers which didn't go well, as they didn't know me and were just a bit too excitable at holding giant whacking sticks. I think if I tried it again now that I know the classes and have a little more experience with them it would go over better, but the classes consistently struggle to stay focused with instruments in front of them. Both these pieces would be fantastic to plan integrated lessons around, however if I were to redesign the course, I'd change some of the other repertoire chosen to be more 'playable' by students.


In my own musical journey I've been inspired by my Popular Music Studies course and the amazing students here at my prac school to pick up bass guitar, and am continuing my tradition of buying instruments at the end of term and learning them over the holidays. I really love the bass guitar so far, and I found that in the Popular Music Studies course it just felt really good in my hands and was a really fun challenge. So I bought one from the Gladesville Guitar Factory (who are absolutely fantastic and have been amazing to work with over the past year or so - if you want a guitar go check out their website https://guitarfactory.net ) and have been spending the last few days teaching myself.


This was my first attempt at making music with my bass guitar and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, and I'm super excited to slowly improve over the next two weeks. Unfortunately, I was a bit too enthusiastic to start with, and my fingers are very blistered, so I'm taking a little break for the rest of the week to let my fingers heal, and then will be back at it! Enjoy this little clip and standby for instalment number 3: The Exhaustion of Miss Brereton.




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It's been hectic. Immensely enjoyable, challenging and fun, but very hectic and exhausting over the past few weeks. I've learned, sung and experienced so much and I feel that I'm becoming a better teacher and a better person every day.


PART ONE: THE END OF SEMESTER ONE

This semester was one of the most enjoyable and educationally rewarding ones I've had at the Conservatorium. I began the semester with PEX1 at Banksmeadow and ended it heading into my second round of PEX, now as an SLSO with the Department of Education, running primary music classes.


My first task as I approached the end of semester was to get through all my assessment tasks before starting on my first high school prac (spoiler alert: I did not.) I had a few (quite short) essays to write which didn't present much of a challenge, however I found it hard to motivate myself to write them when I had assessment tasks to complete that were a part of my current teaching and that my students were able to benefit from as well. I very quickly realised when beginning prac that the essays I'd written were very helpful to me. My Adolescent Psychology essay was incredibly helpful in helping me be more compassionate and understanding towards my students who seemed more 'difficult' in the classroom because they were going through certain stages or aspects of development, and my Teaching Jazz rationale on teaching improvisation in the classroom came in handy today when I reused the exact activity I'd written about with my Year 10 class. I'm really grateful to have these chances to reflect because I'm realising how much value and practical application all the courses I'm taking have (though it probably shouldn't have taken me this long to catch on!!)

However, the assignments I really enjoyed were the creative ones where I was able to make something and be musical! The concept of 'musicking' has really resonated deeply with me this semester and I think its such a vital part of the kind of music educator I want to be, which I think explains why I loved these assignments so much.

For Popular Music Studies, we were instructed to write, cover or remix a song of our choosing in a new style, and because I'm a lyric soprano with an unhealthy love of pop punk music, I decided I would ruin everyones favourite Killers song (Mr Brightside) by turning it into the sappiest pop ballad I could manage. AND IT WORKED!!! I was actually quite happy with the outcome, especially since this project (and my Bruno project) were the first things I'd ever recorded and mixed before. I'm hoping I can make a mini music video using some of the skills I learned in TechEd in the school holidays, but for now -- here is the recording!! Enjoy!



My Virtual Choir version of We Don't Talk About Bruno has been so fun and exhausting to put together, but my kids have been so excited to see it, and having them and their parents be so supportive of my project and my degree has made all the difference. All my students and their families were so lovely and did their very best to be flexible while I tried to figure out how I could do PEX and still fit everyone into my timetable which was wonderful, and I think the impact its having on my teaching during private tuition is really making a difference. One of my students were really struggling to engage with their singing lessons and seemed to be bored until they started writing their own songs and asked for my help in making chords, recording parts and writing new sections. The parents were so supportive of us continuing the lesson structure this way in writing and recording songs for the student and it was amazing to see the impact this small change had on the student and their engagement in their lessons.

The finished version of We Don't Talk About Bruno by the students of Tutti Music Academy will be available on instagram ( @tutti.music.academy ) and eventually here following its premiere at the Sydney Conservatorium on Thursday night (which my students are also very excited about!!) but here is a small snippet of the audio





My semester ended with my recital for Voice Four (which I was meant to complete in 2020 and then 2021... but better late than never). I can't say it was my best performance. This recital has been sitting in the back of my mind bugging me for nearly 2 years now and I just wanted to get it over with. I'm glad its over and I'm glad that I can finally move onto newer and harder pieces, but I do wish I'd been able to give more to this performance. I am excited to share a video of the progress I've made over the last two years... enjoy!




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  • Josephine Brereton

This week I struggled a lot with my work load and with some pretty severe burnout mid-week. With the end of semester coming up I’m finding myself inundated with assignments, essays and creative projects, as well as the start of two new programs with Sydney Philharmonic Choirs, my new job at Banksmeadow Public School and a five hour recording session on Tuesday with Laurence Pike for his upcoming album. While being an exhausting week, it was also incredibly rewarding and exciting to finally be a part of so many interesting projects, especially after COVID which took away many opportunities to perform and create with other people.



The recording session with Laurence Pike was my first opportunity to be a part of a professional recording, and was an awesome insight into what is required to create an album. Working with the composer, an unfamiliar conductor and a sound engineer was initially quite confronting but became quite logical and easy after the first hour of recording. We learned to work with click tracks, MIDI files played over headphones, even the difficulties of recording when working with both timestamps and bar numbers. It was a really interesting and eye opening experience in terms of sound mixing and balance as well, as even with balanced parts (in terms of numbers) we had to figure out how to achieve an even balance by manipulating tone and dynamics in our voices.



The music composed by Laurence Pike was beautiful and ethereal, but also dynamic as the haunting tones of the choir were contrasted by the accompaniment of drums and bells. I was fortunate enough to record a solo soprano line for the first track which was an amazing opportunity and I’m hoping I’ll be lucky enough to hear it again when the album is finally released.



I continued work on the ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ project my students and I have set upon. We completed recording (I think and hope) with all parts and students recording their own lines, checking their dynamics and timing and giving the okay on each section. The students listened to each chunk they recorded before reflecting on how it turned out on the computer before deciding to either re-record or move onto the next section. I really enjoyed that this task made my students listen a bit more critically to their voices, especially their timing and their dynamics to ensure we were recreating the original track in a way that was accurate, but also in a way that best represented their voices.

I’m finding the process of mixing the tracks incredibly difficult and challenging, but it is definitely helping me understand my students and their vocal needs/abilities much better. My next step will be to export the track from Soundtrap and begin to sync and edit all the videos as well so it can be presented.

I’m very excited about this project and I hope my students have found it as challenging and rewarding as I have!