THE MUSIC COURSE INITIATIVE
Robin Harrison decided to take his many years of experience as a Director of Music and combine this with the significant increase in digital learning during the pandemic to create an online music learning platform. It became more than this, it became a passion to hone in his theories on excellent pedagogy and his recent inclusion in a Routledge 2021 publication, “The Routledge Companion to Aural Skills Pedagogy, Before, In and Beyond Higher Education”, having spoken at the first ever Aural Training Symposium at the Royal Academy of Music in 2017. Furthermore, he was engaged by the Royal College of Organists to deliver their first ever series of online diploma level aural webinars.
HOW TO PRESENT THE MUSIC COURSES
The Medium of Communication It rapidly came apparent to Robin that the modern digital age meant that not only are people more conducive to learning online, at their own pace, in their own homes, but that learning about sound through printed text is illogical and outdated. He explored the range of enhanced PDF options and discovered that he could create online ‘magazines’ that would be full of informative tutorial text and embedded short bite-size videos of him teaching each aspect on each page.
DELIVERING A DIFFERENT COURSE PEDAGOGY
The Pedagogy and Resources The platform, known as “The Maestro Online”, focuses on 4 distinct areas: Piano, Organ, Singing and Aural/Musicianship. All courses focus on ‘core skills’ rather than learning complete pieces of music by copying videos. In each case, short ‘snippets’ of renowned melodies engage the learner from the outset.
PIANO COURSES AND ORGAN COURSES
Piano and organ teaching, Kodàly inspired, begins with the sound first, learning the ‘snippet’ via solfege, then plays it on the black keys (better hand shape and black key patterns are how we identify white-note letters) in many different keys (transposition from the outset encourages the concept of key and intervallic awareness), adds chords, creates counterpoint and then leads to improvisation. From here reading in several keys is introduced quite readily, followed by sight-reading using deconstructed elements of the melody/rhythm, rearranged. Reading and sight-reading are both taught via ‘guided videos’ through the ‘hand-stave’ and ‘flying solo’.
SINGING COURSES, AURAL COURSES, MUSICIANSHIP COURSES
Singing, Aural and Musicianship The short snippets allow an excellent route into sight-singing (some specifically connected with ABRSM criteria) and even to diploma level when examining harmonies (yes, augmented 6ths are included!), modulations and inversions. The pentatonic scale allows for Pop Vocals courses teaching ornaments for pop songs, creating a work-out, application to Katy Perry’s Roar, breaking down Beyoncé runs, and connecting with Avicii’s Hey Brother.