The Sound and Music Summer School is my favourite teaching gig of the year. For six years now, I have led the Composing for Voices group, with 14-18 year olds composing for voice and instruments or a cappella voices, and am always excited to get on the train to Watford again with my merry band of musicians.
We encourage a wide range of influences – contemporary classical, theatre, leftfield pop, improvisation, folk – and it’s very much about trying to bring out and develop the students’ creative voices and help them express what they want to say. More than anything, we want our students to have the resources and confidence to try something new and daring within their own experience. They always surprise us! There have been some amazing pieces over the years – particularly memorable ones have included a spoken word piece about Facebook, a graphic score setting Spike Milligan, an interactive theatre piece based on every students’ first name. Not forgetting some beautiful, lyrical songs, and some very funny ones, especially if they were about ketchup or honey badgers… Anna Disley-Simpson’s experimental a cappella plus beatboxing piece for us was a winner in the 2014 BBC Proms Inspire Competition, and we have had National Youth Orchestra composers and other prize winners in our midst. That said, it is as much about giving less traditionally experienced students, who might be talented songwriters but have never written a note of music down before, the unique opportunity to work with us, and I find those moments just as rewarding. It’s been fabulous to see how some students have progressed from here, and lovely to stay in touch with some of them as they go to higher education and even collaborate on projects.
I also love hanging out with my own team of brilliant professional musicians and the entire, very talented teaching staff, letting our hair down at the end of the day with Watford’s best curry and some embarrassing dancing in the Purcell School hall to Future Garage. Yes!