Read the Episode with Grant Ward, Part 2

Introduction

Here is the Crescendo Music Education Podcast – Episode 71. Hello, I’m Debbie O’Shea and welcome to part two of my podcast chat with Grant Ward. You’ll hear more about his music, his nuggets of fabulous are quite surprising but very, very important. And I loved having a chat to him around music advocacy. Enjoy part two of my chat with Grant Ward.

About ‘Read the Episode’: Sometimes, we would rather skim visually than listen to a podcast! That’s a great way to learn too!
The transcript of episode 071 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.


Grant Ward’s Nuggets of Fabulous

Debbie
Okay, we are up to nuggets of fabulous. Do you have any tips, tricks, ideas, repertoire, even your favourite repertoire? I know I’ve banged on about Morning Star, because it’s my favourite, which shows I have to go listen to some more. But you might have a favourite of yours, you could share with us, or any ideas that might interest my listeners who are all music educators.


The Importance of Rhythm & Movement

Grant Ward
This is probably going to sound very simplistic, but in all of my time teaching and then in the role that I have at the moment, which is very much about supporting other teachers, I just always come back to how important the beat is. It sounds incredibly simple. But everything relates to the beat. And so when I am seeing a group of children learning something, and maybe they’re struggling a bit with how to feel the music or how the rhythms fit in, and they’re sitting still, I think, Why? Why?

So I think the beat is the framework, it’s the way that we as adult musicians, I think we sometimes forget that internally, we have that beat happening, whatever it is that we’re either listening to, singing, teaching, whatever, it’s there, and everything is referenced around that.

Even if you’re singing a super lyrical piece, and it’s got a super long note at the end, like four semibreves tied, and it’s a writ and there’s a pause, you’re still relating that to the beat. You’re still thinking, Okay, you’re hearing that pulse slow down in your mind, you’re getting to the pause, and then you’re waiting for the conductor to cut it off, or for you to finish it or whatever. You’re trying for a effect of no beat I guess, some pieces are like that too. It still refers to the beat. And we still refer to that.

So I just think in all my choir work, and then when I was working in schools, I just loved to get everybody up, get everybody moving, get them feeling it in their bodies, get them using instruments, even if it’s choir, pass around the rhythm sticks or something and get them to feel the beat because it is a very natural thing that I think we unlearn because we don’t do it. And we’re not encouraged to do it. You know, we’re very encouraged to sort of sit, sit and not feel the beat in our bodies. And I think it’s so important.

So I don’t even know, some people will be probably going well yeah, of course. I know that I see so often teaching where people are still. And I think it’s just so important that we’re teaching people to feel the music in their bodies and to have that framework. It’s just so much a part of, I mean, even if you’re doing a crescendo, you’re relating it to the beats of the bar, how that’s going to develop over over however many bars the crescendo is or whatever, it’s all that. It’s that framework. So I think, I don’t know if that’s very wise.


Debbie
I think it’s very wise.


Grant Ward
It’s what comes to my mind. It’s simple.


Debbie
Yes, but I think vital and essential, and I think that we see how something like that can be overlooked and I even see it sometimes in primary classrooms. It’s let your kids move, they need to feel that. But it’s vital in the whole pedagogical process. You need to hear, you need to feel, you need to see, then write, like it’s the end. We’re not just doing theory the feel is essential.


Grant Ward
Oh, no, no.


Debbie
The feel is essential you know, and I love that relating it back to the beat. No, that’s an absolute nugget. Love it. I’m not sure what sort of situation you’re in at the moment and how much you see around you the deterioration or degradation of music programs. But certainly, in my experience, we’re seeing this happen, that music education is not being as valued as it should be, because we know how powerful it is on so many levels.

So it’s just become a bit of a thing. I think it’s actually my mission in life, this whole music education advocacy. So have you seen much need for it in your situations where you find yourself? And if you do, what sort of sort of advice would you give us in fighting for our music programs to be prominent and important?


Grant Ward’s Views on Music Advocacy

Grant Ward
I’m trying to think when I actually stopped teaching in schools, I think it was about 2014. Even then you could see this kind of decline happening, well in Melbourne anyway, of just cut, well we don’t really need that, let’s cut that, cut that bit. On the bigger scale of just music in society oh it almost makes me cry whenever I’m at a birthday and people sing Happy Birthday.

And I think nobody can sing anymore. Unless, you know, you’re with a group of your musician friends or something. But if it’s just the general public, and I think it’s, people finding the key, and then people singing together, and all that octave jump. I often use that in auditions, because I think it really separates them out. Like, you got the octave.


Debbie
Yes, I have two audition songs, I have a Happy Birthday and I do the beginning of the national anthem (hums notes). I just need those notes and I’ve got an idea.


Grant Ward
It gives you a really good idea, doesn’t it? Yeah, but I think and to me, that is a result of not having music in education. That’s a big part of it. I mean, the other side of it is we don’t really sing in public much anymore. If I think back to when I was a kid, or when my parents were kids. You know, most people would go to church, for example, and you’d sing every week in church, or there’d be lots of community situations where you would sing, but it’s so much less now that it’s not natural for people to sing.

So I think, not only do people sing less, but they feel self conscious about singing as well, it’s not a natural thing for a lot of people to do. But all you have to do is look at a little baby and a little toddler and see how natural it actually is. And in some ways that makes it even sadder. Because obviously they’re unlearning something that’s very natural for them to do and becoming self conscious about something that is a very natural thing to do as well.

This is talking about pre-2015 but whenever I started in a new school, I would always advocate for year level singing, where we’d have half an hour, every week in addition to having a music class or whatever, just half an hour every week. So all the year fives come and then all the year fours come and we just sing. And we just build up a group of songs that we know, no agenda to perform it or anything and ask the kids what are you listening to at the moment?

Is there anything you’d like to sing, you know, that kind of thing, just get that love of singing, and the naturalness of singing together back. And I found that really not just great in terms of musically, but it was great for the school. Because we know music brings us together and this idea of all of five year five classes coming together and all the teachers are sitting up the back.

And you know, we put some silly actions to it or something and everyone’s jumping up and having a good time. And you know, even just that aspect of it was so great as well. Even though I’m a pianist, really, I think singing is just so, so important. Because it comes from us, you’ve got it with you all the time. It’s not anything external. And I think to encourage that, and to have that.

And we have so many studies, like we’ve got studies coming out of our ears about how good music is and how beneficial it is and how it helps people do better at maths and I could probably go on forever about all the studies that there are. So it’s not like we haven’t got evidence, but I think it’s about getting people on board. And I know that doing that year level thing. Often at the beginning it would be met with resistance and it’s like, oh, that’s half an hour out of our time but without exception, people were on board with it once they had experienced it and seen the benefits of it.

And that’s just something really super, super simple is just like getting them all together and let’s have a sing. Yeah, I think it’s quite frustrating. And it’s interesting even in AGC, for example, we’ve got girls all the way from Prep to Year 12, to see them come in, and you can so tell who’s got music in their school, we can pretty much tell within a week or two of having them who’s already had or having other experiences, and who is this the first thing for them? You know, it’s very obvious in that regard as well.

But I think it’s also about, and I know this might be a controversial thing to say. But I think it’s also as music educators letting go of that idea that we are training up musicians, or we’re training up people to go into the profession of music, I think sometimes we do get a bit stuck on that. And I think it reminds me music education, in its best form, reminds me of almost like Victorian times when people would sort of get a good education, so they would learn the piano, they would learn a language, they would learn to paint and it’s all part of kind of rounding them as a person, or as a well rounded person, and a person who is able to express themselves, who’s able to work well in social interactions and work with other people.

And it’s like it’s all of this kind of peripheral, I guess, benefit more than, not peripheral, that’s not really the right word. But the wide reaching benefits of being involved in music, but yeah, I don’t really have any more magical ideas as to how we do this. But I just think it’s so sad. I mean, there’s many schools in Melbourne that don’t have music at all so unless the class teacher is doing something with them, and they don’t sing in assembly, they’ll have a whole assembly with no singing, you know, and so they’re just not getting it. I think it’s really sad. So I don’t know how we bridge that gap of like, Hey, people we have got all this evidence why it’s good.


Debbie
I hear you. I hear you. And I agree – I agree. 100%. Obviously, all my listeners do too, I’m sure. And that is the difficulty. We know of the cognitive, social and emotional benefits and like, it’s why I’m in the job. If I happen to be part of the journey of some professional musicians, yeah that’s great but that’s not what my job is.

My job is developing that whole little person, just like you have said, that’s exactly what our job is. So it’s just a matter of getting that message through to the people who make decisions. You know, and I think we can get on board campaigns, like Music for Every Child Every Week is a campaign that I’m very involved in up here in Queensland, and working with the Tony Foundation nationally, and just getting in people’s ears as much as we can. I do like the idea of year level singing, if you can wrench that bit of time away from the classroom.


Grant Ward
Yes.


Debbie
Because that’s getting harder.


Grant Ward
If you can’t get half an hour, like 15 minutes even.


Debbie
Yes it’s getting harder and harder, I mean, gone are the days when I could have a Music Aviva incursion, or heaven forbid we get a bus and go to see QSO or, like, you know, to have that time now is so hard because we’ve got to do all the important things. And I think, goodness gracious.


Grant Ward
Look the number of times as well working in a school, you know, sitting in the staff room at lunchtime or something and you’ll just happen to mention something about a kid that did this amazing thing in your class and their class teacher will say that kid, you’re kidding they’re just like so unengaged all the time in my class and they’re hopeless at this and they can’t do that.

They’re probably one of the stars in my class but then that idea of like that, surely, you know, we talk so much about the whole child and working to their strengths, giving them opportunities to be able to show themselves and children with learning difficulties as well. And all of this kind of spectrum of things that’s happening in terms of the way people learn by taking music or by taking the arts out of the equation.

You cutting all these kids out from being able to do well, being able to excel. That’s just one. One aspect, you know of it that I can’t count how many times that’s happened to me working in a school where, because they just need that creative outlet, or they just really associate with this idea of using their voice or whatever it is that they do that they’re not able to do anywhere else in the school week. And then they’re like, they’re so relieved. And so they’re just totally engaged and they excel and anyway. Yeah.


Debbie
Well, what we do, we really, really are important. We just have to convince. What we do is, I shouldn’t say we are important. Oh, well, we are. But what I mean is what we do is really important.


Grant Ward
Yes.


Debbie
We have to convince the people that make the decisions don’t we. I have really, really, really enjoyed talking to you, Grant. It’s amazing. And it’s great that we finally, even though it’s via zoom, have actually got to meet via zoom. And I hope we’ll meet in real life one day soon. But before we go, I’d like to give you an opportunity to get on your soapbox.


Grant Ward
I think I’ve already done that.


Debbie
You’ve just spent an hour on your soapbox. I love it. So I’m sharing your soapbox, because you’re saying all the all the things that I agree with. And I think all the listeners are too. They’re going Yeah. Do you want to leave us with just a couple of profound words?


Grant Ward’s Soapbox

Grant Ward
We’ll I’ve got quite a few soapboxes, actually. So if you want another soapbox I’ve probably got quite a few. One that comes to my mind thinking of primary music, or not just primary music, but I guess that’s where I’ve had most of my classroom experience anyway, is the role of technology in the music classroom. I may be, again, I don’t know if this is an unpopular opinion.

But I know that I often found myself in classes, in schools being encouraged, pushed to use technology in my classroom, I have nothing against technology at all I think it’s amazing. I think there’s so many amazing things you can do with music. However, if I’m going to see that class for 40 minutes a week, I don’t want them sitting in front of a computer, I want them getting the instruments out, I want them banging, I want them singing, I want them dancing, I want them experiencing music, like we were talking about before, in their bodies.

And I can remember in one particular staff meeting, when I was feeling pushed to do this, I said what would be a really interesting thing to do would be to pick one child, lets say, pick someone from year 2. Let’s just follow them around for a day and see what they do. Because I said, unfortunately, what we do, especially as you know, we have our various specialists, like art specialists or music specialist, whatever, the class teacher, then they do PE or whatever they do, we’re all kind of working a little bit in our own thing.

And if we follow how many times is that year kid going to get out a laptop or get out an iPad in a day, because we’re all thinking, Ooh, we should use technology. Then it was really interesting to, nobody really wanted to do it but I thought I’m going to do that just from my own interest. And it was like, well, in Italian they’re using the apps and they’re doing all this thing in Italian for their literacy. They’re using a computer for numeracy, they’re using the interactive whiteboard.

So through the day, they were on a device more than they were not on a device. I just think, sure there’s lots of fun things we can do on devices in music. But if that’s the only time I’ve got with them, I want to get the instruments out, I want to bang, I want to sing, I want to jump, I want to move around, I want to feel. I want to give them experiences that they don’t otherwise get, they’ll probably go home and go on their computer for ages as well. So I’m not really offering them anything different. I’m sure that if you just said the name of the music app, they could go home and work it out themselves anyway.


Debbie
In fact they’d be better than you at it within like five minutes.


Grant Ward
Yeah, I don’t have much to offer. But what I do have to offer is giving them that experience of immersing them in the music, so that then they can take that. And then maybe later in their teenage years or when they go home after school, whatever they use that in their creation of something that’s using technology, but I really feel like we need to, I don’t know what it’s like at the moment, but I feel like we could almost ditch it. That’s what I feel like.


Debbie
Thank you. Okay. I will say, apologies to all those people who are very into their technology. I’m agreeing with you. I have my children for 30 minutes a week, and in year five I do a little, I don’t like using the word unit because I don’t do units, but I’m about to do a little thing where they do bring in their iPads.

And we’re going to do The Lion Sleeps Tonight in GarageBand, they have to sing it in, they have to put in the guitar chords and a percussion track. And that’s sort of about it. But then some of them will take that away and do it. But even that I could really do without because I’ve only got them for 30 minutes. By the time we’ve played a singing game, we’ve grabbed some instruments, we’ve done a rhythmic activity we’ve like listened to something, like 30 minutes.


Grant Ward
It’s not long at all is it.


Debbie
And honestly, I really do mean it when I say they will be better than us. So if for the last three minutes, I put incredibox on the screen and we drag the little things and they go that’s fun. I go, Yes, I gave up three minutes of my lesson to do that. Yeah. And then they will go away and play with it, then I’ve said it exists off you go. I don’t have time to do lots of that stuff. I think it would be very different if I had them for a lot longer, and I would probably allow that time.


Grant Ward
Yes, of course.


Debbie
Our time is really precious so I’m agreeing with you 100%. I like your soapbox. Ah, well, Grant, it’s been amazing talking to you. And we will put all of your details in the show notes. Do want to tell everyone what your website is, in case they can’t be bothered looking at the show notes.


Grant Ward
Sure. It’s just seize the tune, like seize the day, but seizethetune.com. That’s it.


The Inspiration Behind ‘Seize the Tune’

Debbie
So tell me, I know, I’ve already wrapped up and now I’m asking you another question. Seize the tune, what was your inspiration for the name?


Grant Ward
I just really liked the phrase seize the day. I just really liked that phrase Carpe Diem and seize the day and all that and I just kind of thought, I’ll seize the tune. It’s not a particularly fantastic idea but to be honest, I think I was at the point of needing to do a website and I had to come up with a name and I kind of came up with that name. And I’ve just kept it. But um, yeah, it’s it’s very much from seize the day.


Debbie
I like that because I think that’s what we do. As music educators, composers, you’ve got to seize the tune, you’ve got to make the most of your opportunities, and just jump. Do it.


Grant Ward
Do it.


Debbie
Thank you again. Bye.


Grant Ward
Thanks Debbie.


Sign-Off

Thank you for joining me for this podcast. Don’t forget that you’ll find the show notes on crescendo.com.au/71. Also, you can find the transcripts there. So you’ve got all of the detail that you need. If you’ve found this podcast useful, I’d really love it if you share the link with a colleague. Remember all I can be is the best version of me. All you can do is be the best you. We’ll meet again. I hope we will. Bye.


Just for Laughs

As we know laughter relieves stress. Don’t lose sight of the funny side of life.

My fear of moving stairs is really escalating.


Links Mentioned in the Episode:

Grant Ward’s Website: Seize the Tune

Together Sing with Debbie

Where to find me:

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