“Sometimes music is the only medicine, the heart and soul need”

At Kingswood, the Arts are an integral part of Kingswood College life. Music, Art and Drama provide spaces where our pupils are able to build their confidence, to express themselves and to develop into innovative and open-minded people.

As South Africa has recently passed the 100 days of lockdown mark, we are not yet in a place where we are able to return to the life we knew before. A long road still lies ahead and in the Music School our teachers and pupils have had to find new ways of connecting with each other to teach and practise music.

Over the course of the last term, a new journey has begun to unfold in our Music School. Although change is both daunting and challenging, our teachers and our pupils have found this new way of doings things not only to be rewarding, but also fun.

Teaching Music is by nature very practical and hands-on, so doing it virtually has not been an easy feat. Our Music School moved toward online teaching quite early on in the lockdown period and in some cases where pupils were unable to take their instruments home, have even managed to locate an instrument in the pupils’ area for them to utilise while they are learning from home. Pupils that have returned to school have also continued with virtual lessons and have even, in some cases managed to see their teachers (1.5 metres away of course) to catch up and reconnect in person.

The online learning platform that our teachers have been using is called Tonara. This app allows you to create an online studio; provides one with the ability to load weekly assignments which need to be practised and it also creates a fun leader-board challenge which reward pupils with points when they complete their tasks. This app has been instrumental (no pun intended) in allowing us to continue to teach our pupils.

One often underestimates and takes for granted the facilities we have at our fingertips at Kingswood, and this time has really made us appreciate our Music School so much more, and we now, more than ever, realise the power of face-to-face teaching and human interaction with our pupils.

To be able to explain new notes and the correct fingering on a brass or woodwind instrument has been tricky. The quality of sound produced via an online platform is also not always true to what is happening in the actual space and sound delay due to a poor connection is a very real challenge for our teachers and pupils.

However, our teachers and pupils have accepted these obstacles, and despite them have continued to push ahead, to teach, to inspire and to continue doing what they love most: play music.

While the road ahead is still unknown, our teachers are ready for the challenges that lie ahead, and will adapt and change as needs change along with them.

The willingness of our music pupils has been remarkable and we look forward to seeing them making even more progress, and hopefully soon, having them back filling our Music School with melodies, scales, and beautiful music.

Here are some reflections from the music teachers: 

“Despite the various challenges, most of my pupils have adapted very well to this futuristic way of teaching! The leader-board practice challenge has particularly motivated the junior pupils. I decided to sponsor prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place and the musicians are competing seriously for these prizes. More importantly, though, they are starting to grasp the benefit of continuous effort.” Jenny Brand (Woodwind)

“I mainly teach the younger children in the Prep Department. The best for me is that online teaching has made our parents more involved in such a beautiful hands-on way, going as far as learning to tune violins! The down side to this way of teaching is that I can’t touch and fix posture problems myself. Nonetheless, the fact that we’ve kept playing music regularly is phenomenal.” Susan Kunju (Violin)

“My biggest challenge is the lack of a consistent, reliable internet connection with the children! But we make it work – and I am so proud of their hard work” Annali Smith (Piano and Flute)

“I have found that this way of teaching quite difficult and new. It took a while to adjust to the new platform. There were many giggles in the first lessons as we all got used to the ‘new normal’. As a teacher, I have been so aware and impressed by how quickly the pupils have adapted to it, and how they have been made to think like a musician. This includes the younger children in Grade 4, who had only had 5 lessons before lockdown, to matric pupils, who are preparing for Trinity College (London) Grade 8 practical exams. This process has also taught me a lot about my own teaching, and, in some ways, this platform has maybe motivated some of our musicians more too. For me it has really been more ‘silver lining’ than ‘dark cloud’.” Nici Coleman (Brass)

From our musicians: 

“It is very nice being able to continue having lessons with Mrs Coleman even though it is harder over the internet. I am glad we have the opportunity to do this though!” Joshua M (trumpet)

“I think it’s so important to carry on doing the things we love most during these stressful times. Music is our great escape and our greatest adventures, music has not only made life bearable, but made it worthwhile and enjoyable.” Faith (piano)

“It was very hard to get used to at first, but I think I’m getting better by the week. A jarring change of habit, since we were never acclimatised to it, but a welcome one at that.” Tawanda (clarinet)

“Online music lessons have been continuing exactly the same way in which normal music lessons would. I am really enjoying them, and I find that I am practising my instrument more and getting better a lot faster than I do when I’m back to normal school.” Tricia (horn)

“Online music is very different and can sometimes be a challenge, but we cannot change that. I do hope that we can get back into the Music School soon, I am really missing being in Band and the music.” Aimee (piano)

“As much as it’s really nice to just roll out of bed and head over to my piano at home for my lesson, I really am missing being in the actual class, especially seeing my teacher and her face, as I mess up my scales for the fourth time! Online lessons have been working well but I am still counting down the days till I can go back!” Catherine W (piano)