Music Outreach at Collingwood College
I remember it being my second day at Collingwood, and receiving an email, asking for musical volunteers to help out at a local primary school. Without really another thought, I had got in touch with Indre, our Student Experience Officer, and had signed up to visiting Burnside Academy every Friday afternoon for five weeks, to teach a class of Year Six pupils ‘Do they know it’s Christmas’, prepping for a recording session in the brand-new Mark Hillery Music Studios on-site at college. I am a singer myself; I enjoy taking part in concerts and music evenings, musical theatre productions, and I have previously helped out with tutoring children, but never had I taken control of teaching a whole class!
Sharing the festive fun
I met my project partner, Sarah, who was full of so many incredible ideas of fun games and activities to keep the children engaged – we definitely all had fun doing vocal warmups, but for me, and I know for the rest of the team as well, the best game was by far the Christmas actions game, which became a firm favourite. We were all a little apprehensive at first, but soon discovered that we had nothing to worry about – we quickly got to know the class, and them us. They were so enthusiastic! It made the experience so enjoyable, and I would get back on a Friday afternoon smiling at how much fun I knew that they had had.
Finding their voices
It did not take them long to find their voices, but we began teaching the song in small sections, the chorus, verse by verse, adding on a little more each week. We thought it equally important to make them aware of the meanings behind the lyrics, since it is such a powerful and emotive song, and will go down in history as one of the most influential Christmas songs of all time. Of course, we gave them some background too about who we were and Collingwood – there are now about twenty eleven-year-olds who have their dreams set on becoming part of the Collingwood community, considering their curiosity!
As the recording day got nearer, the actions added to the game became greater in number, and the singing became louder and more confident. By 28th November, there was a group of happy faces singing their hearts out, in Santa hats, tinsel, even flashing lights, and having the most wonderful time. Over the course of a few takes, we captured some fantastic vocals (including a few solos and duets), dance moves and even instrument playing. And after lunch, what could have been better than an afternoon of musical chairs, statues, and bumps in the theatre?
If the kids got as much out of the experience as I did, then it will be something they will forever have fond memories of, it seems unthinkable that I will not get the chance to see them again before they join their secondary schools next year. It’s amazing how, in the space of a few hours total, you find you have made these small friendships, their supportive teacher was only saying on the recording day how attached they had become to Sarah and I, and how much they valued our visits. Not only was it so enjoyable for me, I learnt how to present myself in front of and engage a whole class, as well as teach music, none of which I had ever done before. Although nervous at first, I can safely say that I am now confident with handling a class of children, and this I would not have been able to do without the incredible talent and help of Sarah, who seemed to be a natural at this already, I am grateful for how much I have taken onboard from her.
Thanks to all involved
Thank you to Indre and the team for organising this opportunity, my co-teacher Sarah and of course the Year 6 class at Burnside. I hope they can go home this Christmas with fond memories of their Friday afternoons, and a pop-star-style music video of ‘Do They Know Its Christmas’ to accompany them.
Listen to/watch the special version of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’
Read more about the project here.