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My Thoughts After Presenting Queensland Summer Flute Workshop 2012

I recently presented at the 1st Queensland Summer Flute Workshop with Dr. Karen Lonsdale in Brisbane.  The 4-day Workshop was designed for teachers and advanced flute students (from Gr.7 upwards), sessions included masterclasses, recitals, technique, style, history and exam related topics presented by Karen, and aural, theory, analysis and general knowledge topics were presented by me.

Participants’ standards varied from Gr.7 – L.Mus (Flute) with Gr.2 – 5 (Theory) background.  This is somewhat a reality hit to me, in that the students are really just doing the bare minimum in theory in order to get their certificates.  Some of you may think, “well, what’s wrong with that”!  But I know some of you will agree with me when I say that the theoretical content in a Gr.3 theory exam is NOT sufficient for Gr.7 practical exams. 

Aside from the background knowledge and stylistic characteristics, which are somewhat ‘piece-specific’, students doing practical exams are also required to demonstrate knowledge on meter, form, keys, harmony, cadence and modulations.  Yes, students should have knowledge on these elements from lower grades, but when they have reached Gr.7 and higher, are we still expected to spoon-feed these information to them (to memorise for exam’s-sake), or can they be expected to work it out for themselves?  And, do students doing the minimal requirement of Gr.2 or 3 theory exam have acquired the necessary knowledge and skills to apply to their Gr.7 repertoire?

In the 4-day workshop, about 5 hours was designated to keys, time signature, meter, modulation, form, genre and Baroque dances.  After these 5 hours, participants were able to distinguish between about 8 different forms and 10 Baroque dances and analyse form and work out modulations on ‘blind’ music given to them.

Wouldn’t it be nice if students develop these skills alongside their practical skills?  For me, practical (technique) – theory – aural – visual are on the equilibrium, these skills compliment and support each other and should be developed simultaneously. 

So, do we as teachers, teach students according to the exam structure and requirements, or can we ask ourselves to take the extra step and teach what the students need in order to become better musicians?

We applaud the students who came to the workshops and the teachers who recognise the importance of this workshop and either sent their students along or came themselves.  We were extremely happy with the positive feedback from the participants and pleased to learn that they have all taken something away from the workshop, some more than others!    

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