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21st October 2017

Glasgow Caledonia University
Glasgow


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Springboard Summer School 2017

The theme for this year's Summer School was "Springboard". Our emphasis was on encouraging our students to aim higher in their quest for knowledge, to aim higher in their performance in the competition arena and to aim higher in improving their playing skills. The Summer School took place between 31st July and 4th August in our preferred venue of Glasgow Gaelic School. Our summer School Principal, John Nevans, assembled the students on Monday morning and laid out our plans for the week including expectations for the Friday performance. We start by finding out the capabilities of everyone and identify what we need to do to help our students reach the next level in their knowledge and playing skills development. We jointly agree targets, which the students then strive to meet. We take direction from the syllabus at the various levels of the Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board, with each group identifying their particular stage in the education pathway and aiming to achieve at the next level.

We also look at the competition grades in which these students are currently competing or would be competing, and identify the support required to raise competition standards. This allows the teaching staff to consolidate the learning achieved and begin the student's preparation to challenge themselves in their knowledge of theory and performance.

Music School - Teaching the Grade One Pipers of Tomorrow

Tutors - John Nevans, Keith Bowes Snr, John Campbell, Josh Fraser, Keith Bowes Jnr

We had three different levels of piping ability within this year's school. The first level was a mix of ability with some students playing the practice chanter and some who had recently moved to playing pipes. We focused on the fundamental rules of music structure and the use of technical elements that support the accents of the time signature.

The students chose "Teribus" and "Mhairi's Wedding" and went through a series of exercises required to perform them. The challenging element for this group was for those who could play a simple march, strathspey and reel. The group chose "Donald MacLean's Farewell to Oban", "Molly Connell" and "Miss Girdle". This provided the students with two new idioms in the strathspey and reel, and a challenge to which they rose with aplomb.

Group two were more established pipers, who were familiar with the two parted marches used in Novice Juvenile and Grade 4B and the simple strathspeys and reels of Grade 4A. The challenge for this group was to look at two larger marches of a more complex structure. The students chose "Men of Argyll" and "Donald MacLean's Farewell to Oban". The group worked with the same strathspey and reel as group one and at our end of school performance on Friday, both groups came together to perform. "Men of Argyll" was delivered with a clear, well defined aggression suited to its title. The students were a credit to their own tutors and to our Summer School tutors who harnessed their abilities to produce an exciting march.

While all of these things are being done, there is constant attention to the theory behind the practical performance. Lessons are delivered on rhythm, melody and harmony, with sessions on written music and piobaireachd thrown in for good measure.

An essential part of the Summer School is to expose the students to the upper echelons of the Pipe Band World and this year we were hosted by Johnstone Pipe Band on Wednesday night and the Glasgow Skye Association Pipe Band on Thursday night. Both occasions were well received by the students and added to their own sense of ambition.

The final group of students were those who had identified as playing a full range of idioms and who were equivalent to SCQF levels four to six. This group was the first to be presented with a new curriculum which uses the knowledge gained at these levels and members were set a target early, in the week, of learning and interpreting the ground of a piobaireachd, to compose two pieces of music, and learn and perform a round reel as a set of "Tag" reels on Friday morning.

The piobaireachd was the ground of MacIntosh's Banner. Using listening and reading skills, the students identified the theme notes and phrases and produced an effective presentation, demonstrating the place of the banner in clan life whilst using their knowledge of chord structures to emphasise the elements of the tune.

The compositions resulted in a four-parted 2/4 March, as yet "Untitled" written by Paul Christie and Peter MacEwan and a slow air going by the name of "The Flittin" composed by Emma Rafferty, Amy Kennedy and Harvey Rose. Both of these compositions can be found at the end of this report. A word of commendation for Ruaridh Buchan who wrote harmonies for the piobaireachd ground and for "The Flittin'".

By far the greatest challenge was to learn and perform a two-parted round reel to play in the "Tag" format. As a test of the student's sight-reading skills they were each allowed to pick from a group of two parted round reels which they would play using a link through another common reel. This put a great pressure onto each student as they were playing in a team and had to maintain the flow of the tunes by performing each tune in strict time and style. In the end, they delivered a bright and musical end to the Friday concert.

On Thursday afternoon, the School had the pleasure of a visit by Pipe Major David Wilton of Lomond and Clyde Pipe Band. David spent some time informing the students of his own background from his early days in Arbroath RBL all the way through his educational studies and his climb through the grades and his eventual appointment to Lomond and Clyde PB. David also gave some insight into his career as a Highland Dancer which he felt added to his appreciation of musical performance in no small measure. David demonstrated many interesting concepts on how we deliver our music and demonstrated his own dexterity in the performance of complex musical structures. David's visit showed to the students that with hard work and dedication they too can reach the heights of playing perfection.

Music School - Teaching the Grade One Drum Corps of Tomorrow

Tutors - Allan Craig and Fiona Bowes

Objectives & Outcome

The outcome at the start of the week of the Summer School was to ensure that we had helped the students meet their aspirations and that they had a full and rich pipe band drumming experience throughout; coupled with lots of fun playing and networking with fellow pipe band students.

Rather than having a fully structured planned agenda we developed our own set of objectives for the week based on each drummer's level of competence and individual experience.

We used the Elementary and Intermediate RSPBA Structured Learning Books as guides to the programme to ensure alignment with the standard model of tuition.

Our key objectives were to:

  • Develop musical theory
  • Develop and improve execution of key rudiments
  • Write basic scores
  • Create greater understanding of Drum Maintenance/ Tuning
  • Learn and play drum scores for the Friday concert; including a drum fanfare performance.
An agenda was produced, based on our objectives and lesson plans were created to ensure everyone knew what we were working on each day. Some of the key aspects of each objective are described below:

Developing musical theory - We reviewed basic note values, time signatures and simple and compound time. We looked at how sound is produced and the effects of rests in music and why we use dots and cuts.

Developing and improving execution of key rudiments - We tried closed accented rolls and 5,7 and 9 closed rolls and looked at ways to improve roll quality. Students learned how to execute properly Flams and Drags and Flam and Drag paradiddle.

Basic score writing - Students created basic simple time score using 3/4 and 4/4 time signatures and then analysed each score and amended and commented where necessary.

Drum Maintenance / Tuning - We explored the basic components of a snare drum and how it produces a sound and identified tips on maintaining the drum to ensure the drums longevity.

Students learned how to tune their drums to ensure the desired pitch is achieved. They also gained a better understanding of bass and tenor drums and how they accompany the snares in achieving an ensemble sound/

Playing and marching in a pipe band format - Students mastered basic marching techniques to ensure playing a drum is effortless. They began to understand the basic concepts of playing in a band and the commands that are used in a competition environment.

Learning and playing drum scores for the Friday concert; including a drum fanfare performance - Finally, the students worked together on simple scores to develop technique and dexterity and learned some more scores for the performance.

We believe that the students achieved their key objectives and that they left with a sense of having learned and developed their skills not just about drumming but a basic understanding of pipe band music and the requirements it takes to produce a full and rich pipe band ensemble. Students also know now what the challenges are to become a player in a top Grade One band.

Drum Major School 2017

Tutor - DM John Noble

In our second year of participation with the Summer School, it was pleasing again to see interest from existing competition drum majors, massed band drum majors and a complete new start to this wonderful art. The DM school was held over 3 days, culminating in Fridays display.

On day 1, our focus was on Marching and Deportment and each individual component. Students covered all the basic moves from coming to attention, saluting, foot drill, hand to mace drill, massed bands drill movements and control of the band. They practiced drills at the halt, counter marching, mark time and cutting the band in at the correct part. All drills were completed in time to music.

On day 2 we looked at how the individual can express themselves through their own particular skills. Building up from the basic flourish to some more complicated elements of flourishing. Unlike marching and deportment, there is no set ruling to how flourishes should be presented. However, all flourishes must be in time to the music.

On our last day, the focus was on dress. We reviewed the set guidelines for dress / presentation and the importance of how Drum Majors should present themselves. We highlighted the significance of "kit" being spotlessly clean and pressed with no fluff or threads hanging, right down to shoes being polished and hose being in the correct position. Our 3 days were rounded off with a short display with the individuals demonstrating some of the new skills they picked up from the workshop.

This year's Summer School flew by. Each day was filled with a keenness from each student which drew on their established skills and pushed them to experiment with new ones. In the midst of all of this is the knowledge that new relationships are created amongst group members which will last throughout their playing careers within Pipe Bands and in the solo fields.

Many thanks to our Chairman, Gordon Hamill and fellow Director, Paul McAndrew for presenting our certificates on Friday afternoon and to all of the management and teaching staff for their dedication to this event. We also thank those branches who supported students. Finally, the Summer School team thanks all of the parents and friends who came along to our performance and all of the students who make our efforts worthwhile. The commitment, the behavior and the skills of the students were exceptional and a credit to their families and their Pipe Bands. The energy of the students, their endless spirit and enthusiasm makes the Summer School all the more enjoyable.

We are all looking forward to our next school 30TH JULY - 3RD AUGUST 2018.

Acknowledgements

Finally, I would like to thank Principle of the Summer School, John Nevans and his team of tutors who worked tirelessly throughout the Summer School.

Pat Whelan, Education Officer

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