Sistema Fiesta: Ten Years of Sistema In Norwich

Sistema Fiesta: Ten Years of Sistema In Norwich

Sistema Fiesta promotional poster
This Friday: Sistema Fiesta at UEA LCR

In September 2011, I wrote about how proud I was to have joined an El Sistema-inspired music education programme in my home city of Norwich, working with students in inner-city schools teaching orchestral percussion an general musicianship. The project — then called In Harmony Norwich — was one of three trial nucleos setup by the UK government in different cities, and was just entering the third of its three years of funding when I came on board as one of the percussion tutors.

A lot of change has happened in the years since I joined the programme back in 2011 — including a rebrand as Sistema In Norwich. But the one thing which has always remained the same is the steadfast determination of the programme directors and the team of tutors to bring music education to children who might not otherwise have had those kinds of opportunities available to them.

This coming Friday 11th October, a performance by Sistema In Norwich students and tutors at the University Of East Anglia In Norwich will celebrate ten years of Sistema’s presence in the city. I feel extremely honoured to have been involved with Sistema In Norwich — in its various guises — for eight of those ten years, and it will be a privilege to walk onstage on Friday evening with my colleagues and students from the Sistema programme to celebrate this landmark anniversary.

Sistema Fiesta will take a look back over the last ten years, including highlights from the Performance Project (for which the concert is also a finale) and it will look forwards, with new repertoire that will include nods to Venezuela, our carnival work, East Anglia and a big piece from the classical canon.  The concert will feature the Colegate Nucleo Orchestra, alongside children from across the programme, tutors and some special guests.  
 
The evening will conclude with music from the Sistema in Norwich tutor band, guests and friends. Join in the Sistema party and help us celebrate a programme that is changing lives, as we look forward to another 10 years of making a difference.

From the NORCA & Sistema In Norwich website

Please do come down and support this event, and the Sistema In Norwich project. Tickets for the performance are available from the UEA Box Office website, or directly from NORCA & Sistema In Norwich.

Summer Exam Success

Huge congratulations once again to all my students who took music exams during the summer term exam period. With entries spanning all levels from Grade 2 to Grade 8 – across piano, drumkit, music theory and music production exams – it’s been another successful academic year, with a 100% pass rate yet again.

I feel very privileged to work with such a talented and dedicated group of students every single week – and to be able to share in celebrating these successes – and I am extremely proud of all of you.

I’d like to make a special mention of Jonah Williams, who achieved Grade 8 music production with a merit, and is now heading off to the University Of Liverpool to continues studying music and music technology at an advanced level. Jonah has already begun playing pro-level gigs, and is a passionate and intelligent musician; I have no doubt that he is going to make a success of this next stage in his musical journey as well. To see students I have worked with going on to forge their own careers and their own lives in music is a source of huge pride for me, and of course I wish Jonah all the best at Liverpool.

The new school year begins in September (full term dates are now available on the Student’s Page) and I can’t wait to see what exciting new challenges this term will bring!

Your Sibelius Toolkit at Benslow Music

Your Sibelius Toolkit at Benslow Music

As a working musician, I find myself using Sibelius notation software all the time, in a variety of different contexts. With a hectic work life which spans touring with bands, teaching private students and youth orchestras and a wide range of studio work, I’m always looking for ways to make my workflow as efficient as possible and get the most out of whatever technology I’m working with.

In June 2020, I’ll be coming to the beautiful Benslow Music campus to run a four-day course entitled Your Sibelius Toolkit, where I’ll be passing on tips and advice for making the most of this super-powerful music notation program and helping course attendees to feel more confident and empowered Sibelius users.

This new course will look at using Sibelius notation software in a variety of different contexts, and will aim to make you a more confident Sibelius user. From keyboard shortcuts to customising the user interface, we will ensure that this powerful music creation tool works for you, complementing your creativity and processes, and allowing you to be more efficient in whatever you are working on. Participants should bring their own laptop with Sibelius version 7 or later to work on during the course. There may also be the opportunity to hear your compositions/orchestrations performed by the concurrent Chamber Orchestra course.

Benslow Music January-July 2020 Prospectus (download in full here)

This will be the first time that Benslow Music have run a specifically technology-based course, and I’m very excited to have been asked to come onboard and lead the course as their Sibelius tutor.

It maybe a full ten months away, but booking opens to the general public this week, so get onto the Benslow Music website now to bag your place.

Sistema In Norwich Performance Project featured on Sistema Europe website

Sistema In Norwich Performance Project featured on Sistema Europe website

A recent article on the Sistema Europe website has put the spotlight on Sistema In Norwich’s ‘Performance Project’ – a brand new Sistema initiative for 2018-19.

Over the course of 12 concerts and just under a year and a half, Sistema in Norwich will engage with circus groups, the Norwich-based Vagaband, fellow Sistema-influenced groups and established musicians and composers from across Europe.

The project also provides the young musicians involved with the chance to compose for a variety of scenarios and formations, with pieces for soloists, ensembles, brass and wind sections all finding their way into the schedule.

The Sistema Performance Project thus increases Sistema in Norwich’s social impact, provides its students with additional performance time and accelerates their personal development, promoting self-confidence, resilience and leadership – all while building upon Sistema in Norwich’s existing connections both at home and abroad.

Sistema Europe website

The circus performance in collaboration with Lost In Translation – which took place in October of last year – was an exciting and innovative project, expanding our students’ horizons and bringing them into contact with other forms and settings of orchestral performance.

It is always gratifying to gain the recognition of the international Sistema community for our work, and it is an honour to be a part of a global musical movement with the history and pedigree of Sistema.

And with eight more Performance Project concerts scheduled throughout this year, there’ll be plenty more opportunities to check out the great work of Sistema In Norwich for yourself. Head to the NORCA & Sistema In Norwich website for full details of dates, venues, ticket prices, etc.

Exam Success: Christmas Term 2018

I am delighted to be able to report another term of exam successes for my students – with candidates taking exams on piano and on drums, ranging from Initial Grade up to Grade 5, with a 100% pass rate once again.

Big congratulations to all my students for their hard work and perseverance, and for their fully-deserved exam success. Now, keep practising – and onto the next exciting new challenge!

Conducting the Keyboard Camp 'Rain Choir' performance, outdoors in the sunshine! (Photo: Will Jones)

Keyboard Camp 2017 a huge success!

10 Years Of Keyboard Camp! (Photo: Will Jones)
10 Years Of Keyboard Camp! (Photo: Will Jones)

The first time I’ve got ’round to sitting down to write about it, even though it was now three weeks ago… (After Keyboard Camp finished, it was straight into four gigs over three days that weekend; an exhausting four-day studio refit; another weekend of gigs right down in the toes of Cornwall; and a day of PA system setup in readiness for new ventures this summer… More on all of that soon enough!) But I am delighted that the tenth anniversary of the (by now) famous NKO Keyboard Camp was such a success!

With music drawn from the material we have learnt as an orchestra over the previous nine residentials (plus some new music thrown in especially for this year) – as well as party games, birthday cake, a nostalgic photo slideshows from Keyboard Camps gone by – and culminating in an evening performance showcasing all the hard work and preparation over the past four days, the tenth Keyboard Camp was a true celebration of what makes it special, and exciting.

Sectional rehearsals in The Big Room at How Hill
Sectional rehearsals in The Big Room at How Hill

I have always been proud to be associated with a residential music course which is always evolving and improving, and where the students keep coming back year after year (for nine years in a row, in some cases!), and still want more…

As well as sectional and full orchestral rehearsals covering a wide range of musical styles, students at Keyboard Camp are treated to workshops which allow them to be more creative, and work with music in other formats; this year’s Keyboard Camp workshops touched on arranging music and songwriting techniques – and, for the most advanced students, a technology-rich session on creating a remix of a hit song.

Remix workshop at Keyboard Camp (Photo: Hannah Brigham)
Remix workshop at Keyboard Camp (Photo: Hannah Brigham)

Remix workshop at Keyboard Camp (Photo: Hannah Brigham)
Remix workshop at Keyboard Camp (Photo: Hannah Brigham)

Non-keyboard based musical activities have formed a larger and larger part of Keyboard Camp as the years have gone, and this year saw us attempt some of our most ambitious projects yet – our ‘Tin Can Orchestra’, taking on the Heinz Can Song Challenge, and our ‘Rain Choir’ singing in four-part harmony – with great success.

It is the ever-increasing focus on providing this well-rounded musical experience which helps to make Keyboard Camp unique; giving our students the opportunities to express themselves and make music in different ways ensures that they are not only developing their keyboard skills over the four days they are with us, but also their overall musicianship, cooperation and ensemble skills, and general understanding of what being a musician is really all about.

'Tin Can Orchestra' rehearsals
‘Tin Can Orchestra’ rehearsals

And of course, no Keyboard Camp would be complete without the team Quiz, and our world-famous Talent Show (which, this year, saw the Staff team enter a cover of The Bangles’ ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’, to universal acclaim).

Quiz night at Keyboard Camp
Quiz night at Keyboard Camp

Since the course ended, we have had all kinds of lovely feedback from the students who attended this year’s Keyboard Camp – showing once again what an incredible difference this yearly event in music education, and what a positive impact it can have on the students who come back time and time again.

Remix workshop at Keyboard Camp (Photo: Hannah Brigham)
Remix workshop at Keyboard Camp (Photo: Hannah Brigham)

And it is never too early to register your interest for next year’s Keyboard Camp! In 2018, we will return to How Hill for the sixth time (it will be the eleventh Keyboard Camp, in total) for more musical fun (on keyboards and off them!); more games; more whacky talent show entries; more late-night hot chocolate; and more opportunities to enjoy learning about music, and progressing as a musician alongside other like-minded young keyboard and piano students.

Conducting the Keyboard Camp 'Rain Choir' performance, outdoors in the sunshine! (Photo: Will Jones)
Conducting the Keyboard Camp ‘Rain Choir’ performance, outdoors in the sunshine! (Photo: Will Jones)

Ten years of Keyboard Camp

Keyboard Camp – the exciting four-day residential course for keyboard and piano players, held every Easter in the heart of rural Norfolk (first at Wymondham College, and subsequently at Whitwell Hall and now the How Hill Trust) – is turning ten years old this year! First held in 2008, this year’s Camp marks the ten-year anniversary of what has become the highlight of the musical year for many young keyboard players and pianists in the area.

Sectional rehearsals in The Big Room at How Hill
Sectional rehearsals in The Big Room at How Hill

Organised and run by the team from the Norfolk Keyboard Orchestra, Keyboard Camp is a great opportunity for students of piano and keyboard of all ages and stages to come together and enjoy making music in a fun and social environment. As well as sectional rehearsals (with parts tailored to suit different playing abilities), and full orchestral playing, there are a variety of other workshops (on topics ranging from different styles of keyboard playing, to using technology in music and writing your own compositions), and opportunities to have fun learning and making music together – plus games, quizzes, ‘tuck shop’, and the inevitable talent show.

Synthesis and technology workshop
Synthesis and technology workshop

This year, we return to the How Hill Trust in Ludham, to enjoy a selection of brand new repertoire and old favourites (all especially arranged for keyboard ensemble) in this beautiful country setting.

If you, your children, or your students are interested in Keyboard Camp, please contact Rory Marsden for more information, and to book your place on this amazing ten-year anniversary edition of the much-loved course – or download the application form here to ensure you don’t miss out.

Composing and using technology
Composing and using technology