In 2019 our vision is FOCUS.
Learners of the 21st century face unprecedented levels of distraction. The world is at our fingertips in ways that people in the 20th century only dreamed about, but ironically we can find ourselves paralysed by the sheer volume of information. Not only this, but the constant flow of text messages, calls, notifications, emails and noise stops us from delving deeply into a subject. We fall into the trap of seeking the next dopamine hit, so we find ourselves mindlessly scrolling social media, binge watching Netflix and spending hours on Snapchat... only to find that we've missed the opportunity to be fully engaged and present in the learning process, and the chance to discover who we were born to be.
We can end up stuck in a cycle of hurried, last minute, short-term learning (practising just to get through the next performance), and forget that creating intelligent, articulate, skilled and sensitive musicians takes many years. We can also get caught up in the cult of celebrity and not realise that today's stadium singers are next year's "where are they now" stories, thrown on the scrapheap by companies who have sucked all the profits they can from them, leaving their voices and souls burnt out by too much, too soon, too young.
We want 2019 to be different.
We want to hear stories of students spending a lazy Saturday afternoon playing piano, writing songs and discovering singers they've never heard before. We want to see students tapping into the beneficial parts of technology, and shunning the time-wasting elements that don't make them feel good about themselves. We want students to try new things, to fail gloriously, to push themselves and to then turn around and see how far they've come. We want our students to FOCUS on their musical development, but to also discover that the discipline of mastering music spills over into other areas of their lives in many positive ways.
To start the ball rolling with FOCUS, as we head into our seventh year and we find that many of our original students are now taller than us (well, taller than Lauren at least!!), we wanted to share with our SVA students and families our longer-term vision for student development and direction.
Each of our students is unique and we recognise that what is right for one student may not be right for another - plans should always be tweaked to the individual. However, as a guide, we would love to see students come away from their time with us with the following:
1.Completed AMEB/Rockschool exam grades and ideally the higher grade qualifications (ie the diploma-level exams that come after 8th grade exams). These achievements are important not just because exam grades and diploma qualifications are valuable in the world of job-seeking and personal achievements, but also because to achieve them, students must have developed increasingly higher levels of skill, knowledge and self-discipline. And ultimately, the stronger our skills, the more we can communicate musically with freedom, conviction and in a way that truly impacts other people. We offer a huge range of exam options, including performance only options.
2. Substantial performance experience in a range of settings including SVA concerts and other events. There's something really special that happens in a person when they stand on a stage and have the full attention of a group of people for a moment. It makes them feel like what they have to offer is valuable and important - and if you can sing in front of a room full of people, there's not much you can't do! Regular performances normalise high-pressure situations, and give students the confidence to step out with courage and offer their gifts to the world.
3. Respect and appreciation for the music of the past (whether the Beatles or Beethoven!). We can't fully understand who we are without understanding where we've come from, and regardless of whether we enjoy the music of key artists and composers through the ages, it's important to acknowledge their contribution as we seek to make our own impact on the world. In so many ways we stand on the shoulders of giants!
4. An appreciation of the value and importance of a life-long pursuit of creativity. It's part of what makes us human, and in a world that can at times be exhausting, lonely and overwhelming, creativity has proven itself again and again to be important to our physical and mental health. Making music is like a pressure safety valve for our souls.
5. Positive relationships with other creative people - both teachers and peers. We love to see students encouraging one another and celebrating each other's successes, and as teachers we value the opportunity to speak into the lives of our students, and to walk with them on this part of the journey of life.
6. The disciplines of practice, persistence and patience, and a hunger to be the very best musician you can be. At times, learning music is hard. It can even feel tedious as we go through yet another repetition of a difficult passage or scale. But through the struggle, we learn to stay the course and we learn that few things that are worthwhile are achieved without significant effort and self-discipline. Conquering a challenging piece as a child, sets students up to conquer larger goals as adults.
We do not expect all of our students to go onto professional music careers. In fact, the reality is that only a small percentage will do this, even though many more reach a level of skill where they could hold their own on a professional stage. We don't actually care much about that (though for those who do reach the upper echelons of music, we'll be right there cheering you on).
Instead, we imagine a society where a sense of the value of the arts permeates our collective psyche. Where everyone from prime ministers to school principals to parents and bank chiefs and cultural leaders all believe that every person needs the time, space, skills and opportunity to be creative, throughout their lifetime. Imagine the impact on our nation's mental health, our national and personal productivity and our ability to empathise with others if we had a cultural expectation that making music was part of everyday life. These things can only happen when the next generation of leaders, politicians, parents and voters experience the life-changing impact of music education for themselves.
That's why we do what we do.
We hope that in 2019 you'll get behind our vision of FOCUS. We're excited about the future.