Adam Featherstone, a teacher from Middlesbrough, tells us how he used music from Harry Potter to inspire a creative project with BBC Philharmonic musicians (pictured above with a musician from Priory Woods).

I started to use Figurenotes in March of 2015 starting with whole class electronic keyboards, using single note melodies. I quickly progressed to getting the coloured shape notation sticker packs and placing them onto any instrument I could find. This ranged from chime bars to adapting some of our guitars to play open chords.

I am the music teacher in Priory Woods which is an SEN school in Middlesbrough for students with a mixture of special educational needs aged 4-19. These range from PMLD to SLD, however I feel the Figurenotes approach is suitable to both primary and secondary teachers as a good way to introduce students to practical music making. The only difference would be to change the difficulty of the material used.

We have used Figurenotes in a variety of ways. One such example has been to progress our post 16 music option students s to play rock and pop songs. I have written out songs by Green Day and The Clash, mostly chords. As a result they may take part in our end of year school show and hopefully at a battle of the bands next year. Most recently I have set up an inclusive orchestra using a mixture of hard to reach pupils using technology such as ICT, eye gaze, and traditional music instruments. This has held Figurenotes at its core.

We have recently had the pleasure of welcoming 3 musicians from the BBC Philharmonic into school for a day of workshops before a performance in the afternoon. We started the day exploring a simple melody taken from Harry Potter. I transposed this for some of the musicians quite easily using the software. The musicians took a few minutes to get to grips with the coloured notation, but settled in very quickly.

We had a student conduct our students and BBC Philharmonic musicians to create a rather beautifully layered composition. This gave us some ideas about how to progress the day, as our next steps fed into group composition using the entire ensemble, with iPads taking the lead with solos using the app ThumbJam. We also had a student on an eye gaze machine taking a solo. He was delighted to be able to take part. These students responded fantastically to whole group integrated work. One BBC Philharmonic musician conducted whilst the other 2 took solos on flute and trumpet during the piece and gave encouragement to the pupils.

Every person on that stage was valued as an equal and had an integral part to play, whatever their ability or experience. Each musician used Figurenotes. I hope to develop this ensemble at the start of the new school year, adding more ICT, samples, instrumentation and student musicians.

Adam sent us a lovely email saying “Without Figurenotes it would not have been possible. Thank you.” Thank you to Adam for sharing the ways in which he has used Figurenotes. If you’d like to share your ideas then please get in touch.

Find Adam on Twitter @eponymousdrums


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