From Singing Strategy to Sweeney Todd and the CBSO

Our latest guest blog is from Alan Winwood, schools advisor on the Hub commissioning team, who talks about his role, and how he came to be involved.

My love of music, and particularly singing, started in a small classroom in Doncaster with a charismatic music teacher many, many moons ago. Fast forward some years, and I became a head of music, then a deputy head, and then a headteacher: first in Gateshead and then at Chosen Hill, Churchdown, where I remained for fourteen years, all the while supporting and advocating the importance of music in schools.

Eighteen months ago I found another way to champion young people’s music making: this time as a freelance schools advisor to Make Music Gloucestershire (MMG). When the opportunity arose to be part of the MMG team, I jumped at the chance. I’m involved with most aspects of the work of MMG, from communications to strategic planning, but my main focus is working with schools.

Music around the county

Heron Primary School Analie Hart

It is a great privilege to visit schools and talk with music teachers on a regular basis, and to observe the excellent teaching and learning that goes on. There’s a wealth of good practice in the county and one of the aims of MMG is to bring this good practice to a wider schools audience, and to encourage sharing and collaborative working.

To that end we’re gathering data through the MMG data app, some of which is specifically for the Arts Council England (ACE) who administer our funding, but also and importantly, we’re sharing it with schools and others through our annual ‘Music Education in Gloucestershire’ report.

At primary level there’s much excellent work. I visited Analie Hart at Heron Primary School and was very impressed with their ‘Music Makers’ wall which lists all the different musical activities taking place in the school.

Supporting primary teachers – Charanga resource and training

We’ve recently teamed up with Charanga to support primary school teachers – particularly those who lack confidence in teaching music in the classroom. Charanga Musical School is a digital resource for primary and special school teachers with helping teachers to deliver the new primary music curriculum, and helping pupils to learn fundamental musical skills through a range of styles and genres from classical to rock, pop to folk. We’ll be running twilight training/find-out-more workshops very shortly – you can sign up to the schools enews bulletin to be notified of when these are happening. There’s been much interest from primary schools and we already have over 40 subscribing to the programme. It comes highly recommended by colleagues who are using it.

A Singing Strategy for Gloucestershire

One of the things all music hubs are tasked to do is to formulate a Singing Strategy for their local area. Before the strategy was formulated, I worked with a small group of secondary school heads of music to produce a simple questionnaire to ascertain what was happening vocally in our secondary schools. One of the questions asked was if the school ever mounted musical productions. The responses showed that there are lots of interesting productions, some very ambitious, that are being produced by schools. I had personal experience of one when I worked with some of the singers in the Millbrook Academy’s production of Sweeney Todd. It was a very rewarding experience to work with such keen and talented singers. A summary of the findings from the questionnaire will be sent to all secondary schools shortly.

The Singing Strategy is now in its final draft form and will be published on the MMG website shortly. We’ll then be appointing a person to take the strategy forward, by working closely with schools to carry out activities such as annual voice festivals, developing CPD and resources, helping schools to develop individual singing strategies and ultimately, getting every Gloucestershire school singing.

My inspiration, and what inspires you?

Finally, I have always felt it important that although we are teachers, we are also learners – and that, especially for music teachers, we must endeavour to keep ourselves fresh be engaging in our own brand of music making. I’d love to hear (in the comments below) what inspires other educators.

For me it is choral singing, and when I retired I auditioned and became a member of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) Chorus. Every Wednesday I travel to Birmingham for rehearsal. The 175 strong chorus is one of the leading symphony choruses in the world with Simon Haley as its choral director. We get to sing wonderful music, in a magnificent hall (Symphony Hall Birmingham) with a world class orchestra; it’s just wonderful fantastic. Occasionally there is some extra icing on the cake: for example, this weekend (Feb 14th and 15th ) we are at the Festival Hall London to perform the Mahler second symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Simon Rattle.

Doesn’t get much better than that. What have been your recent ‘doesn’t get much better’ moments?


About anitanee

I'm a freelance copywriter and communications practitioner based in Monmouth, Wales, UK. I specialise in working with music and arts organisations with a social or educational purpose, as well as small charities. Find out more: Visit our music education research site: Get free advice and resources by signing up to my enews: Read the blog:

Posted on February 10, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. i’m so pleased to read this. I have taught music at Balcarras school for eight years and in January moved to the cotswold school to take on the head of music role. I am a vocalist and truely love and am passionate about the voice and more specifically the use of voice in harmony and in choirs.
    I have been lucky enough throughout my teaching career to have been involved with a full scale musical every year. To run the main school choirs, to have sang with very successful and passionate chamber choirs and work with gifted soloists.
    I think it is so important to teach these skills and it has always been noticeable that pupils coming from primary schools have had a very mixed experience with music. In the main many have had very little contact. But when they have there passion and knowledge has given them such joy and a want to continue and are generally more open to a wider variety of styles.
    To be involved in furthering this would be a real pleasure and I wish you good luck in doing so. If there is any help or information I can give I would be more than happy.
    Thank you.
    Suzie Buckley


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: