Report on Imagine Compose, a two year partnership project with Birmingham Music Service funded by Youth Music that aimed to encourage and nurture beginner instrumentalists to compose and improvise from the beginning of their musical lives. Written by Professor Martin Fautley, Dr Victoria Kinsella and Kirsty Devaney. The full report is also available for download.
Imagine Compose was a partnership project with Birmingham Music Service funded by Youth Music that aimed to encourage and nurture beginner instrumentalists to compose and improvise from the beginning of their musical lives. The two year project was led by composer Liz Johnson and consisted of: workshops with children; professional development sessions for teachers and emerging professional composers; commissioning new pieces for beginner ensemble; and, the development of online composing activities for young people. BCMG worked with four ensembles: Handsworth Area Ensemble; Gilbertstone Area Orchestra in South Yardley; Anderton Park Ensemble in Balsall Heath; and Harborne Area String Ensemble.
The project was evaluated by Professor Martin Fautley, Kirsty Devaney and Dr. Victoria Kinsella of Birmingham City University. The following pages are an edited executive summary with the option to download the full research report below. Online resources developed through the project will be added shortly.
The Imagine Compose project trod new ground in many ways. We know that composing in classrooms in the UK is now well-established at secondary school level. We know too that musical engagement with the National Curriculum in primary schools can probably be best described as being ‘patchy’, with there being something of a lottery, depending on whereabouts an individual pupil lives, and where their primary school is located. However, this is all about curricular composing, in Imagine Compose we have what might be termed extra-curricular composing, with pupils who are near the novice end of the novice-expert continuum, and who are in receipt of lessons which are either based on, or focused around an instrument. This distinction is important, as formal music tuition (FMT, in some literature, (inter alia Seddon & O’Neill, 2006)) is normally built on what has come to be thought of as a traditional model of instrumental instruction.
It is important to note that that in the Imagine Compose work a number of pupils had come to their instruments through widening participation routes of whole class instrumental and vocal ensemble work, also known as ‘first access’ or ‘wider opportunities’ (WO). In the Birmingham version of the WO model, pupils can elect to continue after their initial year of WO teaching and learning, these groups being known as ‘electives’. Interestingly, despite an initial report by Bamford and Glinkowski (2010), we do not know a great deal about pedagogies and practices entailed in WO and elective learning nationally. This is an important distinction, as many of the pupils participating in Imagine Compose had come via this route, and although we know very little about the nationwide practices in this regard, nonetheless we believe that in many cases very little individual or group composing takes place during the course of the interactions.