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Focus on: instrumental workshops and performance skills

Last Thursday afternoon, a group of our woodwind instrumentalists gathered in the recital room in the music school with their instruments and sheet music for one of the music department’s regular after-school workshops. 

Designed to offer pupils the chance to practise their performance skills, these workshops are led by a visiting specialist, a professional musician who can offer independent advice and insight. The music department arranges two workshops per term, each event focusing on a particular instrument or family of instruments, with pupils signing themselves up to perform as soloists or in ensembles. With the workshops split into two sessions, Years 3–5 performing first, followed by Years 6–8, everyone has the opportunity to present something in front of their peers and receive direct feedback from the specialist, who usually treats everyone to a performance of their own at the end of the session!

Thursday’s event demonstrated the wonderful benefits offered by the workshop format, with woodwind specialist Ian Swatman presiding as guest tutor and delivering thoughtful feedback on pupils’ performances. The afternoon was opened with a lovely performance of ‘Hedwig’s Theme’ from the Harry Potter score by the flute choir, who received some great advice on performance anxiety and on how to tackle well-known pieces. Each ensemble and soloist was likewise treated to individual comments on their piece and performance, with advice given on elements such as dynamics and playing in a performance setting. 

The beauty of the workshops is that they neatly straddle a gap between the one-on-one instrumental lessons that run each day in the music school and the kind of formal performance required at school concerts or music exams. With approximately 360 music lessons taking place at school each week with 31 dedicated teachers, and termly performances in large venues such as the school’s Tithe Barn theatre and even Canterbury Cathedral, these workshop events in the spacious but friendly recital room offer a valuable opportunity to practise playing for others and to receive constructive feedback to help build musicianship. 

And, of course, it’s all about confidence. Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of learning to perform is that it helps develop that magical transferable skill: fortitude.

Read more about music at Junior King’s.