March has begun with a spring in its step at this year’s London Music&Drama Education Expo, held at the Kensington Olympia on 4-5 March. For those of you who don’t know, the Music&Drama Expo is Europe’s largest conference and exhibition for music and drama education professionals where authors and products took centre stage in a fabulous two days of inspirational workshops, interactive seminars and thought-provoking symposia.
Amongst the highlights of the event was undoubtedly the work of author Gareth Malone, who kicked off proceedings with a morning vocal warm-up that got everyone up and singing. Energetic early mornings are part of the course for the UK’s heroic music and drama teachers, but Gareth’s unique combination of charisma and commitment added extra zest to a collection of tongue-tripping, beat-missing, thigh-slapping exercises.
Malone fans were certainly in for a treat when, later in the day, Gareth demonstrated extracts from his new book ‘Bright Star’, written with educator Catherine de Sybel. A sell-out theatre was full of teachers laughing, crying and singing their hearts out as Gareth and Catherine led them on a journey through their unique collection of original songs, designed to inspire a culture of whole-school singing.
Everywhere you looked there was inspirational and engaging work going on. Samantha Coates, creator of the ‘Blitz!’ book series of theory, sight-reading and musicianship aids, got teachers thinking with a critical appraisal of the unintended consequences of labelling children as ‘gifted and talented.’
Elsewhere, there was clapping, popping and stamping as Ollie Tunmer launched his book ‘Body Beats’ by introducing attendees to the invigorating art of body percussion. Instrumental teachers were given practical guidance on how to apply the ‘Vamoosh’ method to individual and group lessons, whilst the award-winning ROLI redefined ‘musical learning’ with its new LUMI illuminated portable keyboard and app, launching later this year.
Sarah Watts gave a whistle-stop overview of the amazing beginner ensemble material she has published, including the Build A Band series, and Al Start got everyone singing and signing with an introduction to her inclusive learning books, Sing! Play! Learn!”
Early Years educators were given a practical workshop on how to make more out of less with their music trolleys, representatives from ISM, ABRSM and the Music Teachers’ Association offered professional guidance and support throughout, whilst Chris Walters, editor of Music Teacher Magazine, gave an empowering call-to-arms for participation in the government’s ‘Call for Evidence’ on the refreshing of music in the national curriculum.
All in all, an inspiring event not even coronavirus could stop. And thank goodness, for there a few better places to be than in a building full of people committed to making the UK the best place in the world to access arts education; whoever you are, wherever you are from.