Jessa’s Singing Larks February 2021

Every week has its challenges at the moment. I am very lucky in that I spend my time doing things I love – singing and helping others to find joy in singing – but nothing is straightforward at the moment and it is difficult to maintain a routine or plan ahead very far. So when little surprises happen, and when things I have been “nervcited” about work out well, it is particularly pleasing….

Surprise announcement – award nominations!

For the past year, all I have been doing is trying to keep doing what I do, in whatever way I can.

*For my singing students, this has meant teaching them 100% online via zoom (This has its challenges, but I can honestly say I enjoy teaching this way and all my students have risen to it and are making fantastic progress!)

*For my work in school(I still work 1.5 days a week for Wigginton Primary School, teaching music and leading singing), this has involved some working in school with bubbles, and lots of cold and wet outdoor singing, as well as many many videos of singing sessions and music lessons.

*For my work with York Music Hub, I have absolutely loved doing the live singing sessions(YMHSing! and Singing For All @The hub) and the YMH Zoom choirs, as well as my Summer holiday youth choir project – seeing those young faces on screen, enjoying singing as much as I do, is so inspiring!

*For my other singing leading and performing work, this has meant taking everything online and/or outside – zoom choirs, You Tube lives, Facebook performances, fieldsing, masked outdoor sings….all in a quest to keep people singing and keep my own singing going.

All this has meant a huge learning process for me – as well as fitting in lots of actual training (including 3 weeks of Vocal Process Online Singing Teacher Training and the Vocal Health First Aider certificate with Vocal Health Education), I have learned so much from fellow singing leaders around the world, particularly from the Creative Choir Leader group and the Inspire Club. So many new skills that I never thought I’d need.

I have done all this, just to get on with my work in whatever way I can, so I was so surprised and delighted to find out last week that I had been nominated for two Music and Drama Education Awards!

I have been nominated and short-listed in two categories… are the descriptions from the #MEDAWARDS website…

The #GOLDSTARS award…

“UK teachers who have gone above and beyond during this extraordinary period in educational history. For music or drama teachers who have shown particular compassion, flair and creativity during the pandemic. “

The Francesca Hanley Inspiration Award, sponsored by the Musicians’ Union.

“This award honours an individual music teacher or performer who has had a hugely inspirational impact on students of any age in their music-making. The judges will be looking for evidence that this teacher has made or continues to make a real and significant difference to the lives of their students through their teaching, whether in a school or non-school setting.”

This was such a lovely surprise and it has given me a real boost, especially as the nomination has come from a music teacher I admire and respect so much as a colleague and friend. Very humbling.

When words fail, music speaks….a day at #virtualchoirlab!

As a musician with many and varied roles, I often feel like I am dipping my toes into the water with all my various work – never having enough time and energy to devote to any one area to make a real difference. My fairly mad schedule of contrasting work means that I never get bored! At various times in the week, I am a singer, a singing teacher, a choir leader, a singing leader, a music teacher…….but the area I feel like I have grown the most during this past year is that of choir leader.

A year ago, I was running several choirs a week, undertaking regular training and workshops, and confident in my own circles. But in the past year, as well as setting up SFA as “Singing For All with Jessa CIC’, I have grown so much in my confidence and skillset when running my community singing sessions with both adults and young people, and have developed an array of technical equipment and strategies I hadn’t dreamed of a year ago.

Like most people, I still have technical disasters every now and again, but I have to pinch myself when people ask me how to use a loop pedal or how to edit a video – yes, this actually happens sometimes!

So when creative choir leader fellow #inspireclubber Matthew Finch was looking for workshop leaders for his virtual day of singing, “Virtual Choirlab”, I put myself forward and was amazed to be selected, with my “Sing your cares away” session scheduled alongside a huge array of very experienced singing leaders!

When the day arrived, I was pretty excited but fairly nervous, especially as I was scheduled for 3.30pm and had the whole day to watch other people’s sessions while practising my own! The day started with everyone learning a new round written by Matt, “When words fail, music speaks” – hence the mug picture above! If you click on the lyrics in the heading at the top, you will see the result of that opening session – a beautiful combined performance.

It was actually really lovely to see the wide range of singing leading talent on show….from gospel to classical and jazz, pop tunes to musical theatre and family favourites, so much….and as I watched, those voices were bubbling gently in my head…. one saying, “What are you thinking of? You are nowhere near the level of these high flyers!” and the other, “You really can do this!”

3.30 came and the session went as well as I could have hoped, even better really. As soon as I started, familiar names popped up on my screen as friendly creative choir leaders added encouraging comments – that really helped me find my flow! (Thanks Mary for this one!)

I was able to share some of my current favourite rounds and songs with a group of singers and singing leaders from all over the country – accompanied by my new best friend(my loop pedal!), I layered up songs and harmonies so people could sing along with their chosen part. I even included some of the little songs I have written myself – my new “Sing your cares away” song which incorporates lots of warm-up exercises into a bouncy song, and the calming sea-themed round, ‘Breathe with the waves” which I wrote on the beach in Norfolk.

I was also able to celebrate the work of some of my fellow singing leaders by sharing some of their songs….”Reap” by Em Whitfield Brooks , “Sing out loud” by Louise Blackburn, “Cold Wild Sea” by Jenny Cook, and my current favourite song, “Good Friend” by the late Jan Harmon. Such a beautiful melody and touching words….

Well, my writing/admin/catch up time is nearly over, 5 students and choir are calling me… I will finish with these thought-provoking words.

“The singer lasts a season long while the song, it lasts forever.”

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