Updated Session Description
Over the past week, the members of the orchestra have put this together – please do see the two earlier posts in We are in this together to see how this open sourced project took flight amidst lockdown.
Original Session Description
In 2017, two adult cellists, myself and one other, expressed a desire to expand our music learning in a dedicated, but not formally assessed way. We highlighted the absence of accessible opportunities to do this locally or even regionally. These musicians had baseline developing skills and wanted to learn and play collaboratively. Typically adults need significant expertise to be included in an instrumental ‘group’. Unlike choirs where many people join, instrumental ensembles tend to impose restrictions based on numbers of each instrument, and on ability levels of individuals, making group, and certainly orchestral playing an impossibility for adults without significant technical capacity.
The Encore Chichester Community Orchestra has no barriers to entry. It is accessible and open to all interested adult instrumentalists, and has developed into a ‘class’ of 40 adult musicians who meet weekly as an orchestra. Some had lessons as children in school and then nothing for several decades, and others had only experienced music learning as solitary practice at home. The sense of the value the musicians gain in themselves, in learning as a collective has been documented in other settings with adults participating in intensive and (larger) fee-based musical workshops (Boswell, 1992). The collaborative, open, non-competitive learning environment of ECCO enriches the lives of those who attend:
“Playing with ECCO has been hugely inspiring. Initially it was a revelation just to sit in as part of a group of musicians, to play a score and find it fitted with what other people were doing. Interestingly things took me by surprise, like discovering the difficulty of counting 7 bars rest, and coming in at the right time. For the first few weeks I got lost at regular intervals. I also realised just why an orchestra needs a conductor. Get 20 musicians together and set them off, and you quickly find each one of them has a different sense of timing.” (Dorning, 2018)
The audience is asked to reflect on:
What accessible, engaging, and collaborative learning opportunities do adults have within your community?
Do educational institutions have a role in providing a continuum for learning?
How can informal learning encourage within educational institutions encourage quality (non-tokenistic) community involvement?
Although some highlight adult learning as specifically different to child learning, crediting adults with being autonomous, self-directed, and goal-oriented, and practical (Knowles, 1996; Lieb & Goodland, 2005), only some differences are justified or automatically displayed in learning. Young children, yet to develop cognitive skills, display neurological differences to adults, however adults can be just as undirected as children and need encouragement and guidance.
ECCO invites collaborative learning. Complete beginners are as welcome as those who once played in a youth symphony, without restrictions on ability or instrumentation. Musicians make suggestions and music is openly sourced from public domain databases wherever possible. When one instrument struggles, parts are rewritten, sometimes altered or simplified for individuals. Flutes may take on the violin part or saxophones may join the violas. Original works are ‘remixed’ for the group, allowing access to quality music and orchestral experience for adults.
Boswell, J. (1992). Human Potential and Lifelong Learning: Jacquelyn Boswell explores the importance of lifelong music learning and offers ideas for teachers and learners. Music Educators Journal, 79(4), 38-40.
Dorning, D. (2018). On being a member of the orchestra. [online] Available at: https://encore-orchestra.org/news/on-being-a-member-of-the-orchestra/ [Accessed 15, November, 2019].
Lieb, S., & Goodlad, J. (2005). Principles of adult learning. [Online] Available at: http://intranet.hsgd.org/webpage/training%20web%20folders/training%20web/ProgrammedLearning/PaperModules/AdultLearning_Answers.pdf [Accessed 15 November, 2019].
Knowles, M. (1996). Andragogy: An emerging technology for adult learning. London, UK.