Winter School was meant to be the first weekend in July......but as they say, 'the best laid plans'. In our case, the 21st Century plague, Covid, scuttled our wintry weekend of music making. Not to be deterred, we chose a new winter weekend in August.
On the weekend of the 12th/13th August, our first Winter School went ahead. It was a partnership between Chicks with Picks Melbourne and guitar teacher Rachel Wilson from, Women's Guitar Group. Rachel is a Chicks with Picks Melbourne 'graduate'. She is now a dear colleague.
Winter School was developed in response to Summer School participants (I'll talk about that another time), wanting a similiar intensive music weekend in Winter. Being a curious creative, I'm always up for giving things a go to see if they work. I love an idea. I love following an idea through and making it reality. It was a absolute treat to work on the idea with Rachel.
The idea for Winter School was simple; a winter weekend of group music making using pre-learnt material. Pre-learning meant we could focus on playing together immediately. The goal was to give players an experience of playing in a large group with different parts for ukulele, guitar and vocals; an orchestra of fretted instruments.
That begs the question: what is the collective noun for a large group of guitars and ukuleles?
We planned for three sessions both days of Winter School. Rachel and I had chosen three songs in advance. We arranged parts for ukulele, guitar and voice. Recorded videos of each part, prepared song sheets and sent each person enrolling these resources so that they could learn their part before Winter School. We even taught some of our students the songs to prepare them in advance.
In the morning sessions, we rehearsed and refined the songs with a group of around 30 guitars and ukuleles. After lunch, we broke off into two groups and taught everyone how to create solos using improvisation techniques to two of the songs. This session turned out to be the highlight of the weekend for teachers and players. The looks of satisfaction on the faces of participants who'd just ripped out their first guitar or ukulele solo was a joy to watch.
The afternoon session of the first day, focused on singing. The afternoon of the second day was a chance to bring everything we'd learned over the weekend together. We also slipped in some simple jam session songs between our rehearsed masterpieces. These songs inspired some of the players to rip out epic solos and others to break into spontaneous harmonies.
From a teacher's perspective it was a brilliant weekend. Musical breakthrough's were made, new friendships formed, new skills were learned and tried, and inspiring music was created.
One of the participant's sent me a text a couple of days after the weekend:
"Just wanted to thank you for a truly magical weekend of music and learning. It gave me an extra lens into music that I was not aware of before.......the magic dust of the weekend is still with me." - Sufong, student at Winter School.
I can't wait to do it again next winter!
In the meantime, Summer School is coming in January 2024. Stay tuned!