Profile: KeyNotes founder and curriculum creator

Hopefully you are getting to know a bit about KeyNotes Music, our philosophies, what we offer and why we offer it. So I thought it would be a good time to introduce myself and outline how I got to this point in my teaching career!

I grew up in a wonderful suburb of London called Hampstead and attended a Primary school that believed music to be the most important part of educating a child, at a time where there were no real national strategies focusing on literacy and numeracy as there are now. I learnt the piano from a young age, and the treble recorder through attending the school orchestra. My mum was a ballet teacher (and dad an opera singer in Germany!) and so my whole existence centred around music and dance.

At Secondary school I continued with my self-driven focus on music, took up flute and singing lessons, took Music GCSE and A-Level and generally filled my whole world with music. I knew that I wanted to study music at university and was so lucky to be offered an unconditional offer from Durham University, one of the best in the country (behind Oxford and Cambridge of course!). I say lucky because they could see that I was all about music to the detriment of my other subjects, but they decided my other subjects didn't matter!

I absolutely loved my time at Durham, particularly the courses that looked at how music is used in different societies and cultures; basically how music and people are inextricably linked.

Once I graduated from Durham, I went for a graduate role as a civil servant (working for the government), which I did for a year, but I will never forget my friend's parents sitting me down and asking when I was going to realise that I was born to be a music teacher!

I embarked on a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate of Education) at the Institute of Education in London; an intense year of training that results in you being able to take on a job as a music teacher in a Secondary school. I got my first teaching job at a fairly tough Inner London Comprehensive school and loved the challenge... For a while... Until it became pretty emotionally draining! While at this school I learnt about the importance of music in children's lives who may not have musical opportunities other than at school. I had children who were failing in all other subjects but thrived in music and were even asked to take part in parades for the local borough. I have since bumped into some of these children and they are all working in the music industry now!

I loved the academic part of my PGCE (where we had to write essays about various aspects of teaching and learning) and so I decided to take this love further by studying part-time for an MA in Music Education, also at the Institute of Education. There were many highlights here but my dissertation about Korean pupils and how they respond in the UK music classroom (there were a number of Korean children at the school) was perhaps the best; gaining a distinction for my masters was just the cherry on the top!

With the emotional baggage and sometimes tough working conditions, plus an MA and some management experience (I had been made Gifted and Talented Co-ordinator of the school and Assistant Head of Year) under my belt, I decided to look for a Head of Music job. The school I found the job in could not have been more different - an all-girls grammar school in Surrey! I absolutely loved being Head of Music at this school, with its abundance of talented girls with an incredible work ethic! When I went for the job I was up against some tough competition, but it was my experience and ability to deliver practical and inclusive lessons that sealed the deal! When I joined, the music department was fairly small with only a handful of pupils taking GCSE and A-Level and, with a more practical curriculum introduced into the lower years, the numbers quickly grew!

Once again, I got an itch to focus on academia and started my PhD. This time focusing on a different group of children and how their musical tradition was integrated into the music classroom (or not as the case may be), particularly at GCSE and A-Level. Unfortunately, although most of the way through this, I have had to put my PhD on hold as I found it too difficult to focus on it once I became a mum!

On that topic, being a mum meant that I couldn't dedicate the time and energy I wanted to my Head of Music role (which had previously been my baby, now I had new ones!). I dropped down to one day's teaching per week with no responsibilities and got through those early years of babyhood with all three of my children!

When my son, Reuben, began cello lessons I had a few fellow mums saying that they would love their child to have some sort of musical instruction but felt they were too young for private lessons. So I said I would set something up! And KeyNotes was born! My first lessons took place in a room at the local library and I would plan my lessons week to week, working out what level the pieces should be at (bearing in mind I was used to teaching Bach chorale to much older kids, not beginner piano to little ones!), which concepts needed more consolidation, what the structure of the lesson should look like etc. The concept of group piano is relatively new in the UK and actually at the start I was advertising my classes as music lessons through the medium of the keyboard! As time went on I learnt that group piano is thriving in other areas of the world and this gave me the confidence to change how I viewed and marketed the lessons.

Cello practice is a lot of fun in our household!

Watching my own children learn their instruments (Reuben on cello as I mentioned, Hetty on piano and cello, and Olivia, at only just four, on cello!) has inspired me to learn about how children develop the ability to learn an instrument. My conclusion? A social setting, lots of singing, delayed note-reading (but only until after they are secure on keyboard geography), a creative curriculum linked to stories and topics, and lots of games!

I now spend Saturdays and Wednesdays teaching, most other days after school ferrying (tennis, swimming, cello, piano, ballet etc!), and weekdays working on our KeyNotes curriculum!

KeyNotes Music has grown enormously over the past two years with over 500 children attending lessons (not all taught by me I hasten to add!). A couple of teachers posting comments on Facebook about when my curriculum would be for sale is what spurred me on to getting the reach wider and further, and giving more and more children this wonderful start to their piano-learning journey! I am currently working on getting our existing workbooks onto our store as well as working on some exciting new mini workbooks that will be seasonal, as well as an opportunity for teachers to sample a shorter version! There are also some free resources including keyboard octaves, and we will be adding treble and bass clef sheets for lamination. Our free Halloween PDF has been very popular and it has been so lovely to hear that the children loved their Halloween lesson from those that used it!

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