Friday, 30 January 2009

London update

Hi Everyone

Greetings from London.  The CAD project is ticking along nicely and we're all excited to be leading up to the performance in March.  We've also been invited to interview for some funding by Sound Connections: we submitted two bids - one for their Reaching Out programme (for the second phase of the CAD project) and one for a Youth Mentor programme.  I'll let you know how we get on.

Alongside this work, we've also been bought in by the Orpheus Centre (Richard Stilgoe's residential creative centre for disabled young adults).  Gary Day, who is one of our London associates, who used to work with Drake Music in Ireland, is running the project.  It is a fun project over this term and the focus is on the process rather than any particular outcomes so Gary has carte blanche to get creative!  The first sessions yesterday and today have gone really well so far.


Wednesday, 28 January 2009

I can’t believe they ride bikes here!

There are many remarkable things about Tromsø, a Norwegian city whose people - whether disabled or not - achieve an enviable standard of living on a small island 350 kilometres inside the Arctic Circle, 240 kilometres from any other town and 1000 kilometres from another city of similar size. Tromsø also boasts the northern-most University in the world and in the summer of 2008 the University Music Department, together with the Tromsø Culture School invited Charlotte White to write music for, and attend this year's 'Nordlysfestivalen' (Northern Lights Music Festival). The Northern Lights themselves proved elusive but Charlotte, Jackie (Charlotte's PA) and I enjoyed an unforgettable week in Tromsø from 20th to 27th January.

We awoke, late on Wednesday morning to a dusky half-light. The sun, which had deserted Tromsø in late November, was for the first time peeping over the mountains at the end of the fjord. It didn't peep for long though, and we were plunged back into darkness by 2.30pm. During the afternoon we visited our hosts, Elin, Einar and Johann at the SKUG centre - an Assistive Music Technology powerhouse within the Culture School, whose links to Drake Music and Dr. Tim Anderson go back a number of years. We also finally met Øyvin Kristoffer and Vibeke, the two disabled musicians with whom Charlotte had remotely collaborated to compose the music for the Festival's opening performance via a combination of Skype, VNC and Dropbox file sharing. We relied on taxis to get us around town for most of this first day but thereafter, on Charlotte's insistence, we braved the sub-zero temperatures and began making our own way around the streets, despite much of the tarmac being buried centimetres beneath sheet ice or heavily compacted snow.

There is a prevailing attitude in Tromsø that anything is possible, so long as you believe strongly enough that it should happen and find common-sense solutions. By the early 1990's for example, increased traffic congestion began to seriously threaten the small city streets and wooden houses. But instead of widening the roads it was decided to build a network of underground tunnels and car parks, paid for through a small increase in the cost of fuel that has now recouped. The achievements of disabled musicians at the SKUG centre, and indeed the general level of aspiration by and for disabled people in Tromsø is emblematic of this positive outlook. And, as with the best Assistive Music Technology, the cyclists who whizz past on the icy roads also employ a simple, practical solution to defy initial expectations. Their tyres, just like those of all other vehicles in the winter, are fitted with metal spikes to ensure a firm grip.

On Thursday and  Friday Charlotte and I presented, and Charlotte performed to staff and music students at Kongsbakken College, and the University Music Department. Charlotte greatly impressed everyone with her performance of the Bach Cello prelude and her demonstrations of Sibelius and Reason using her 'SmartNav' hands-free mouse and a range of assistive software. For me, it was brilliant to be able to present alongside her and I'm sure that the audiences went away with a much more profound appreciation of her achievements, and of the potential of disabled musicians in general, than I am able to engender when presenting on my own.

On Friday evening we got to see and hear the culmination of Charlotte, Øyvin Kristoffer and Vibeke's hard work. The opening performance of the Nordlysfestivalen was a stunning, open-air event in Tromsø's main square, attended by the Crown Prince of Norway and an audience of about 500 people. A troupe of dancers depicted the Norwegian fairy story of "Havmannens Sønn" in and around a set of beautifully lit snow sculptures, with Charlotte, Øyvin and Vibeke's pre-recorded music commanding everyone's attention from the massive PA towers. Charlotte's pieces rose brilliantly to the occasion and the dancers clearly loved dancing to them; the young boy in the story (the sønn) skipping around gleefully to her skittering, breathless flutes. I hope to be able to post some video of the event online soon as it was filmed for broadcast by the Norwegian equivalent of the BBC. Afterwards, at the opening concert in Tromsø's main concert hall (also attended by the Crown Prince) Charlotte and her collaborators were presented with flowers in recognition of their fantastic contribution to the festival. Not surprisingly, we all went out for a well-deserved celebratory meal and a few drinks afterwards.

The weekend was filled with a succession of amazing arctic experiences: a sight-seeing drive into the mountains, visits to both Johann and Elin's homes where we enjoyed wonderful hospitality, a spot of sledging, a baroque flute concert, a flight over Tromsø and the surrounding mountains in a small four-seater plane, a seal show at the 'Polarium' and finally a return to the city concert hall to hear music for Euphonium and web-cam.

We spent Monday afternoon back at the SKUG centre, exchanging Assistive Music Technology tips and tricks and making music with Øyvin, Vibeke and a number of other young, disabled musicians. Before the return flight on Tuesday there was just time for Charlotte and Jackie to fit in a dog-sled ride through the spectacular mountain scenery while Elin, Einar and I drank tea by an open fire in a traditional Sami tent and plotted the next phase of our collaboration. We're all keen to extend the potential of the remote collaborative music making which produced such fantastic results at the Nordlysfestivalen. It could unlock previously unimagined access to music for disabled musicians scattered throughout remote arctic communities in Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia, as well as being extremely useful for musicians working with Drake Music in the UK. If you don't believe us, you probably wouldn't believe the speed of the cyclists in Tromsø either.
Doug Bott

Hear / download Charlotte's compositions for "Havmannen's Sønn", recorded by Elin Skogdal with musicians from Tromsø University and the Tromsø Symphony Orchestra:

Watch Charlotte's performance of the Bach Cello Prelude on YouTube

Friday, 23 January 2009

Tentative steps..

....Here goes.....
Thanks to Doug's encouragement in December to all Trustees to 'make the Drake blog your homepage' and Anna's meticulous instructions I'm HOPING everyone will see my first venture into blogging!

For those of you who don't know me I am a Trustee of Drake Music and had a longstanding relationship with the organisation as a tutor and trainer in London, the Midlands and the north of the country in the 90s prior to joining the Board.
I'm now a freelance consultant, trainer and project manager working across the W Midlands out of Birmingham and advocate our work at every opportunity (which are many!).

I can't wait to hear how Charlotte's trip to Norway has gone, or the outcomes of lots of the activity that's happening all over the country.
Anna tells me I have to write my name at the bottom so I'll say good bye for now.
Clare Smith

Friday, 16 January 2009

SW update for Jan 2009

Here's a quick update from Doug on work in the South West.  We've had a whirlwind start to the year:

Alex and Jonathan have turned  the brand new sensory room at Claremont Secondary school into a multimedia Reggae Spaceship for this term's group music sessions!

St. Rose's
St. Rose's school have confirmed that they can fully fund us for the rest of this academic year, which means that in addition to delivering the NOCN course pilot with Bradley Warwick, Alex can now join Jonathan each Tuesday to deliver a full program of group and individual music sessions, working towards the St. Rose's school PROM concert in July.

NOCN Music Course Pilot
The NOCN course is going well. Bradley and Jonathan have nearly finished the first unit (notation) and we have adapted the Grid 2 set up originally designed for Charlotte so that Bradley can compose in Sibelius using 2 head switches. We are working hard on a funding bid to Esmée Fairbairn to continue the Curriculum Development Initiative, as part of which Jonathan has been hitting the phones to the QCA and all major exam boards to get an update on the current state of access to accreditation for disabled pupils. As per the last time we did this, the results are still very patchy. For example, WJEC seem pretty switched on while Edexcel seem extremely unhelpful, even obstructive. We are also talking to NAME about the possibility of presenting on Access to Accreditation for disabled pupils at this year's conference in September. Jonathan will be delivering a lecture / presentation to PGCE music students at Bristol Uni on Thurs 22nd Jan as the first phase of our partnership with Bristol Uni to increase awareness of access issues among PGCE music students. This is definitely something we could look to extend around the country (Manchester, London, E-Mids and more.)

Sing Up / Drake Music partnership
We have almost completed the Clicker 5 and VOCA (Voice Output Communication Aid) resources for the Sing Up pilot project. Our workshop space at Claremont has resembled a programming production line at points over the last couple of weeks with Alex working alongside Hannah, Katie and Nikki of PCAS (Paediatric Communication Aids Service) to render 'Alice The Camel', 'Senwa Dedende' and 'Old MacDonald' (among others) in fully accessible, digital form. We met with a host of people from Sing Up and Faber Music today to test out the resources and to plan delivery of the pilot project. They're delighted with the resources - the pilot is scheduled to run in 4 schools (tbc) throughout the South West from May and the resources will be available to download from the Sing Up Song Bank from September. Alex and I will also be presenting on our work with Sing Up as well as running a series of workshops at at a Singing Conference to be held at the Colston Hall, Bristol on 4th February.

The new Wooden Spoon building (which we share with PCAS at Claremont school) was opened today by The Princess Royal. I couldn't attend as the Sing Up/Faber meeting couldn't be re-scheduled, so Jonathan had a shave, shook the moth-balls of his suit and schmoozed with HRH.

BAMS funding?
We are in the process of organising a series of music sessions in Bristol SEN schools funded by Bristol Arts & Music Service under the Wider Opportunities scheme. If it comes off this will be the first time that the LEA has directly funded our work in Bristol. Fingers crossed...

Doug & Charlotte are off to Tromsø in Norway from 20th to 27th Jan to attend the Northern Lights Music Festival as guests of the SKUG centre and Tromsø University. Charlotte has written 3 pieces for the opening performance of the Festival which have been pre-recorded (by musicians at Tromsø University) to accompany a dance piece based on the Norwegian Fairy tale of Havmannens sønn. You can listen to the recordings here, here, and here! As well as attending various concerts we'll be giving presentations to the Music Dept at the University and also at Tromsø music college. I'll try and post some photos of the trip here soon.

I think that's about it - back to the funding apps.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Find you Talent! Festival

Hi everyone,

Drake Music will be present at the Find your Talent! Festival at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Tower Hamlets on the 16th and 17th January 2009, 10:30-17:00. The festival is aimed at young people in the borough to discover opportunities in the creative sector which is represented by local arts and cultural organisations.
Anna and I will represent Drake Music with stand on both days with info material and case studies about what we do and who we are. Also, I am very excited to announce that Anya and Victoria, two of our associate musicians and trainees in our project Connecting Across Difference will be performing there. Victoria is going to sing classical, jazz and modern songs and Anya will showcase her electronic portfolio using Soundbeam and Kaoss Pad.

How exciting! If you want to check out the website of Find you Talent! festival:

Have a nice weekend everyone,
Christine :-)

Monday, 5 January 2009

Happy New Year from the East Mid's!

Just wanted to say hello and wish everyone a 'fundraising success' for 2009! Lot's to do.. Lot's to see.. Lot's to wish for.. and Lot's to gain!