- to explore the entrepreneurial, marketing and management aspects of running inclusive community singing sessions.
- to become personally more adept at these aspects of my business
- to create a user-friendly website which
a) encourages a sense of belonging amongst the members of the singing groups and
b) presents a professional shop window to these and other people who might visit it.
- to create online resources to enable the different groups I run to be able to access the songs we sing between the sessions.
- to produce marketing materials which act as promotional aids as well as guides to using the online resources.
I am a musician, composer, musical arranger, singer-songwriter and song leader. Part of my paid work includes running three open access community choirs and as part of my MindMusic work, facilitating three Singing for the Brain (SftB) groups wth the Alzheimer’s Society. Within those groups I have identified a need for access to the songs that we sing. I could just create song books, in fact the SftB has a song book that we use every week; but by being a little more imaginative I could create an effective interactive experience for the singers and also make some of the administrative aspects of my work more straight forward.
The needs that I have identified are slightly different for the community choirs and the MindMusic SftB group, but both require some sort of central accessible resource.
Needs of the Community Choirs:
Between the sessions some people want to look at the sheet music and hear how the parts went
Some people want to use sheet music during the sessions
New people to the group want to catch up on songs they have missed
I want the process of getting the music to the singers to be easier – presently I have to email individual songs out in multiple emails.
Often there are 15 minutes or so at the end of a session when we have finished working on the present songs. If people had their own book of words and / or music, we would be able to choose from our previous repertoire and keep those songs going.
Needs of MindMusic Participants:
- Participants want to be able to sing the songs between sessions
- They want to remind themselves of the words and tunes and check words they didn’t quite catch during the session
- They want a source that they could sing along with
- They often want to know who had sung the song originally
The creation of an online resource would tie in with my need to create a new website and would help to give the singers in all of my groups a feeling of joint ownership of the site.
The online resource for the community choirs will be called Dots and Bleeps: dots are what we call the sheet music and bleeps are the sound files. I use the notation program Sibelius to score the songs we sing and as a result already have these files on my laptop. The sound files from Sibelius however need converting before they can be used on Word Press. Where I have them I would also like to include live recordings of the songs, sung by the groups themselves. The songs will be accessed through a contents page arranged alphabetically; a click any letter will bring up a page of all the songs beginning with that letter. Initially I will include all the songs that I would like to eventually link to a dots and bleeps page; when they are live they will be underlined; including the non-live songs in this way will remind me of what still needs to be done. I see this as a long-term project and not something that will be completely finished by June. Also, because I will always be teaching new songs, it will continue to have additions.
For the MindMusic section I will take the song book that we use for the SftB sessions and make it interactive. Instead of creating an alphabetised contents page, I will use the actual contents page from the hard-copy song book and create a linked page for each song. Clicking on the link will lead to the words of the song and an embedded video of the song being performed.
There will also be a link to Rounds and More, which will include the Rounds, Action Songs, Songs using props and Tongue Twisters. My intention is that the community choirs will sing the rounds for the recordings and at some point in the future I would like to have a big Sing-a-Round with the SftB groups and my community choirs.
At present, when I teach a song in my community choirs, I handwrite the words on a roll of paper which I hang on a purpose-made stand. The singers stand round in a semi-circle so that everyone can see the words and I teach the music parts by ear. This is what Natural Voice teaching is all about and makes the process inclusive for people who do not read music. However, many of my singers can read music and when we are learning a difficult song or we have a deadline sometimes it is easier for those people to read from the sheet music. The advantage is that the song can be put together more quickly; the disadvantage is that the people reading from the music do not properly learn their part as they always have the prompt of the ‘dots’ in front of them.
In designing this project I do not want to lose the Natural Voice way of teaching and still want the singers to learn from the large word sheet. I envisage that the online resource of Dots and Bleeps will be used for people to be able to practice at home; to check any bits they are not getting, remind themselves of any bits they have forgotten and to be able to print off the words in order to be able to sing the song around the house. It will be particularly useful for new members who might want to catch up on some of the group’s favourite songs.
The benefit to me will be that some singers will want to practise at home. As a result, it will make teaching or revisiting a song easier for the rest of the group when some people know it well.
It will also mean that emailing the sheet music and sound files to every singer will no longer be necessary; this is a time-consuming process as my email server can only send to 50 addresses at one time so multiple emails are necessary.
In my MindMusic sessions, (both the SftB groups and other workshops that I have run in hospital wards and in care homes), staff and carers have often asked me for the words of the rounds that we do and also asked where they can hear recordings of them – again so that they can sing them with the residents / person they are caring for in the week between sessions. It has been a long-winded process to help them out previously and I can see this resource being of huge benefit to these users as well as lessening my admin workload.
I have already spoken to my groups about my plans and the general consensus is positive. I have the scores on Sibelius and I am trying out ways of converting the sound files so that they play on Word Press. Because I have already built a website I am familiar with the processes of linking and attributing pages but I know from previous experience that most of what I will be doing will be trial and error! I also know that there are many tutorials online if I get completely stuck – and I have a teenage daughter.
There are many anecdotal accounts as well as more robust academic research about the benefits of music and especially singing for our wellbeing. I will be looking at research that highlights these benefits, such as a new report by What Works Wellbeing entitled, ‘Music, singing and wellbeing: what works?’ and the research by the Centre for Performance Science about how music making can enhance wellbeing and as a result can offer ‘alternatives to traditional public health solutions.’ (CPS 2016). I will also be looking at the websites of other singing leaders – this can however be distracting as I start to feel my website must be like theirs instead of focusing on what I want and need my site to do.
Health and Safety:
There are no Health and Safety issues to be resolved for this project.
There are some ethical considerations in this project and permissions and agreements have been gained in accordance with the British Education Research Association (BERA) guidelines. Anyone to be represented in any of the photographs will have given their permission and the more sensitive and personal aspects of the site, such as some of the Blog items will have been password protected. I have a current DBS certificate in order to run my groups and there are no real ethical issues as far as creating and using the online music resource is concerned.