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Berklee visit energises music programme

A professional development opportunity in Valencia, Spain has brought fresh inspiration and global expertise to ACG Strathallan’s performing arts department.
Berklee Valencia

Earlier this year, ACG Strathallan music teacher, Josh Mckay, attended a series of workshops at Valencia’s Berklee campus, as part of a new partnership between Inspired schools and Berklee College of Music, the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world.

The workshops were designed specifically for Inspired schools’ performing arts teachers who travelled from all corners of the globe to boost their skills and nurture their creative talents.

“It was a true pleasure meeting the teachers from our other schools and it made me feel more connected to our network,” says Josh. Further connections were built through the creation of an online platform enabling students to interact not just with other ACG schools, but also with Inspired schools worldwide, as well as Berklee tutors and alumni.

Josh and his fellow educators immersed themselves in intensive song writing and composition workshops and gained in-depth insights into how to best incorporate their school curriculums with Berklee’s summer programmes and university pathways.

“My personal highlight was the practical performance course, which included an introduction to electronic digital instruments, with DJ-ing and live looping being a particular focus. This was fantastic because at ACG Strathallan we have over a dozen students using digital media to create musical works for exams and extra-curricular work, and it is something I personally really enjoy.”

Located in the beating heart of Valencia’s Arts and Science district even the campus itself was a source of inspiration.

“The facilities were out of this world with world class studios and equipment. It was hard not to feel excited every day simply walking to campus!”

In addition to professional development for staff, the ‘Inspired by Berklee’ partnership is bringing unrivalled global opportunities for students, with artist-in-residence programmes, online song writing workshops, and master classes with internationally acclaimed artists part of the offering.

“Inspired by Berklee provides world leading resources and guidance, gives us a wealth of knowledge to tap into, and allows us to pick and choose elements that our students and teachers want to learn.”

Ultimately, being partnered with such a highly regarded college will boost the prestige of ACG Schools’ performing arts departments and grow their programmes.

“To have this partnership means that our students will be constantly exposed to the pathways music can offer, from audio engineering, to performance, to ethnomusicology and analysis, composing and arranging, film scoring and Foley artistry, digital technologies and show planning – the list is endless.

“Not only do students have the privilege of being exposed to this, but they also have on hand the industry leaders to support their dreams and help them achieve their goals.”

Inspired by Berklee has already proved to be a big hit at ACG Strathallan. Programme resources have enriched the music department – from digital MIDI mapping to improve live performance sessions routed through a laptop, to specialised object writing sessions that help students organise their thoughts when composing and analysing. Workshops and performance evenings will be rolled out throughout the year and shared across other ACG schools.

While currently the programme has a strong music bent, Josh says over the next few years the initiative will expand into ACG’s dance and drama departments, with the development of cross-curricular pathways and the strengthening of tech, media production and creative entrepreneurship.

But even if students don’t have a burning passion for the arts, Josh says a grounding in music and the performing arts brings innumerable benefits.

“The cross-curricular links are so many and so varied, from the ability to apply algebraic concepts from maths in a practical context, to being able to analyse historical and English-based texts with the critical thinking skills developed through repeated practice in music class.”

He likened it to taking a history course, where students study the food, culture, government, socio-cultural and economic status of a particular country at a particular moment in time.

“Imagine doing that, but having to listen and analyse certain extracts, write them out as musical notation purely from listening to them, then recreate the technique, style, idioms and characteristics of that period through performance.

That is the challenge, and the beauty of music.”