I am sure there are teachers all over the country constantly searching for new ways to get students engaged in music, so when Peter Worth, Head of Music at Southend High School for Boys, told me, “our uptake to GCSE and A Level has definitely been enhanced by embarking on music tours”, I felt it my duty to delve a little deeper as I met with Peter at his school.
Peter told me that as a musician himself, many of his fondest and most formative memories are of being on tour, so he has first-hand experience of reaping the benefits of an international concert tour. This was the catalyst to Peter arranging the school’s first music tour eleven years ago with the help of Rayburn Tours.
“To get the first tour off the ground, I had to chivvy up a little bit of support, but ever since then it hasn’t been me who’s had to start the ball rolling, it has been the students asking, ‘can we go on tour again?’. Now, we have to have a waiting list as uptake is just so great.
“Eleven years on I know that whilst the thought of organising a music tour can be quite daunting, the benefits certainly outweigh any potential concerns that you might have.
“The benefits for your department are vast. Students and teachers have to get on as a unit outside of the school environment, like a small community. Our uptake to GCSE and A Level has been enhanced by music tours because students come back buzzing from the experience and want to be part of music within the school. They gain a real sense of belonging to the music department and to the groups that they’ve had to perform with on a foreign stage.”
As I looked around his office I could see eleven years of music tour history gracing the walls, as Peter and his team had built a photo montage of some of their most memorable performances and moments on tour. As he proudly talked me through some of the pictures, he reminded me that aside from developing and engaging their students, the staff always enjoy going on tour and this is one of the reasons they now organise one every year. He said, “To be honest, it’s a lot of fun! Most of the students don’t realise that the teachers have as much fun on the tour as the students do, especially when it’s planned and supported properly.”
I often think that the touring is all about the chance to perform and develop as a musician, but some of Peter’s main reasons for touring are building self-confidence and bonding as a community. “The trip is as much a holiday and chance to get away and have fun together as a group, as it is to perform, develop and learn. It’s being together and having fun that makes the music department a community and encourages cross year group friendships. We have a concert band of over 65 people and the year 13s get to know the year 8s from tour. The year 13s will encourage the younger students, and the younger students will be inspired by the year 13s – and its things like touring that really foster that relationship.”
It was hard not to get wrapped up in his tales of his many tours; talk of fun, friendship and fond memories would inspire any music teacher or musical director thinking of taking their school music group on tour.
And if that doesn’t do it, think about the increase of uptake to GCSE and A Level music!