As a part of our new and improved Teacher Privilege Scheme, we are now speaking to a number of incredible teachers, institutions, charities and schools up and down the country. In order to help you find the right school for you, we are also undergoing a new series where we shed the spotlight on the schools we work closely with, giving you a flavour for their teaching styles as well as the opportunity to get to know the team behind the magic.
In our first spotlight feature, we’re heading to Woolwich in London, home to the Royal Arsenal School of Music. A newly founded school that has been bred out of a passion for performing and creating a rich and diverse musical community for its students.
We caught up with the co-founders Sally Wragg & Ros Wilks on the story behind the school, what their students can expect and a little more about their teaching style.
To kick things off, we always think it’s a great place to start by getting to know the teachers, so asked Ros and Sally to tell us a little more about how they met and how the Royal Arsenal School of Music came into being.
Ros: “Sally and I actually met on the busking pitch in Covent Garden. I had a long string of back problems 4 or 5 years ago and had to stop all of my performing. I had to stay at home so thought I would start teaching from there. I founded Royal Arsenal School Of Piano and grew and gradually built my student base - A lot of my original piano students are still with the school. Thankfully my back is now better so I can still perform too!”
Sally: “I moved to Woolwich during the first lockdown and joined up with Ros and her piano school. With the lack of performing work available I focused my efforts more to teaching. We realised there wasn't any provision for learning string instruments in the local area so we thought we’d just streamline everything into the Music School. So in a strange way, it’s actually all been bred out of COVID!”
There are countless music schools up and down the country, each with its own specialisms and values. We then asked Ros and Sally what the key values of the Royal Arsenal School Of Music are, what makes their teaching styles unique and why they believe music education is so important.
Sally: “We focus a lot on the community side of our school and it’s at the heart of everything we do. We have performance platforms at the end of each term to give our students as many performance opportunities as possible. We also host an annual concert so everyone has somewhere to perform, even if they decide they don’t want to do exams.
A lot of parents who already know each other bump into one another at these events and find out that their children both go to the same music school and have some really fun interactions.”
Ros: “Even this morning, we’ve been booking our ABRSM exams and I always put a Whatsapp group together with all of the parents to relay the information. You’ll get a message from the parents to one another saying “I didn’t know that you were learning here too!” and it’s a really nice community side of things.
I love seeing the parents becoming friends on facebook literally just through music lessons, their kids and the performance opportunities we give them.”
Sally: “When it comes to why I believe music education matters, I was very fortunate that I had such a brilliant music education when I was growing up. When I went to music college, I realised that other people on my course didn’t have the same opportunities that I was presented with when I was learning.
There were a few inspirational characters I met at crucial points of my musical upbringing in the Oxfordshire County Music Service. I want our students to be in an environment where we can just chat and I can pass on what I learned from those teachers I had who I still hold in high regard.
One of my favourite things about the school is that we have a tuck shop in the waiting area. When I speak to my colleagues, , their favourite memories of their music schools or when they were playing in youth orchestras was the tuck shop. That’s where they would make friends with common interests and ideas who are a big part of the reason they wanted to go to Saturday morning music school. So that's really important to me.”
As well as the group performances and exams, both Sally and Ros offer private tuition spaces for their students and teach following the ABRSM exam syllabus. We asked the duo what they believe the most important factors of any music lesson are.
Ros: “As a school, we do the ABRSM exam syllabus because we trust that methodology so much. When it comes to learning, we place a lot of focus on things like technique and theory, making sure that groundwork is secure for all of our students. I like to do a lot of sight reading in my lessons because I want any student to be able to print off whatever sheet music they like and make sense of it instead of just churning out their exam pieces.
We do sometimes have students who don’t want to do exams, they just want to play and that’s absolutely fine too, so we like to tailor the needs of the student as much as we can.
Of course, the past year has not been the easiest for any schools or teachers, however both Sally and Ros are extremely excited for the future and have a lot of plans in the pipeline!
Ros: “We have a lot of fun things planned actually. The main one coming up is having to transition from working from home. I’ve taught in my front room for the last 5 years, but now we’ve got this new and exciting space and rooms that we can use for group teaching and 1:1 instrumental rooms. That space has provided a lot of extra opportunities for our students.
For example we’ve just introduced an Early Years course with one of our piano teachers who’s also a brilliant French Horn player and an early years specialist! We’re starting to make plans for our choir and group theory and musicianship classes. Both Sally and I feel that those aspects are so important to a wider range of education than just the practical side of playing.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed this in depth spotlight of the Royal Arsenal School of Music! If you are looking to join the school or would like to learn more, you can contact Sally and Ros using the links below.
Are you a teacher or school and would like your own spotlight focus? We’d love to speak to you! Apply for the Millers Music Teacher Privilege Scheme today!
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