Sixth Form PSCHE > Understanding Asylum
Read MoreGrove Life – The Power of the Performing Arts
The Performing Arts at Woodhouse Grove are truly co-curricular – rather than extra-curricular; they add to learning in the classroom. Pupils come to us and the processes of creating, refining and performing, develop skills that they can carry forward into their academic work and beyond. Perhaps, most importantly, the very nature of the Performing Arts teaches pupils to step out of their comfort zones and believe that they can do things and reach levels they previously thought impossible. The self-belief and self-confidence that is nurtured is priceless in learning, education and life in general.
My aim as Director of Performing Arts is to make things happen! The team works hard to offer pupils as many Performing Arts opportunities as possible. We’ve got about 25 different clubs and rehearsals running every week; Junior Pop Choir, Senior Choir, Barber Shop, Girls’ Choir, Orchestra, Junior Orchestra, Clarinet Group, Brass Group, Saxophone Group, Concert Band, Swing Band, year group Rock Band, Soul Band and Drama Club and Tech Club. We also offer lessons during the school day, run by peripatetic teachers, in Speech and Drama and virtually any instrument.
In terms of performance opportunities, these range from the weekly Wednesday Breaktime Concert – where anyone can just turn up and perform – to the concerts we put on every half term, featuring a variety of groups and individual performers. We also have a big concert at the end of every term as well as occasional services, such as Christmas and Remembrance Day.
There are a lot of opportunities to get involved – but there is always room for more! What I like to tell parents when pupils first arrive is; if your child is interested in something and we don’t do it, tell me! We’ll try our best to put it on.
Our underlying ethos for Performing Arts at The Grove is to have the maximum number of people doing the maximum number of things. But just as important, is the development of individual skills. I would like every pupil to leave The Grove having built upon the skills that they arrived with. The Grove provides the opportunities and then, once students get involved, we encourage them to think about how they could do things better. We nurture talent to enable our young people to be able to take their next steps.
Of course, we have a number of Year 7s who join us each year who have little, if any, experience in the Performing Arts. At the Grove, we want everyone to have a go – even if they have never played an instrument or stepped on a stage before they arrive here. We encourage all of our Year 7s to come along, take part and try something – and there are plenty of opportunities for them to do so.
There are free Taster Lessons for children who haven’t played an instrument before. We are currently offering these on flute, violin, ‘cello, trumpet, trombone, clarinet and saxophone.
Another wonderful opportunity for Year 7s is Pop Choir. They can drop in to check it out for themselves and it is highly likely that they will be familiar with some of the songs even before they start rehearsing. Hopefully they will enjoy singing along with their friends even more than singing in their bedroom with their AirPods in!
There is also our annual House Music Competition. Every House enters a musical group – often a big choir with a large group of people singing while other pupils play an accompaniment, possibly on guitar, drums and, perhaps, piano. This is open to pupils across the house, so a Year 7 who has never performed in anything else can easily take part to help their house out.
Who knows, a child who never thought that they were “musical” may discover something they really love. I have seen it happen! We frequently get people joining the choir who say they can’t sing and who then end up in our Senior Choir taking quite a large role. We’ve had people who come to us who have never played an instrument, who have then gone on to study music.
A lot of our Year 7s discover their dramatic ability in their first year with us. We always have great numbers wanting to be involved in the Summer Term’s Year 7/8 production. This is something I look forward to every year; seeing pupils make their debut performances at The Grove. It is their first proper show here and it is always very interesting to see who we’ve got and think about where we might take them. We also offer a very popular Drama and Media Club and Theatre Technology clubs in lighting and sound, to develop pupils both on and off stage.
For higher ability pupils, we offer extended performance opportunities. If someone is a talented singer, we seek to get them involved in performing as a soloist. We help them develop so that they can sing parts in harmony confidently. If a pupil is a talented performer on an instrument, we encourage them to get involved with other like-minded students who are perhaps a bit older, so that, rather than focusing on material that is simple and easy for them to play, they have the challenge of harder pieces within a group. We always review all our concerts and shows and consider where we could improve.
Every couple of years, we run a Music Tour for performers. We plan to take our next tour to Europe in 2024 – possibly Finland or Slovenia. Tours are an opportunity to see a bit more of the world. They offer students the opportunity to perform in a new location and with a different group of people and they learn to become comfortable with performing multiple nights in a row as, on tour, we generally perform every day. There are also drama trips, theatre visits and concert trips, providing students with enriching experiences from which they can derive inspiration and ideas for their own work.
We are privileged at The Grove to have outstanding Performing Arts facilities. The Davy Block houses 8 classrooms and 12 practice rooms as well as a state-of-the-art recording studio and a recital space. There is a drama studio where lessons and co-curricular clubs take place. It is wonderful to walk past the Davy Block in the summer and listen to such wonderful talent and creativity streaming out of the windows. Our large performances take place in our 240-seat theatre, which has a full lighting rig and sound system. It is important to the school that these areas are kept well-resourced, to allow pupil performances to be supported adequately. We want to ensure that the impact of the performance, be that drama or music, is heightened by the surroundings – to do our young artists justice.
Having such wonderful facilities would mean nothing without the incredible Grove Performing Arts staff team. These are the people who make the opportunities happen. They demonstrate great dedication coaching the students, helping them improve and develop their skills. They help prepare pupils to perform, teaching them relevant techniques and talking through any uncertainties. Without them there, nurturing the students, it just wouldn’t work. Of course, every school is looking to do similar things in developing their pupils in the Performing Arts – but I think we’ve got a very special team here. I am very proud of the people we’ve employed to do the job.
My favourite part of my job as Director of Performing Arts – and the reason I became a teacher – is to see pupils developing. I love hearing from former pupils, telling me what they are doing now. We had a girl who, when she arrived at The Grove, had barely started in music. But she was keen, interested and worked hard and went on to gain top grades on her instrument and in her A Levels and studied music at a top university. Another fine example is a student who was of average standard as a performer when he arrived at The Grove. He practised hard and was involved in everything he could here and by the time he left us, he was an outstanding musician with diplomas (beyond Grade 8) under his belt. That is what the combination of the opportunities available here, the standard of teaching – and a lot of hard work and commitment – can achieve.
I also very much enjoy getting to know the new pupils, who arrive at The Grove each September. It is a privilege to watch them grow, thinking where they might fit in the wider world, what they might go on to achieve – and trying to help them achieve these things, seeing their eyes open just a little wider as they realise what is possible.
The Performing Arts offer our students so much; whether that is the mental benefits of practising and performing, the joy of feedback from the audience, the sense of community felt from rehearsing and playing with others, or the sense of value gained from engaging with performing arts. I look forward to seeing and hearing what our new Year 7s will bring to the vibrant mix on offer within the Performing Arts here at The Grove.
Phillip Tedd, Director of Performing Arts