SOAS World Music Summer School to go online

African drumming

We’re offering twelve courses in music genres from around the world. Students can learn Cuban melodies, percussion styles from the Middle East, Africa and South America and songs from Russia and India. We have skills-based classes in composition, improvisation and special masterclasses in Kora and Rubab. We’re also introducing a special session for bringing diverse music forms to kids in lockdown! This is our World Music Summer School 2020.

In February, I put out an email to our mailing list floating the idea of online classes and the response was really motivating!  Ex-students were appreciative of us ‘being there’ during this difficult time, and were still keen to see what our talented collection of teachers could offer, even over a computer screen. And when I starting working with the teachers to see how it might work, I started to understand the possibilities.

Each workshop is different, but some good ideas have come from Sara McGuiness, who is re-building her Cuban Music Big Band course into small modules so people can decide if they do the whole thing, or just join keys, vocal or percussion section. There will be a face-to-face component as well as homework, for examples students will be provided recordings of Cuban Ensemble with their part missing, so they can practice with that.

Photograph: Steven Pisano/Flickr

This strange new situation of lockdown has brought ideas and experiments that we’ve never tried before. For example, in the Rajasthani dance course, we’ll be connecting with Kalbeliya dancers in three different Indian cities, and the new method of allowing people to practice with recordings between sessions will really help their learning. We’ll use these techniques in the next ‘IRL’ Summer School too. We’re going to bring the joy of being with other people and making music to people’s home during lockdown – and for me, that’s magic!

The summer school has always attracted a variety of people – those who have fallen in love with a country or region, and want to get to know the music of that area; musicians who want to broaden their repertoire and skills. We have total beginners and absolute virtuosos in the same classes sometimes, but everyone takes away something different. What I’m excited about in this online summer school is that we’ll now be able to reach people who couldn’t travel to London in the past for whatever reason – maybe the cost of a trip to London, or other mobility issues made it tricky.  This year’s summer school will be the most accessible yet!

We’re charging £10 per hour of teaching time, which is the lowest price in the UK for high-quality music teaching in these rare music forms.

This price will allow us to pay the teachers a fair fee. There’s a lot more preparation involved with teaching online, and musicians are suffering badly at the moment, with cancelled gigs and workshops, so we want to make sure we support our team.

Find out more about workshops and booking details.

About Georgie Pope

Usually my job is simply to get a timetable together, advertise the Summer School and communicate with the teachers and students. This year I’m getting a lot more hands on with the content of the courses too, having wonderful creative discussions with the teachers about how to re-shape their teaching for the new format.

This year has been a big one for me – In May, I finally passed my PhD in ethnomusicology at King’s College London! I have also launched the Global Music Academy, a social enterprise which brings diverse music forms into UK state schools. I got some Arts Council funding to work with the SOAS Music and Widening Participation departments, to get SOAS Summer School teachers – and many other musicians – teaching in schools. It’s been wonderful so far – despite the school closures – and we’re developing some online materials for teachers and parents during the current crisis. We’re also offering a ‘World Music for Kids in Lockdown’ course as part of the World Music Summer School – so that will be a lot of fun!

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