In February 2017 Paul Roe will run a one-day workshop on Coaching in the RIAM. Last week The Department of Education launched a new initiative for coaching for school leaders. Paul will be coaching a range of school principals over the next couple of years for the Centre for School Leadership CSL [http://cslireland.ie/en/established-leaders-eng/coaching.html]. We are delighted to have Paul with us for a workshop on this area on the 26 February 2017.
How coaching can make your life more rewarding and fulfilling
For some years now I have been working as a professional coach, along with my teaching and performing career as a clarinettist. People often ask me ‘what is coaching,’ as it is such a ubiquitous term. Most of us have heard about sports coaching, chamber music coaching, and life coaching, to name but a few and yet we have very little idea of what it means to be coached or be a coach. Hopefully this short article may shed some light on this area.
The first thing to say is, there are as many different styles of coaching as there are styles and approaches to teaching or playing the piano. Indeed some forms of coaching that are practiced are quite contradictory. One form of coaching may be quite directive, whilst another will be completely facilitative. That said, there are some clear differences between what is generally understood as coaching and other forms of human interaction. I have various definitions I use in relation to coaching depending on the context. For now I will offer this phrase on the role of a coach…a coach serves the learning, growth and change of another-this requires mindfulness on the part of the coach. Coaching fundamentally is about change. As human beings we are hard-wired for growth and change throughout our lives.
Often people involved in coaching refer to setting and achieving goals and whilst this can be a part of coaching it is by no means the whole story. Coaching is a developmental process where we gain, amongst other things, understanding through improving our self-awareness. Awareness precedes clarity and clarity precedes change and choice. Ultimately we learn to be self-generative, make better choices and are more successful. In fact when I work with clients, goals evolve and emerge out of the work we do together, it is an organic process. Here is a very short list of fundamental approaches one finds in coaching:
Contrast this with the following (again brief list), which would not be considered coaching:
Perhaps having read these lists you may find that you as a teacher favour a coaching or non-coaching approach. That is not to say, one is better than the other-it is simply to make some clear distinctions. There are many teachers who use the best of coaching methodology in their teaching and many coaches who also have significant pedagogical competencies. Coaching is a highly skilled and nuanced capacity that can take many years to refine, if one wants to work as a professional coach. That said, one could introduce more of a coaching approach to the various relationships we have, both professional and personal and in doing so find our interactions are more rewarding in a variety of ways. When we let go of our expert mode and relate more fundamentally to people many of the communication difficulties that stifle creativity and growth disappear. There is no better way to improve what it is we do by working with an empathic and insightful coach. We get to see ourselves in a whole new light, in an environment that is nourishing, supportive and transformative. It is worth bearing in mind, any personal growth we gain will in turn assist those we work with and represents a positive model of life long learning. Shunryu Suzuki encourages us to cultivate a beginner’s mind from which point we can seek to learn something new. This is the antithesis of the expert mind where we can hypnotise ourselves into believing we have all the answers.
Coaching is a role fundamentally dedicated to the service of others and in order to earn the right to coach, one needs to engage in a very meaningful way with ones own growth, learning and change. It is a very fulfilling and personally enlightening journey. I welcome any queries and thoughts. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if I can should you wish to find out more.
This year we are delighted to have Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys as guest of honour at the RIAM High Achievers Gala concert in December. The journey from the examination room to our Gala event is a long one, and it represents real achievement every step of the way.
September is a busy month here in the RIAM Library as the new academic year kicks off and lots of new students arrive. Then, suddenly, it’s October (how did that happen?) and I finally have time to draw breath and tell you about some interesting resources.
In this series of blogs RIAM Director, Deborah Kelleher, reflects on aspects of RIAM life (and sometimes life outside the Academy too)
The Working Musician
Recently we undertook some market research in the RIAM about our third level programmes. Much of what came back was good to hear, but one thing stuck out: the importance our students place on getting work after the RIAM – how will they live? What will they work at? In the past as a conservatoire we might have considered very narrow pathways in music performance as markers of ‘success’: the opera house, the orchestra, the recital stage. The reality is that this definition of success only came about in the 19th century, as Liszt, Chopin and Paginnini glamourised the composer/performer (and then the performer) in the audience’s hearts and minds.
The fact is that composers like Bach, Haydn or Clementi had varied careers that involved composition, performance, teaching and some administration (in Bach’s case, recording the births, marriages and deaths in the Church). Musicians nowadays tend to have similar portfolio careers in which performing, teaching and some additional professional work make up their busy lives.
So this year RIAM’s third level students will attend seminars called ‘The Working Musician’ (a positive start!), which will feature the study of pedagogy, experience of community music, Music therapy, new music collaboration and self-directed projects. My hope is that they will have practical skills to add to their musical ones to thrive as confident and adaptable music professionals when they leave us.
In this series of blogs, RIAM Director, Deborah Kelleher, reflects on aspects of RIAM life (and sometimes life outside the Academy too)
Historically Informed Performance
The RIAM will shortly launch Ireland’s first Historical Performance Department, with specialist teachers in Baroque stringed and keyboard instruments. Historically informed performance uses knowledge of the aesthetic criteria of the period in which the music was conceived, to re-create the music as close to how it would have sounded at the time it was first performed. Such music is usually played on instruments corresponding to the period of the piece being played, and practitioners pore over manuscripts, treatises and notes from instrument makers of the time to find the clues as to how this music really sounded.
Why do we wish to do this? There are many reasons. Firstly, it is an intriguing puzzle to find such musical clues and that appeals to the inner detective in many. Secondly, it seems time and again that the authentic sound comes across better than a more generalised performance. For instance, certain Baroque pieces simply cannot be performed too slowly, because Baroque bows from that time were shorter and couldn’t sustain a slow phrase. Over-pedalling a Bach keyboard piece makes it muddy, and we know that the instrument on which it was first performed (the harpsichord) had no sustain pedals at all.
However, do we need to play Bach as if Chopin was never born? Would Chopin himself not have jumped for joy if he could have written for the modern concert grand? Can we really separate our 21st century selves from the performance of this older music? Certain performers, particularly in the mid-20th century had scant time for this historical performance ‘craze’. And some performances, though inauthentic, can still impress.
If you wish to hear the contrast between so-called authentic and inauthentic performances I invite you to check out the Bach B Minor Mass with two special recordings. Herbert von Karajan luxuriated in a full symphony orchestra and a choir of hundreds in his recording, which evoked a kind of fearful wonder at the piece’s greatness. Andrew Parrott recreated Bach’s setting of two voices per part for a sparser texture, in a brisker tempo (those bows!) Which do you prefer?
The RIAM is currently recruiting for new Local Centre music examiners. The deadline for applications is Friday, the 23 September and you can download an application form HERE. At the moment, I am getting lots of calls, from interested people, wondering what is involved. So, I thought I would give you a little insight into the work of an RIAM Local Centre Examiner.
The RIAM Local Centre exams take place in 1,000s of venues throughout Ireland every year and we examine over 40,000 students in solo instruments, choral exams, orchestral exams, duet exams and more. One of the best things about being an examiner is how varied it is, and all of the wonderful students you meet, throughout the country. From the student taking their very first elementary piano exam, that is so full of excitment and nerves, to the adult who has come back to lessons and exams after some years, and who is often more nervous that their younger peers, but so eager to do a good job of the task at hand. The role of examiner is one that allows you to engage with so many wonderful people and for that small window of time, they give you a litttle glimpse into their lives and their musical journey. You often get to hear a little snippet from their day, as they tell you about the football match they are running on to, the birthday party that they left early (they are never too happy about this one!) or the school or job that they would like to delay returning to. Above all, it is a role that allows the examiners to share a love and appreciation of music, with students of all diciplines throughout the country.
For us in the RIAM, it is also a serious job. It is so important that every student gets the same consideration, because what might be a ten minute slot in our examining day, is the cumulation of many months of practice for them. We want to make sure that every student enjoys their experience, and that we work hard to be patient and kind. Sitting your exams is a big deal and we want to encourage, and offer feedback that is constructive and useful to every student, as they continue on their musical journey.
So, if you ever thought that you would like to be an examiner, or that it's a role that you would enjoy or be good at, why not apply? We would love to hear from you. We are looking forward to adding some new faces to the RIAM Local Centre Examiner team for 2017.
How to Apply:
You can download the application form HERE and email it or post it into us, with a cover letter telling us a little bit about you and why you would like to be an examiner.
Interviews will be held in Mid-October and the successful candidates will be invited to attend 4 days of training in the RIAM in November 2016. The training is intense, but there is so much to learn and it offers a great insight into the RIAM exams and the work of the examiner.
We hope you will consider applying!