Megan Roe and I were due to run a camp at a rock academy in Blackpool which was unfortunately cancelled due to Covid-19. However, we were determined to make something happen for the girls that had signed up, so we moved our camp online and delivered the first ever virtual Jazz Camp for Girls!
We ran four 30-minute sessions over the weekend with a focus on graphic scores and compositional techniques. Our primary aim was to inspire the girls, we wanted them to leave the camp feeling they had discovered something entirely new and interesting that would help keep them playing and writing music during this time.
In our first session we focused on getting to know each other through listening. Everyone gave a listening suggestion that we shared across all the screens using YouTube (a fancy feature on Zoom!) so we could all access the music at the same time. We analysed each track, not only learning about each other’s personalities through the choices we made but started to explore characteristics of genres and styles of music. We left the girls with a task at the end of the session to think about before virtually meeting again later on in the day for further discussion: to listen to the songs we’d compiled in a listening list and think about what colour each song might be and why.
I was curious to see whether the girls would engage with this task once we were no longer all online together. The response however was fantastic, when we joined for the second session, they had all gone away and really thought about how colour relates to each of the songs on the list. We spent our 2nd session exploring these ideas, how might different shapes, lines, patterns, texts, objects, etc., sound. We were really impressed with the girls’ responses to our questions and how they took these new concepts in their stride. We introduced them to composers and pioneers of graphic score notation including John Cage and Cornelius Cardew and provided them with lots of different examples and interpretations. Their next task was to give playing a graphic score a go themselves, we sent across two scores they could try playing with lots of suggestions for how they might go about tackling it.
Over Saturday evening we received mp3 files from all the girls with their performances of the graphic scores! Although we couldn’t make music altogether, it was incredibly encouraging to hear that the girls had taken on board things we had said and tried out new ways of playing music. We were really impressed they had put the time into recording themselves playing and sending it over to us and allowed us to give individual feedback and encouragement to each participant. On Sunday we explored how to compose our own graphic scores and once again we were blown away by how the girls responded to our tasks, we received some incredible compositions which really showed how well they had engaged with sessions.
Teaching in this way was a completely new experience for us, adapting our camp to work online was really fun and we couldn’t be happier with how it went. We had such joy from meeting and working with the girls that participated and since have had such lovely and inspiring feedback from the parents.