KC TUTOR INSIGHTS: Andy Edwards MAS Music Tutor 18/11/2020

KC INSIGHTS:

Music Tutor: Andy Edwards

This Friday, KC are, as usual, fully backing BBC Radio 6’s #T-ShirtDay; where you snap a selfie in your favourite band tee, and they play them on the radio! With COVID throwing the Creative Industries into disarray, our both our long-term favourite artists and new upcoming talent need our support. 

We caught up with our legendary music tutor, Andy Edwards, about the effects of COVID on the arts, and how here at KC we’re adapting, innovating, training and supporting future musicians, technicians, song-writers, producers and all other manner of talent and roles that go into getting your favourite song into your ears.

BACKGROUND

Just in case you didn’t know;

Andy Edwards came to prominence as Robert Plant’s drummer between 1997 and 2001. During this time he worked exclusively for Robert, performing all over the world on over 100 gigs. These included performances headlining many of the major music festivals across Europe.”

Still releasing music, still very much part of the prog scene, Andy is one of our many talented Music Tutors here at KC.

AFTER TEACHING MUSIC FOR NEARLY THIRTY YEARS...

…I found myself this March, along with my colleagues and other teachers and lecturers across the world, faced with trying to plan our way through the unprecedented situation of shutting the college, sending the students home and trying to get them through a course where they could not play music or be seen face to face to assess. And we had to organise this on the spot.

But this was just one of many unprecedented situations that the Coronavirus brought our way. For musicians it also brought the complete closure of virtually all performance situations. For a course with ‘performance’ in the title, this could be a very difficult problem!

The fact is our courses, and the programs within MAS Records, were ready for this unforeseen circumstance. We had already moved our assessment process online, with the music artists under our guidance able submit performance and academic work on video, with online workbooks to guide them through the assessment process and a wealth of online learning tools. We also had already moved all our students onto Microsoft Teams and we had run sessions on there before lockdown so our students were ready to make the jump to working completely in a virtual learning environment.

ONCE WE GOT INTO LOCKDOWN WE LEARNT THE ADVANTAGES...

…as well as the drawbacks, of delivering a course online, and we have learnt a lot since.

With the gossip that we ‘might be locked down to the end of Easter!, no one really could have imagined that we were embarking on a ‘new normal’ and that these restrictions would still be still be in place in varying forms at Christmas. The truth is that this pandemic will mark a huge cultural shift that will affect all aspects of our lives. And education, along with many other things, may well be permanently affected by this shift.

The obvious change is to the way we teach. The use of online teaching, both synchronous and asynchronous, has now become the norm. Timetables are completely structured now around social distancing we have a new classroom on the list, the virtual classroom.

KC STUDENTS UNDERTAKING A SOCIALLY DISTANCED LESSON AT KIDDERMINSTER TOWN HALL.

We have managed to return to something resembling normal business, our students are back, lessons are being taught and assessment is taking place. We have returned with a new set of approaches under our belts. Our attendance is up because students off ill can still come to classes remotely and our assignments are all online, and can be set, completed and assessed all at the click of a button which means our ability to track progress and support where support is needed has increased tenfold. I believe the Coronavirus has sharpened our teaching skills and broadened the range of skills we teach as our students are now experts at working productively in an online environment.

A skill like this is what we call a transferable skill. I believe transferable skills are not always counted when people discuss the merits of teaching various subjects. But I think they are the most important. The current obsession with STEM subjects forgets the fact that most of us don’t actually work in the areas that we studied at college or university. It was in fact the transferable skills we learnt that were most important in helping us join the workplace. Knowing that date the Magna Carta was signed or the amount of electrons in a Helium atom whilst useful, are not in my opinion, as important as being able to organise yourself, set targets, develop people skills, understand how to use technology, develop business skills or entrepreneurship.

And these skills will be very important in the future because the Coronavirus is going to fundamentally change not only the nature of the workplace, but the workplace itself. And as certain jobs die away other, new professions will emerge. And the ability for the current generation entering the workplace to be able to bend and adapt to this must be at the forefront of our education system.

A MUCH DISCUSSED DOWNSIDE OF THE LOCKDOWN HAS BEEN THE EFFECT ON MENTAL HEALTH...

…And for young people mental health issues have become paramount. When discussing education we can become too focused on the vocational aspect. The most important aspect of education is personal well-being. Skills mean nothing if you do not have the confidence, self-belief or self-organisation to utilise those skills. And for some young people mental health issues can be overwhelming as they move from childhood to adulthood, with all the pressures and stresses that entails. I believe that the art subjects are the most important way of helping young people through these problems. It is more effective in my opinion than pills or even counselling. Harnessing a person’s creativity and refining it aligns all those inner voices and can turn all the catastrophizing and self-loathing into a force that is able to bring order to the outside world, as opposed to chaos to the inner world.

This is the real value of creative subjects. Courses that teach music (as well as art, acting, dance etc) can really help a certain section of young people who would not do so well in a normal academic environment. They can develop personal skills, an understanding of the value of creativity and a variety of transferable skills that I have described above.

So I think the collapse of certain areas in the music industry should not be seen as a complete disaster for the viability of music courses. We need to see the skills developed by studying music as not only an end in themselves, but also a way of developing and refining a set of malleable skills, routed in creativity, that will be able to adapt for a new workplace.

Let’s hope there is a light at the end of the tunnel but let’s prepare for the worst. Let education lead the way in helping our young people to prepare for a society that is and will be completely different to the one their parents grew up in. And there is only one way to adapt to the new, and that is to be creative. So please, please DO NOT let those creative courses slip off the curriculum.

Andy Edwards is one of the many world-renowned names teaching at Kidderminster College, within their Creative Industries sector. A passionate advocate for mental health and forever thinking outside the box, Andy’s wealth of expertise, industry-insider knowledge and keen ear for music Andy Edwards is above and beyond the perfect music mentor!

You can find out more about Andy and listen to his music and collaborations HERE.