The Final Study Trip

I’ve officially finished finals and everything now, so I’m getting around to writing all of the other things I’ve been meaning to write.

A week ago, my UK Media class took a trip to London to do two things: go on a walking tour of the places in London where Harry Potter was filmed, and visit the offices of The Telegraph, a newspaper. After a four-hour bus ride that was delayed because some royals were going somewhere so traffic stopped, we met up with our tour guide, Liam, at the Royal Exchange. As it turned out, the tour was not just of Harry Potter stuff, it was more about writers and stories that were inspired or influenced by places in London, including two ghost stories and part of the origin of Dracula (look up Countess Elizabeth Bathory if you want a pretty gruesome story). I really enjoyed it though, it gave a good idea of what London is like, as well as introducing various spots that have been culturally relevant. Our tour guide was also great, really friendly and engaging, and I think he was impressed by our knowledge of Harry Potter.

The tour of The Telegraph was also really cool. Our tour guide was a 70-year old man named George who had been working there since he was 27 and is technically retired, but still comes to work every day. I didn’t know much about what it takes to run a newspaper, but he explained it all pretty well, plus it was pretty cool to see everyone’s desks all laid out, it was an open floor plan. One of their people in the obituary department used to be an ASE tutor who taught this class, so we got to talk to her for a while, which was interesting.

Overall, it was a cool trip, although it was four hours on a bus each way, which was a little long. Today we have final tea and I have one last performance with Bath Phil, and then tomorrow the program is officially finished and we have to move out, which is crazy. But I’ll get to see my boyfriend and begin our travels, which I’m very excited about.

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More Bath Phil Education

I spent last weekend working with the Young Carers project with Bath Phil for the second weekend of the project. We have one more weekend, this weekend, and then the performance right before the end of the program. I enjoy every weekend with them, and I feel like I am getting to know these kids more and getting to know more about music and the process that Bath Phil goes through in their education projects.

On Saturday, we came back to some of the songs from the weekend before to add to them. I spent a good amount of the day setting up for an art project that was at the end of the day. Before that, though, we were doing an art project and one of the kids pointed at a chair at her table, basically asking me to sit with her, which is the first time that something like that has happened for me with these kids. We then made art that was half one thing, and half another. For example, I was given the bottom half of a mushroom and I drew the top half as a house. But the project at the end of the day consisted of the kids filling balloons with glitter and confetti because they said that the storm they were performing rained confetti, glitter, and hope.

I gave myself a slightly sore thumb from using a shaped hole punch to punch balloon-shaped confetti from tissue paper for them to use. It is a pretty long process with not very much payoff, unless you’re using really good hole punches, I imagine. We then were putting balloons over funnels so it was easier for the kids, the result of which was kind of funny looking (see photo below). Personally, I think it looks like a field of light bulbs with red bottoms.

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At the end of the day, the kids filled the balloons with the glitter and confetti. We also had helium tanks to blow up the balloons, but, as it turns out, depending on how much glitter and confetti you have in the balloon, it isn’t super likely to actually float. And of course, because it’s glitter, it got everywhere, and I mean everywhere. It didn’t help that at one point I was blowing up a balloon that had a lot of glitter in it, and it popped while I was blowing it up, covering me in glitter (see photo below, which was at the end of blowing all the balloons up). But the kids really enjoyed them, and they looked cool. I spent about an hour vacuuming afterwards and there was still definitely plenty of glitter left. And I have found glitter on places of my body like my arm and chest that were covered the entire time. And it’s in the shoes I was wearing. It’s truly inescapable.

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On Sunday, we were more intensely working on the music, and one of the little girls, 7 years old, has basically decided that we were going to do everything together, so I’ve gotten more involved in the music, which I don’t mind. My favorite thing that she said was “Being quiet is boring.” The music is really coming together and I think it’s going to make a really great show. I’m really excited for this weekend and to see how everything comes together for the show. I’m also really thankful that I got to have the chance to do this, it’s been such a good time.

A Weekend with Bath Phil

It’s been six days since I last posted, which is I think the longest it’s been, so my apologies for that.

The last three of those five days have been mostly spent working with Bath Phil. On Friday, they had the last concert that I will be able to help out with, which was an entirely Bath Phil concert. What I mean is, the last two concerts have been with other organizations, the first with the King Edward’s School, and the second with the Minerva Choir. This concert was comprised of two pieces. The first was a Shostakovitch violin concerto, and the soloist was Nicola Benedetti who did an absolutely phenomenal job, if you are at all interested in classical violin, I highly recommend you look her up. The second piece was excerpts from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, which was just played by the Phil, and they did a wonderful job with that as well. My role for this concert was different than it’s been before, in that usually I am at the venue for most of the day helping set up, then I watch the concert, and help clean up. Instead, I wasn’t there for the whole day, I came an hour before the concert and served wine to our friends and patrons of the orchestra. I will say, they are a fairly homogeneous bunch of people. But all very nice.  And we had a ton of leftover wine so I got a free bottle of wine out of it.

This weekend, I was helping out with one of the Bath Phil’s Creative Learning projects (Creative Learning is the education part of Bath Phil). This project was with Young Carers, who are kids who are caretakers for at least one member of their family. For example, one girl who was probably about ten or eleven was telling me about how she sleeps in the same room with her infant niece and wakes up in the middle of the night each night to do things like change her diaper. A lot of the kids also care for people who are disabled in some way, either physically or mentally, or are dealing with severe mental health issues. Bath Phil has been pairing with Young Carers groups from all around the area for a while, and the Young Carers program is kind of the flagship program of the Creative Learning department, which is part of why I wanted to help with it. And with this particular project, the kids will get to perform the pieces they create at Bath Abbey as part of a larger concert which is part of a larger festival in the middle of May. Happily, I will still be around at that point, so I am going to continue going to help out over the remaining weekends that I have.

There are two parts to the performance that they will put on: a musical part and a visual art part. Throughout the course of the project, the kids create a bunch of art that Simone, the general manager of Bath Phil, then animates to create a movie to play on a screen behind them while they are playing music. The process for the music is similar to the process we used on the last education project I went to in the primary school. Basically, Jason, the conductor and founder of the orchestra, finds a topic and gets feedback from the kids about that topic, then uses that to create a melody and multiple rhythm patterns for the kids to play over the melody on various instruments. And multiple members from the orchestra are there as well, who can come up with lovely music at the drop of a hat. I mostly was taking pictures and generally assisting with things depending on what was happening.

I really loved what I was doing this weekend. I would be there for like seven hours a day, but I think that it’s something that is really necessary and powerful for these kids. As well, the people running it have a philosophy that’s much more in line with how I think about leading these kinds of programs, which is not to make kids take part in anything they don’t want to do, but to let them do what they want over the whole course of the program, so if they want to participate in making art then they can, but if they don’t, then they’ll find something else to do. For instance, there was one kid who very clearly has done the program before, but didn’t want to take part in any of the group conversations and would do his own thing for them, like drawing, but was really into playing a tenor drum when we were working on the music. And no one forced him to be a part of a conversation he didn’t want to be a part of, whereas in my experience, there’s often been this idea that the kids taking part in it need to be a part of everything rather than just what actually interests them.

I think it’s also just really important to foster creativity in kids and give them a very clear outlet and way of expressing their experiences, especially since these kids have very different experiences from most people. They also clearly love doing it, there are kids who come back time and time again, and I would see them smiling and having fun picking up the music and getting to create something. So I’m really looking forward to working on the rest of the program, I think it’s gonna be really great.

*A fun little side note. If you don’t know, I have synesthesia, which primarily manifests itself by me associating color with sounds, so for example, my fire alarm at my elementary school sounded pink with white polka dots. On Saturday, I was painting the sides of some boxes as part of our art project and the musicians from the orchestra were fooling around with figuring out melodies and stuff and it was actually kind of hard and discordant for me because the color I was painting wasn’t the color of the music they were playing, so it felt really off, which I’ve never experienced before, partially because I don’t listen to music when I paint. I told Simone about this yesterday, and she evidently told Jason because I was sitting in on a sectional to take pictures and he told the kids that I have synesthesia and would tell them the color of the music they were playing when they finished it. When they played it all the way through, I told them it was a dark navy blue with flecks of pink, which it was. Then a little who is six looked up at me and said “Can I see?” and I had to explain to her that it was all in my head, but it was very very cute.

Bath Phil Concert #3

On Saturday, I helped with the third Bath Phil concert while I’ve been here, this time with the Minerva Choir in Bath Abbey. A lot of my job was preparing, serving, and cleaning up tea and coffee for the musicians, along with erasing bowings from scores for the musicians for the next concert on the 21st, which has been a common theme the last couple of times that I’ve been there. However, the main thing that was different about this concert was the venue, the Abbey, which is a tourist attraction and public space, and therefore open to the public during the time that we were rehearsing. It was actually really cool, because so many people who were just there to see the Abbey came in and sat down and listened, or took photos and videos of the rehearsal. There was one family of a mom, dad, and their two kids who sat down nearby where I was working on erasing, and the mom must have stayed there a good 20 minutes. The kids, too, were surprisingly quiet and attentive. The looks on a lot of people’s faces were generally very joyful and surprised. I think it made it very clear exactly how much having access to music and the arts adds to a town, and how much is added just by having these kinds of organizations. And not just in terms of tourists, the concert itself was almost entirely sold out, and I would guess that they were all local people. It’s also awesome that I get to go to every concert for free, as it’s great music performed by very high quality musicians. I’m really looking forward to the next concert though, as it’s the concert that I’ve been the most directly involved with.