Nate Holder’s journey to Listen and Celebrate

I’m really excited about Listen & Celebrate, a new book I’ve co-written with Helen MacGregor and published with Collins Music. It’s designed for KS1 and KS2 teachers interested in introducing pupils to music created around the world and across history. This book aims to be a resource that any teacher can pick up and use straight away. Focus on diversifying the music and people children learn about has increased over the last couple of years, so we wanted to represent various groups, either through the 15 pieces featured in the book, or the recommended extended listening.

A deeper understanding of music and the world

Trying to focus on only 15 composers was tricky, given the amount of amazing music there is out there! We had a lot of fun listening to different music and thinking about fun activities to go along with them. We included music that encourages children to dance or use their imagination, rather than focusing solely on understanding music elements. Helen MacGregor expertly put these activities together, aimed at helping children gain a deeper understanding of the music they hear, making links to the real world and the society around them. We encourage you to use and expand on these activities. Adapt them to suit your settings and environments to make them more culturally relevant to your students.

What is a composer?

While many of us understand that being a composer does not mean someone sitting by a piano with manuscript paper, it is still a word that can exclude certain groups of people. It can be difficult to find a single composer for certain folk tunes. In some cases, whole styles of music are built upon communities and people who make music together, keeping ancient traditions and stories alive through their music. Some children may only associate the idea of a composer with a classical musician from the 18th century. We hope this book helps children to realise that composers stem from different places, different genders, and different music styles.

A path of discovery

Instead of familiar composers and music, we decided to explore music from traditions and people we don’t often hear about. People such as Sebó, Sona Jobarteh and Yoko Kanno have not only made amazing music, but their personal journeys contain incredible stories. From Gilberto Gil becoming a musician and politician in Brazil, David Hudson being an expert didgeridoo maker of Aboriginal origin and Evelyn Glennie being profoundly deaf and a world-famous percussionist, these stories can help children to connect with these musicians and realise their own possibilities. Although these tunes and people may not be familiar, we hope that you enjoy listening to them. Feel free to adapt the exercises for the extended listening pieces and share how your lessons are going with others.

We look forward to hearing about how children (and you!) enjoy the activities, stories and music! Don’t forget to continue to celebrate the cultures, places and technology that helped these incredible people express themselves. Share parts of their culture with us all!

Nate Holder is a musician, author, speaker and music education consultant based in London. He is an advocate for decolonising music education and has been speaking, writing and consulting on the subject internationally for the past few years. 

Listen & Celebrate is out on March 14th. Order your copy here! 

Listen and Celebrate cover

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