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18 February 2008 @ 04:52 pm
I spoke to Sandra this morning and she was very understanding.
She was keen that I should speak to Vic before telling Jo, but since I can't see Vic until tomorrow she offered to speak to him for me at lunchtime. So this afternoon I told Jo, Stewart and the other students.
I'm seeing Vic at 8.30am tomorrow but as he already knows, it shouldn't be too bad. I don't think I'll bother going into details with him, just smile and nod. I need to take in a letter of withdrawal.

I feel a bit sad now that I will be an outsider, no matter how much everyone says I must come to the pub with them etc. I will miss hanging about with Sue and Paul between lectures.

But I am also confident that I have done the right thing. I'm now on holiday, yay!
Current Mood: relievedrelieved
14 February 2008 @ 10:57 pm
Tonight I am thinking I should leave the course. As in right now, or within the next few days.
Today I had a tutorial with Vic to get my exam results. I got 72% for the essay I sweated blood over over Christmas, and got 68% and 70% for the essays I wrote any old crap for in the exam. What was the point? It's laughable. At least I showed them I can get a first if I want to.
I also got the feedback from my stupid three-minute singing recital. I got some pretty negative comments about my performance and something along the lines of 'although some progress has been made, there is still much work to be done'. That's fine - I'm here to learn and I don't expect to be brilliant. But when you go to your lessons and keep being told well done, that's really good, and are given *no* constructive criticism at all, it's a bit rich to suddenly point out in the exam that this and this is wrong.
I pointed out to Vic that of course to some extent whether you like someone's performance is subjective, because when I sang exactly the same song in exactly the same way at the song forum with both Sandra Kerr (who was also present in the exam) and Chris Coe present, I got a beaming smile from Sandra and a comment from Chris afterwards that she loved it. He said, I don't believe in subjectivity. Whatever.
I have still had only seven singing lessons when, pro rata, I should have had twelve by now. I still haven't had a lesson since November, and there's nothing on my timetable for next week. I told Vic about that, and he agreed that it isn't right and said he'd look into it. But he also said that maybe this year I'd only have 18 lessons and the rest would be made up next year. Sorry, not good enough.
The rest of the course, frankly, is pants (to be polite).
Next year looks like it *could* be really good. Or it could be more pants. And I don't think I can spend the money and the emotional energy on the rest of this year on the offchance that it might be.
I'm going to talk to Sue and Paul tomorrow.
If anyone wants to talk me out of this, or tell me I'm doing the right thing, now's the time.
Current Mood: crushedcrushed
02 February 2008 @ 12:40 pm
Just when I thought I'd sorted out what I was going to try next year, Vic sent me another email.
He is offering me the possibility of 'accelerated progress' through the degree. That is, instead of choosing modules I like and getting a Diploma at the end of next year, I could go straight into the third year next year, then the fourth year the year after and get a BMus two years from now.

I *know* it's a daft idea. I can't afford it for a start, and taking three years out from work is too risky. And it means I'd have to do boring stuff like Ethnomusicology and I wouldn't get any bagpipe lessons any more.


And no I can't do my mish-mash choicy thing next year and *then* decide what to do the year after. It's one or the other and I have to decide now. Before Wednesday.
Current Mood: confusedconfused
01 February 2008 @ 10:52 am
You may remember that Vic said that next year, instead of doing the second year as it stands, I can swap in some third year modules.

So Wednesday I went to the Module Fair, which was pretty tedious and not terribly helpful but did at least give me the definitive list of what is running next year and who is running it. Since then I've been emailing the tutors to find out a bit more.

My plan is thus:

Keep up with Voice, Bagpipes, Music Skills and Traditions of these Islands as per the second year syllabus. Music Skills is a bit pants but it's only one hour a week and there is some useful stuff in there. TOTI has been fun but not very structured this year, but next year Vic is taking it and I think we will be required to produce a lot more work, which is a good thing.

Drop Ensemble and Understanding Popular Music. Hurrah! No more tedious essays!

Instead of those two, pick up two third year modules:
1. Teaching Methods - I still have to contact the tutor about this one because the lady who presented on this knew only about the classical strand which is about teaching music in schools. I am interested in the folk strand which I believe is about teaching adults in a workshop setting, but I need to confirm that.
2. Creative Music Technologies - using recording equipment, sequencing, producing electronic music etc.

Additionally I would like to take Collective Performance as a not-for-credit module, which is permitted. This happens as a short, intensive course over a few weeks and involves putting on a professional show. This year it was run by Chris Wood. Next year it might be Chris again, or Alastair Anderson. Definitely worth doing I think, and kind of like Ensemble-with-a-point.

I don't know whether that lot will fit on the timetable but I looked at the current timetable and it fits there, so it should be possible. So all I have to do now is:
1. Find a summer job to help pay for it.
2. Try to turn around this dreadful negativity so that I can summon up some enthusiasm for staying here after Easter.
Now that we've finished Understanding Music History (yay!) I have some space on the timetable and a LOT of hours a week (about ten!) where I'm not writing essays, so I might see if there's a module I could sit in on just for fun. It might also be a good idea to see if I can sit in on a session of the modules I'm interested in next year.
Current Mood: busy
25 January 2008 @ 08:35 pm
I don't know why I bother going back to Newcastle.

I was supposed to have ten singing lessons provided last semester. I only had seven. My last lesson was on 27th November.

That means I need to have thirteen lessons this semester. I've just had my timetable for the first week and there are no lessons on it. That means:

1. The first possible date I will have a lesson is 12th February - eleven weeks after my last one.

2. There are ten remaining weeks in which they need to provide thirteen lessons.

Bets, anyone?
Current Mood: crankycranky
Well I got 72%, which is a first, but only just.
The comment was "This is an excellent essay, which is well written and carefully thought through. You have made good use of a broad range of secondary sources, extrapolating pertinent primary source evidence to support your argument."
If it was so bloody brilliant I'm not sure what you have to do to get 80%+!

Exam on Tuesday, for which I have still prepared nothing.
I calculate I need 19% in the exam to pass the module overall.
I think I should manage that :)
Current Mood: pleasedpleased
16 January 2008 @ 04:41 pm
I had my interim voice assessment this morning. I had 3-4 minutes to sing, followed by a five minute discussion, so that was time for one song.
I sang Bruton Town and thought I delivered it adequately. I remembered all the words and all the bits of rework I've done on it so the phrasing is pretty good and there are some nice variations on the tune. But my voice is shot. Entirely my own fault - not doing enough singing. I wish I was more motivated.
After that I was expecting a five-minute discussion of what I had just sung. What actually happened was one of those awful 'so how are you doing on the course?' seesions. I can't lie. I enjoy those bits, these other bits are a bit pants and I HATE that bit. What do they want me to say? So I had to sit there while they got all defensive and lectured me about how the course has been long in preparation and that's how it is and we can't please everyone yada yada. Well, to be fair, one of them was talking and the other two just listened, because Stewart and Sandra know how I feel already.
So now I feel awful. I didn't want to go through all that yet again and drag up all the disappointment and upset. And I didn't want to have yet another session of being negative to people who are trying their best.
I'm sitting here in tears and I want to come home.
Current Mood: distresseddistressed
09 January 2008 @ 12:13 am

After a wonderful Christmas holiday (well, apart from the having-to-write-essays bit) I'm now back in the Toon for the last week of semester 1.  To be honest I wasn't very keen on coming back, but actually this week has turned out quite well so far, despite the lack of any significant teaching.

Monday: scheduled 2 hour lecture was only 20 minutes long - we were given our exam paper for the exam in two weeks' time and read through it.  Retired to P's flat to talk bollocks and have lunch.  The afternoon was scheduled for 4 hours Ensemble, which I *dread*, but it didn't happen and we spent the time learning how to use the ProTools recording system instead.  Very complicated but *very* useful.

Tuesday: 1 hour vocal group (small choir) with Sandra, followed by lunch with P, coming home to do emails and falling asleep for 3 hours then going to a ceilidh with S.

Wednesday: We usually have music theory for an hour but that has been cancelled and we have a 15 minute 'how are you getting on' tutorial instead.  Before that I have a private recorder lesson, and after it a private singing lesson with my new singing teacher.  All these private lessons are going to be expensive but I'm just not getting enough out of the course as it stands.  There are ten weeks between my last course voice lesson and my next one, which just isn't very much help.

Thursday: 2 hours ensemble during which I have to learn to call some dances, which might be useful, followed by bagpipe lesson, followed by driving home to Wiltshire.

Next week: only thing happening all week is a 3-4 minute voice recital on Wednesday.  I might then stay up here for a Song Forum at the University on Saturday (not part of the course).

Following week: only thing happening all week is a 2-hour exam on Tuesday.

Following week: only thing happening is the module fair on Wednesday.

I think I'm going to be at home quite a lot until semester 2 starts in February.

Current Mood: sleepysleepy
28 December 2007 @ 11:10 pm
Just finished one of my 'holiday' essays. We had to write 750 words about Christmas traditions (with footnotes and a bibiography) and even that measly amount has taken me *all day*! Bah! And it doesn't count for anything :( I have another essay to do, of 1500 words, about Elzabethan music and I'm dreading it because it counts for 40% of the module.
Oh well, at least I've already done and submitted my Music Skills homework and I *think* that covers everything except the essay. Oh, and practising anything of course!
Current Mood: tiredtired
28 December 2007 @ 02:52 pm
I haven't posted here for quite a while.

We lost two more students from the first year in the last week of term.  They are both very talented musicians with blossoming careers and I can understand the course was not offering them very much.  Speaking with both of them, the main reason for their decision was that they both felt they weren't learning anything, an opinion with which I can sympathise.

Term finished on December 14th, but I bunked off Study Skills on the last day and came home on Thursday 13th, the day that the Ensemble time had been set aside for 'a chat' with our Ensemble tutor about the continuing unhappiness on the course.  In an effort to lighten things up, Sue and I took along a selection of party nibbles and drinks.  We spent about two hours as a group discussing with Stewart what we thought was good and bad about Ensemble and also Traditions of These Islands.  It was a useful session, although I realise that my experience of Ensemble is very different to that of all of the other students, as I am the only one who doesn't play an instrument to a high standard.  But it was interesting to hear the opinions of the others in the year group.  There were some very valid concerns expressed and I was hopeful that Stewart would take these on board and discuss them with Vic and the other tutors.

However on December 20th Vic Gammon sent a 'Christmas Message' to us all stating that "some of the students in Stage One were not sure whether they wanted to be on the course or not ... a general uncertainty had an effect on many students in Stage One but I hope now is in the past."  I can't express how angry this made me.  After we had all spent two hours wth Stewart going over our concerns with two of the six modules, Vic says that any uncertainty should now be in the past.  Is he listening?  No.  Does he want to listen?  No.  Is there any chance that this pathetic excuse for a degree-level course is going to improve at all?  No.  

It makes me so sad and frustrated that the *only* degree-level component of this course, the only module in which I feel I am learning something and have a clear idea of the syllabus, learning outcomes and assessment strategy is Understanding Music History, which is run by the central Music Department and has precious little to do with folk music.  The rest of it is completely un-organised and off-the-cuff, with no syllabus and no learning objectives.  If we ask about assessment, we get told not to worry about it.  I have no idea what I'm supposed to be learning.  In January we have two weeks of empty timetable for 'assessment'.  In my case this consists of a two-hour exam for Understanding Music History (one of six modules remember) and how are we being assessed for the other five modules, the folk components?  I have a *ten minute* slot for a voice appraisal, during which I have to sing for five minutes and talk about it for five minutes.  In other words, I have to do basically what I had to do for my audition.  I have no idea what is being judged and how I am to show that I have made any progress since my audition in October 2006.  I find this somewhere between pointless and insulting.

I was hopeful that Vic might listen to the concerns of his students and be willing to make some adjustments (even minor ones would help) to meet the needs of what are after all his paying customers, and was particularly optimistic after his offer that I could do some third year modules next year.  But right now I have no optimism.  All I can see is that I am paying enormous sums of money for... nothing.   Yes I have one-to-one singing lessons with fabulous teachers, but I'm sure I could pay for private lessons with Frankie for less than I'm paying overall now.  And in the first semester I have had only seven of the ten of these lessons promised.

I have been looking for jobs today.  I really don't want to go back to Newcastle.  But to be sensible I should try not to throw all my toys out of the pram just yet, in case I need some of them later.  I'll go to the module fair at the end of January and try to get a definite plan from Vic as to exactly which second year modules I can drop and which third year modules I can pick up, then make a decision.  But at the moment, I'm not expecting to be on the course very much longer.  What a shame.
Current Mood: disappointeddisappointed