Image credit: Pegasus Opera
Schools: Trinity Academy School, Windmill Cluster of Schools and Brixton Learning Collaborative
Artsmark Partner: Pegasus Opera Company
Pegasus Opera Company is a small arts organisation based in Brixton, South-West London. Our mission as a Black-led organisation is to take opera and music making activities to diverse and underserved communities. We want to ensure that the company thrives during these challenging times by working swiftly and responsively to the needs of our community. We work regularly with schools in the London Borough of Lambeth and beyond.
We had never created online projects before! We wanted to make our projects just as engaging and innovative but needed to adapt our planning to ensure the programme worked equally well on a digital platform. We also had to learn how best to facilitate workshops with groups of young people using online platforms and find ways to keep them challenged and engaged in the activities to ensure that they continued to participate.
Our first task was to check in with our partners to discuss how we could continue to collaborate to deliver the projects we had started. It is only with the support of our school partners that our transfer to online projects has been successful. We understand that teachers are also undergoing a steep learning curve in delivering arts online and so our initial conversation and planning with our school partners became the key foundation to the online programme going forward.
Our secondary schools project called the ‘Music Mentoring Programme’ works with young people who may feel disengaged with school and may be at risk of exclusion. Working with a music practitioner and mentor, we seek to use music as a way of helping the students express themselves by creating their own music compositions and undertaking an Arts Award. This year we worked with a Year 7 group who have undergone the transition from primary to secondary school throughout the pandemic, and so it felt important that our themes for the compositions were friendship, connection, and collaboration.
We adapted our activities so that a proportion of the activity was interactive, followed by a section where we asked students to work independently. We designed resources for students to work on in their own time, including pre-recorded backing tracks to add lyrics to, and introducing them to free music applications to make their own backing tracks.
We also produced pre-recorded videos of our practitioners doing the activity themselves to model best practice because we knew that for some students, having enough bandwidth to play video with sound whilst streaming would be challenging. At the end of each session, we created an exit questionnaire on Google Forms to reflect on the work achieved in that workshop and elicit responses from our participants, which helped us to effectively monitor and evaluate the programme.
Our programme also includes students undertaking an Arts Award – an accreditation that inspires young people to grow their arts and leadership talents. For our participants to achieve their Arts Award, we carefully planned our project to ensure we created the time and resources for:
- Young people to participate in a range of arts activities, including a personal response about what they have learnt from taking part
- Learning more about Pegasus Opera Company as an arts organisation, our mission and our programme of education, outreach and professional work.
- Young people creating their own composition
Participants identifying what they enjoyed and achieved throughout the programme and how they shared this with their peers
How do you replace live performance?
A key element to our face-to-face programmes is a final performance where participants perform their compositions and create a show for family and friends. We needed to find an alternative that would create as much kudos for young people as well as giving them a sense of accomplishment.
We also wanted to create a digital space where audiences could feedback on the music, and so designed an interactive platform on our company website called ‘Trinity Music Store’. It was vital that the young people themselves were involved in the planning and design of the site. We employed a brilliant young web designer and facilitator who led two sessions with the participants to collaborate in creating the design of what became our online music store. The participants talked about a site that had maximum interactivity and decided that there should be instruments in the store. The web designer created instruments which can be clicked to hear that instrument being played, as well as jukebox that has multiple choice music quiz questions. The students also designed their own album covers and wrote their own songs, all of which were uploaded to the site in our virtual music store.
You can check out the music store here.
The key benefit for our online ‘Music Mentoring Programme’ was that our students really stepped up to the challenge of composing and recording their individual compositions. They also really enjoyed the promotional aspect of their music being available online for their peers and the wider world.
The structure of the online sessions has also meant that we have been able to incorporate the Arts Award accreditation throughout the programme rather than tagging it on to the end of our live sessions. We end each online session with a reflection, which is now written and submitted on a Google Doc and will contribute towards their reflective practice with Arts Award.
Top tips for adapting online arts schools programmes
- Communicate regularly with your partners and participants, and be prepared to adapt and change in response
- Ensure you budget for the additional time to create online resources and any expertise you may need to bring in to help you achieve this
- If you are running live sessions, ask specific participants to respond to questions, share their work and ask for their feedback for the duration of the session to keep participants engaged in the online platform
Building partnerships during COVID resource
We've compiled some top tips on how to make the most of digital offers & build partnerships with arts and culture organisations, including case studies from Pegasus Opera and A Little Learning.