I love getting away from the computer!

There’s nothing to beat getting out into the ‘real’ world and spending quality time with like-minded people.

Sharon and I have done just that this week as we have been to a conference. It was held at the University of York and the theme – Connections and Communication in Instrumental and Vocal Teaching – links effortlessly to our recent blog posts on feedback and questions.

In this week’s blog we’re giving you a brief taste of the conference as well as a one-stop-shop to the month’s topic.


The ukulele is not an instrument I have ever been particularly drawn to! My ideas on this though have shifted after attending a session led by Michael Davidson from SOAS in London. Within the space of 20 minutes he led us with a few words and many gestures towards a truly musically meaningful experience.

Following this Jason Huxtable explored the idea of music as a language. By using the strategy of rhythmical counting 1e&a etc. He quickly demonstrated how some of the most complex rhythms can be communicated and realised with great accuracy. Mind you, as many of us found, getting the counting in some order does take practice!


The focus of the 2nd day was broadly based on exploring making connections and breaking down the barriers that prevent instrumental teachers from connecting with other parties such as schools, teachers, parents as well as students. One session included small group discussions of a number of school and music hub scenarios instrumental teachers might encounter. In another we heard about how one teacher was considering some of implicit messages she was conveying to her students in lessons. Fascinating stuff!!

In a third session a developing research topic on children’s metacognition during the learning process and the role of parents was presented. Jo Yee Cheung gave a memorable explanation of a cognitive thought and a meta-cognitive thought.

Cognitive thought – Your car breaks down and you think:
“My car has broken down.”
Meta-cognitive thoughts – Your car breaks down and you think:
“Why did my car break down?”
“Did I do something to cause the car to break down?”
“What can I do to prevent the car from breaking down again?”

Jo, we’d love to hear more about your research as it progresses so do keep in touch!

Many congratulations to the Music Education Department at the University of York for hosting and organising such a successful conference, in particular Dr Elizabeth Haddon, Dr Naomi Norton and Dr Richard Powell. If you are interested in finding out more about the M.A. in Instrumental and Vocal Teaching run by the university CLICK HERE


We hope you’ve found our recent posts and teaching tips on giving feedback and asking questions both thought-provoking and useful. Here are links to everything:

Asking Questions

Fat Questions and Skinny Questions

Metacognitive and Emotional Questions

Tuesday Teaching Tips – Asking Questions

Tuesday Teaching Tips – The A.W.E. Question

Happy teaching!

This blog post was written by Dr Sally Cathcart, Co-Founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers


  1. Jonathan

    Hi Sally, glad you had a fun and interesting time. Re rhythmical counting, I do still use some of the traditional 1 e & a methods with students, though in my own development, I found a book by Mark Phillips called “How To Sight Read Any Rhythm Instantly” was brilliant. Several years ago I remember getting bogged down with learning a piece with many semiquaver rhythms and some demisemiquavers mixed in there as well and counting really didn’t help. It was too cumbersome and stopped me thinking about the sound I should be making as I was so focused on the counting. It was when Mark Phillips said to see everything in beats and learn how the rhythms contained in each beat sound, that things became a lot easier. That’s just in my experience though.

  2. Simon Burgess

    Great you managed to get to the conference as I wanted to attend but spent the day performing at Scarborough and Normanton, so to read about your experiences is great news. Thanks for all the tips coming through too some very useful tools.


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