A breath of fresh air for the instrument of equity

An ingenious use of technology connects teachers in regular virtual ‘blow-in' sessions on the recorder.

We all know the sound of a badly played recorder, and most of us at one point of our lives have been at the wrong end of it awkwardly playing London Bridge is Falling Down or Three Blind Mice.

"The recorder has a really bad image at school," says teacher Belinda Keir. "In many schools the recorder ensemble is taken by an accomplished player. Unfortunately, in other schools the job is left to a teacher or community member who knows nothing about the instrument and sometimes can't read music. They're doing a sterling job but because they don't know a lot about it, it stops students taking the instrument to the next level."

To address this issue Ms Keir and colleague Jennifer McLachlan, teachers at Kegworth Public School, began regular virtual ‘blow-in' sessions for teachers.  

At 3.45pm every Thursday teachers as far as Goulburn in the west and Currans Hill in south-western Sydney grab a quick cuppa and their recorder and head to the nearest Connected Classroom for a group lesson.

"It's an ingenious use of the technology and our capacities are expanding all the time," Ms Keir says.

 "This is one way of connecting teachers in a non-threatening way so they can come together, play the recorder, enhance their musicianship and learn music education."

Recorder renaissance

While the recorder battles to be understood as an instrument, Susan Sukkar, who is responsible for the Festival of Instrumental Music, calls it the "ultimate instrument in equity".

"It's cheap and easily accessible and there is an enormous repertoire of music available and potentially very sophisticated music," she says.

"The recorder can be played from infants through to the HSC and can be taken as an instrument in its own right at The Con right through to postgraduate level studies.

"It's also a wonderful precursor to any other wind instrument so students can start on the recorder and progress on to orchestral instruments."

Ms Sukkar says when festival concertgoers hear the recorder they change their perception immediately.

"They don't understand the capability. It's an instrument of great depth and beauty, and a high level of sophistication. If we went to Europe we would not be having this conversation."

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