My name is Andrew Bedser, Iʼm a drum/percussion and guitar teacher at Surrey Arts. I have absolutely loved working with the team and students since I started. I feel I have quite a unique perspective on music education, especially in relation to students with learning difficulties. This is because I have autism and dyslexia myself, and went to both primary and secondary school for children with learning difficulties.
When you go to these types of schools, you have to, out of necessity, focus on what you’re bad at. For me this was language and spelling. This can, even with amazing teachers, become frustrating and demoralising. Thankfully, starting in year 5 my school started bringing in JustSo Singers. JustSo are a part of Surrey Arts, and do sessions learning to sing as a group and learn songs. In these sessions I learned songs as wide ranging as ABBA to a kids classical piece. At the end of each term we would do a public performance, performing what we learnt. At the same time I started to learned how to play the ukulele. Even though I couldn’t sing opera or shred like Van Halen, I could feel myself improving quite quickly at both. Which compared to how slowly my language was improving, made me feel like I was finally good at something. This was a huge confidence boost. With this all parts of my learning greatly improved and I knew I wanted to pursue music as a career and I knew I wanted to be a drummer.
After secondary school I joined ACM in Guildford. I was able to achieve my degree and be able to enjoy music university because of that confidence boost that started with JustSo. After finishing uni I knew I wanted to work in music education because of all the positive things it did for my life; both in and out of music. To my delight I was able to work with UP! Orchestra due the Our Future Music programme.
UP! is a bi-weekly workshop where we learn the music of cultures from around the world. Since I’ve started working with UP!, we have learnt about MOBO (music of Black origin), folk music and more recently Indian classical music, with professional Indian musicians coming into workshops and demonstrating the music and teaching the Indian scales and new techniques. At the end of the term all the students and teachers performed an original piece based what we’ve learnt.
Working at UP! itʼs been great seeing all the different ways the teachers and volunteers work with/communicate with the students, exchanging these ideas with each other. I’ve also really enjoyed sharing my own unique knowledge and skills, for example MAKATON (a type of sign language) which has helped me better communicate with students. For me learning about the Indian Konnakol Rhythm System has showed me really effective ways of teaching, sometimes complex, rhythms to students in an easy-to-digest way. That I can use in the future. The thing I love about UP! Orchestra is learning about new musical cultures with the students, then playing this music through our own style. For example, on the guitar we played the melody (based on an Indian scale) in a metal style, fusing these genres together. Hearing how they are both quite different but also that there a lot connecting them together. Seeing the kids grow in confidence through music I like I did years ago, working with the same organization that helped me, has been so rewarding.