A PQA Day In The Life Of Jess, Our Awesome Musical Theatre Teacher!
For me, PQA Plymouth starts long before Saturday, because I spend a few hours every week planning the lessons I will be teaching. This Saturday (22nd January) was a particularly exciting day for Musical Theatre at PQA Plymouth as we launched Legally Blonde Jnr! During the week, Principal Sam, C&D Teacher Fynn and I met up to discuss Legally Blonde Jnr auditions. We went through the characters, selecting scenes and songs for the students to perform in auditions, and collaborated on a plan of action for each class.
Then finally Saturday arrives! Every week I arrive at around 9am. We (the staff) all help each other get set up and ready – from welcome desks and banners to setting up equipment in our classrooms. This week I made sure I had a keyboard in my classroom, in case it was needed to support with learning songs. Luckily I play the piano, which is a huge help when teaching MT!
Then it’s time for the students to arrive. I love greeting everyone as they sign in, asking how they are and how their week has been. This is where the energy really starts to build – you can feel everyone is so happy to be there. At 9.50am, it’s time for our whole-school welcome gathering and warm-up. As the Musical Theatre teacher, I always lead the warm-up which is a “Follow the Leader” style dance – it’s very high-energy and definitely gets the blood pumping!
This week I had the Green Group (ages 5-8) first. One of the Green Group’s key responsibilities in Legally Blonde Jnr is going to be working with Bruiser – our heroine Elle Wood’s pet dog – who is going to be a puppet. So this week I was very excited to launch our bespoke “We’ve Got No Strings” project with the Green Group, where they will be learning puppetry skills in their C&D lessons with Fynn and also working on a puppet-themed song and dance from Disney’s Pinocchio with me. We played some games that challenged the Green Group’s listening and responding skills, as well as acting out different physical features – like imagining we were puppets and how it would feel to have strings! We sang through the song a few times to help the students become familiar with it, and went through the pronunciation of some of the trickier words. In our next lesson, we’ll sing through the song again but also start putting some dance moves to the music, which is something to look forward to.
I then had the Red Group (age 13-18) and finally the Blue Group (age 9-12). In both these lessons we focused on getting ready for Legally Blonde Jnr auditions. I talked through how the audition is going to work and what will be expected of them on the day, giving them the opportunity to ask any questions. We discussed the benefits of a vocal warm-up before a singing audition, and some of the key exercises we can do to warm up our voices. As we do a vocal warm-up every week in Musical Theatre, the students are now experts on this and demonstrated great knowledge.
I then went through individual characters with the students, explaining their roles and personalities and what songs will be required to audition for those characters. Firstly I played a professional recording of the audition songs, so they could hear what it should sound like. I then played the backing track that they will have on audition day, so they could familiarise themselves with it. I highlighted what the audition panel would be looking for in terms of acting through the song, and also some helpful tips – like where to breathe right before a big note, or where to “speak-sing” to get across a particularly funny moment.
The hard work is now over to them to practice, practice, practice before next week’s auditions. Although auditions can be scary and nerve-wracking, they are a necessity for anyone with an interest in performing, so I know the students will benefit massively from the invaluable experience. We have such talent in PQA Plymouth, and I can’t wait to see it proudly on display next week. Remember, as we’ve said to the students, auditions aren’t about finding the perfect finished article –it’s all about potential. Quite simply, this is your time to shine and show us what you can do! I, and all the staff, will be rooting for you! As always, be yourself – be amazing!
Finally we end with our whole-school assembly which is an opportunity for Principal Sam to share any exciting updates or news (normally including some “Happy Birthdays”) and also when our Performer and Film-Maker of the Week certificates are handed out. It’s always a wonderful moment to celebrate the fantastic skills and performances we’ve seen in the students that week. After signing all the students out with their parents, and wishing them a fond farewell, it’s time to pack up the reception and classroom areas. We normally have a quick staff team debrief with Principal Sam and then it’s onto planning next Saturday! Time flies when you’re having fun…