Putting music at the heart of everything we do
Voices Foundation is delighted to announce two newly defined roles within the organisation. Sally Cathcart and Charles MacDougall will be taking on the roles of Musicianship and Choral Director respectively.
With 25 years of Voices Foundation experience between them, Sally and Charles have been driving forces behind the success of our work with teachers & schools.
In their newly defined roles, Sally and Charles will lead on mentoring and training for our practitioner workforce, act as key consultants for programme development, and continue to publicly represent the work of Voices Foundation. In many ways this is no different to how they have been working to date, but we felt it was important to clarify this important area or work and celebrate the massive impact these two have had on the organisation. Here’s what Sally and Charles had to say about their experience with Voices Foundation:
A word from Sally Cathcart: Musicianship Director
Coming to write this, I have just realised that 2021 marks 20 years of my work for Voices Foundation. For me, in those early days, there was a real sense of awe and wonder at being able to work with and learning from some remarkable teachers such as Suzi Digby, Michael Stocks and Sue Hollingsworth.
Once I began to work in schools, and with teachers, I started to fully appreciate just what a unique organisation the Voices Foundation is. Seeing individuals who ‘can’t sing’ gradually transform into teachers who have musical confidence and self-assurance is genuinely remarkable and quite a privilege. I have learnt such a lot about being a teacher through my experiences.
Sally Cathcart at Edward Heanage Primary School, January 2020
As I enter my twentieth year, I am delighted to be taking on the role of Musicianship Director. It will allow me to focus on mentoring and training existing practitioners and the chance, in the time I have left with Voices Foundation, to pass on the skills I have learned from those before me.
I am genuinely excited to work alongside the superb Charles MacDougall as Choral Director. Charles has been a joy to work with from the moment he joined us, and together with his choral team, he has brought a breath of fresh air to the organisation. I know there will be exciting times ahead as together we develop new programmes and initiatives.
A word from Charles MacDougall: Choral Director
It was 2015 and I was rushing from having sung a lunchtime service in the city to an afternoon workshop that I was delivering and my phone rang. It was Rebecca Le Brocq (Voices Foundation CEO) asking if was free for coffee and a chat sometime, as she would love to bring me up to speed on what Voices Foundation was doing these days and to hear about my experience and approach to choir training and working with young voices.
Charles MacDougall leading a Voices Foundation Singing Assembly
At that point in my career, I was just a couple of years out of VOCES8 and my work diary was a complicated blend of singing work, chorister coaching, freelance workshops and choir directing. Intrigued and excited, I went along to the Voices Foundation offices (back when it was in Grosvenor Gardens) to find out more.
My first project for Voices Foundation was a short while later: The Kingston Choral Excellence Programme, a series of professional development sessions for school choir leaders interspersed with visits to see each of them in action a couple of times with their classes and choirs. I was hooked: I’d done countless singing workshops and I’d delivered a lot of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), but never had I been involved in a project where there was this two-pronged approach of visits to coach the teacher as they worked with their choir/class, underpinned by serious investment in CPD time by the teachers with me as their mentor. More than that, the emerging choral strand ran alongside a rigorously thought out, well-established musicianship strand focussed on classroom music-making which sought to equip every classroom teacher with the skills to teacher musicianship using the voice. There was this drive for sustainability in music education, unlocking the skills of the teachers themselves to give the children a better experience of music-making in school that didn’t solely depend on the travelling circus of one-off workshops. Voices Foundation was an organisation that seemed to be trying to create a world where – eventually – we wouldn’t be needed at all.
Less than a year after that pilot programme, the choral strand was cascading and a typical week might see me in Northampton one day, Great Yarmouth the next and Blackpool the day after that, delivering things such as the joint Singing School programme at King’s Heath for the David Ross Education Trust (DRET), coaching choirs and solo singers in Creative Education Trust (CET) schools or facilitating CPD for music hubs. It was fairly obvious that the choral strand needed more personnel and so slowly we began to grow the team.
Kings Heath Voices Perform at DRET Primary Music Festival 2016
Fast forward to 2021 and the choral strand is more established and the team has grown a great deal, working in an integrated way with the musicianship strand to achieve our vision. I’m naturally full of pride to see how far we’ve come, but as thrilling as it is, this isn’t the end of the journey! Over the last few years, there have been a number of things that have challenged the way that we think: we’ve watched the development and adaptation of the Singing School model from pilot stage to more widespread implementation; through the Paul Hamlyn Foundation (PHF) Teacher Development Fund, we’ve looked in-depth at how our programmes impact teachers, students and schools; and more recently, we’ve embarked on being part of the London Music Masters I’m In audit, taking a deep-dive into our diversity and inclusion practices. At the heart of Voices Foundation– all through the development of the choral strand, the integration into the vision, the growth of the team, the action research – is reflection and we never want to stop asking what we’ve learned and what it means for our programmes, partnerships, practitioners and pedagogy.
I’m truly excited at this new role as Choral Director as I hope it will allow me to focus on mentoring and training for our new and existing workforce so that they can best coach teachers, work more closely with our Programme Manager to nurture our relationships with key partners and devote more time to programme and pedagogical development so we can best unlock the potential of schools and teachers. I’m also particularly looking forward to working in an even more strategic way with Dr Sally Cathcart – our profoundly brilliant Musicianship Director (who incidentally took me under her wing right back at the start of my time at Voices Foundation and opened my eyes to the extraordinary benefit of a methodical and progressive training in musicianship) – to ensure that these two strands are striving and thriving together. It’s my hope that this role will allow the choral team to flourish, as a partner to the incredible work done by our musicianship team, supported by a solid pedagogy that illuminates pathways to the assets of teachers with whom our practitioners work and fed by the rich relationships and deep understanding between Voices Foundation and our partners.
If you ever see me at conferences, concerts or other events, please don’t hesitate to come and say hello. I’m always happy to talk about what we’re trying to achieve at The Voices Foundation, hear about your experiences, learn from your approach to young voices and see what we could achieve together. It all starts with a conversation. Just imagine if I hadn’t picked up the phone to Becky that day…
Here's to the next exciting chapter of the Voices Foundation Journey!
More from Voices Foundation
HITTING THE RIGHT NOTE:
On Thursday 12th of November, Voices Foundation hosted the second instalment of the #VFSingWell webinar series. We cover current research, unpack and translate current guidance, and provide practical solutions for music making in schools today, alongside highlighting why the power of singing for children is important now more than ever.
MUSIC IS CENTRAL:
Central Primary is a longstanding Voices Foundation partner school where music and the arts have become a 'central' part of school life. We caught up with Hayley Guthrie, Year 5 teacher and Music Lead, to learn a bit more about the history of our partnership, how Central handled school lockdown, and how music will remain a vital part of welcoming pupils back this year.