Behind the Sings: an Interview with Charlotte Brosnan
Voices Foundation’s programmes for children and teachers are led by our team of highly skilled practitioners. We wouldn’t be able to deliver our award-winning music education methodology without them. So, who better to provide an insight into the work we do than one of our choral leaders? For our latest blog post, we caught up with our wonderful VF practitioner Charlotte Brosnan.
Charlotte Brosnan is a professional singer, conductor and workshop leader with a wealth of teaching experience. She has a glittering career as a singer, having performed all over the world in professional quintet Apollo5 and as a soloist at prestigious venues such as The Albert Hall and St. Pauls Cathedral among many more. She has sung at events like the FA Cup Finals and Six Nations rugby games and recorded the Grammy Award winning Album “Light and Gold” with the world-renowned composer Eric Whitacre. Charlotte enjoys a wide variety of teaching and workshop roles for various schools and national organisations. We’re proud to call her one of our VF practitioners.
Here’s what Charlotte had to say…
Hello Charlotte! First of all, what’s it like to work with Voices Foundation?
I love it. I think it’s an amazing charity and I feel very supported by them as a practitioner. I love the work we do because it’s so important, going all over the country, visiting schools in deprived areas to bring children music and support their teachers with it. I love seeing the joy on children’s faces when I turn up. They can’t wait to sing. I always get loads of high fives and hugs when I get into one of my schools. I’ve had so many lovely moments with children. Some children may have spent the first few sessions running around the room, not joining in, and by session six they’re sitting at the front, joining in, being really well behaved and the teachers can’t believe it. I love the relationships I have with the teachers too, just to see them grow. It’s changed them.
What made you want to teach people to sing and lead through song?
I think because I was very fortunate to do a lot of singing growing up. I went to state schools, but my Grandpa was a choir master and organist. My Mum was a singer and she ran baby music classes, so I was introduced to music from the youngest age possible. I was very lucky to sing in my county choir and National Youth Choir. I was given so many singing opportunities growing up and they are some of my happiest times. I went on to sing full-time in an acapella quintet for three and a half years and we did a lot of outreach work in deprived areas. It was incredible to see children’s astonished faces; so many of them had never seen live music before. I wanted to give every child the opportunity to sing.
What have been your highlights working with Voices Foundation?
I have so many stories about children changing through music. At the end of a session in one school, I asked if anyone had any questions and one girl raised her hand. She said she didn’t really have a question, but asked if she could have a hug. She gave me a hug and then the whole of year five gave me a hug! As I was leaving, her teacher came up to me almost in tears. She said the girl who had asked for a hug normally doesn’t even want to answer a question in front of the class and couldn’t believe that she’d sung a solo in front of the whole year in our session. That child ended up singing a solo in the final singing celebration in front of the whole school, including governors and the mayor. To go from her not being able to answer a question in front of a teacher to being able to sing a solo in front of the whole school was remarkable. Just seeing how our work changes children and teachers is amazing.
I will also always remember the Voices Foundation 25th Anniversary celebrations at St John’s Smith Square. Lots of the schools I work with were there and I managed to get a front row seat to see them. I felt like all of their parents. They were all waving at me. They were so excited. Not long before the event, I was at one of those schools and some of the children asked me where London was. They had no clue, as they had only been out of the town they lived in once. The idea of going to London was so alien to them. To be able to give these children the opportunity to come down to the capital to perform in one of the most amazing places was a really proud moment.
How have you found leading our Virtual Singing Assemblies?
I’ve loved it. It’s different, quite challenging, but I felt on such a high every time I finished one. I think because I know how it feels to lead one in person, I know how much energy it requires. After I finished my first one, my Fitbit thought I’d done a workout! It’s great, but a little strange to not have the feedback from the children in front of you. It was a little nerve-wracking using technology instead too. I never get nervous leading in real life!
Luckily, I’ve had years of leading singing assemblies, so the songs I used I use a lot; I know the troublesome bits, the bits I need to repeat a little bit more and what works. I had a notification on Twitter that one of my schools had taken a video of the children I teach doing my singing assembly and it just made my day. It was great to watch them following me, all moving their hips just like me. It was so fun, and I think it was lovely for the children to see us leading online. It’s a great reminder of what we do.
What has your experience been like using Voices Connect, our digital learning platform?
It’s been really positive. I think it’s a great platform filled with high-quality online learning. As the teachers were getting to grips with it, so were we, but I think the responses we’ve seen from teachers have been really great.
In a way it’s made parts of what we do even more focused. When I go to a school, I’ll have a CPD session with a teacher for about twenty minutes to discuss my notes and what they can work on. Voices Connect on the other hand is a full step-by-step course and we’ve been offering one-to-one Zoom calls too. I think the teachers have been enjoying it and I’ve loved having some quality time with them during these calls. I often give teachers singing lessons if they aren’t as confident with their voice. They’re of course confident standing up in front of a class teaching Maths or Science because they’re a teacher, but they might not have ever sung. I’ve been having weekly Zoom singing lessons with one of my teachers and she has been brilliant. We work on a song for her voice and then spend the rest of the session on songs she can do with the children. She really puts the work in, and it’s been lovely having that extra time to work on songs with her one-on-one.
Thank you Charlotte!
It’s been wonderful to speak directly to one of our practitioners about their experience. Charlotte’s thoughts and the stories she’s shared truly show us how the work we do at Voices Foundation has a real impact on the lives of children and teachers that we work with. A huge thank you to all our practitioners for the work they do and to our supporters for making our work possible.