Teaching the Boxties Way


“The Boxties’ method of achieving their high-level music tuition is something unique in my experience. Their fully immersive team-teaching method builds confidence and stimulates physical connection with performance in an incredibly enjoyable way. The disciplined playfulness achieved in rehearsals is transformed into thrilling performance that connects directly with the audience.

Musical engagement with the Boxties as a student, professional performer or audience member is always a transformative experience.”
— Jason Barry-Smith, Opera Singer, Singing Teacher, Conductor and Arranger

The Boxties have developed their teaching method based on ensemble teaching. It is systematic and sequential, geared to liberating artistic impulse in everyone, not just the gifted and talented. 

We aim to provide young people with opportunities for a sense of togetherness, to have meaningful musical experiences that are often hard to find elsewhere.

So, how do you get a technology obsessed, text messaging teenager, steeped in pop culture, to take an interest in something that's low-tech, requires concentration, discipline, overt expressiveness and repetitive rehearsing of unfamiliar music?

We Teach as a team

The Boxties use a team-teaching approach in which all the members of the ensemble are involved in variously leading, singing or playing alongside, mentoring and encouraging students. 

Ensembles are usually taught by one person who is solely responsible for creating the music-making environment. One benefit of a team-teaching approach is that young people can see their teachers up close —interacting, offering ideas, being silly, taking risks, being emotional. 

Expressiveness, taking risks and being open to emotional connection can be daunting for young people, and this kind of team-teaching helps to create an environment where they can explore those dimensions in an atmosphere of exuberance, safety and support.

We emphasise the grounding of musicianship in the body as well as the brain

We do a lot of physical movement, singing, memorizing, and repetition – not mindless repetition, but inventive repetition that gives students time to dig deeply into a piece of music and respond imaginatively and emotionally to what they hear, so they don’t just let notes fly by without thinking about what they mean, or without even noticing them at all.

We EMPHASISE the emotional and expressive elements of music making

Young people have an enormous capacity for creative and imaginative thinking. Youth is a prime time for developing these important human qualities and music is one of the best art forms for nurturing them. 

It's the most abstract of the arts – largely non-verbal and completely non-visual. A single piece, or even a single note, can have many rich interpretations. There are so many ways music can distil an emotion, or crystallize it in a moment. In a world where many long for communication and belonging, music allows us to create, share and tell stories. 

And young people love story telling. Even sophisticated 16 and 17 year olds, once their guard is down, love it. We devise stories – often illogical, silly ones - to illuminate character in the music, and we encourage students to do so too. If their imagination is engaged, they’ll approach playing the music with the mood, character or emotion that the story generates in their mind. 

We work with inspiring music

The music the Boxties like to use in their teaching is emotionally engaging, full of variety and intellectually sophisticated. 

In our experience, once students get a taste for the emotional satisfaction of genuine artistic participation, they’re hooked and open to explore the new, the unfamiliar and inspiring.