Shiva Feshareki's Turntable Masterclass

This article was originally published in Music Teacher Magazine (

Manipulating sound electronically through the use of turntables might not be the most obvious choice for whole-class primary music teaching – or for London Music Masters, which has historically focused on string tuition – but as composer Shiva Feshareki points out, a class of South London children is a lot more likely to have a set of decks sitting around than a cello behind the sofa.


And it was armed with turntables and electronic equipment that Feshareki, a graduate of the Royal College of Music, recently visited Ashmole Primary School in Oval, to run a workshop on the use of electronics in alternative music education.


‘I work in many different areas, from graduate students to primary, and with each session it’s absolutely starting from scratch to cater for a group’s specific needs. But one of the threads running through everything I do is the theme of playfulness – how participants can experiment and explore ideas within their own context.’


Many of the Year 5 pupils at Ashmole, and at Jessop primary in Herne Hill, learn the violin or cello, but Feshareki’s session with the two schools used only electronic equipment, using a turntable to mix, loop and manipulate pitch and tempo.


With pupils working in groups of three, initially using headphones, they took turns to create a performance for parents in the afternoon. At Ashmole, the workshop was run as a science rather than a music project, with children learning about sound through the medium of electronic performance. It also served as an introduction to secondary school music technology.


stage of learning


‘It’s a really good age to work with,’ says Feshareki. ‘They were engaged and excited, there were no inhibitions, and it’s important to use this stage of development to get them into performance.


‘When I asked who’d used turntables before, 90% of the group knew about them, so it was already part of their culture and a way into learning about the technology and inspiring them into other forms of music-making.’


For the project, LMM partnered with Grooveschool, a not-for-profit organisation which nurtures young people’s engagement, creativity and invention, mainly through DJ and music technology workshops. They helped source the equipment and also provided technical advice.


Roz DeVile, LMM’s learning director, says it was well received by pupils, parents and teachers. ‘It’s interesting to see how receptive children are to different ways of exploring sounds. It was very different to their normal work with violins and fascinating to see how they could instinctively transfer their instrumental skills – of listening, of understanding pulse, rhythm and pitch – to electronic methods.’


Like Feshareki, DeVile notes that turntables are ‘more accessible to many children, having more obvious links to their daily lives’, and also like Feshareki, she was pleased to see how many pupils understood that ‘music can give them a leg up in other parts of life’.


responses to music


Several researchers are currently investigating the benefits and challenges of using different genres of music to engage young people creatively and to understand how children react to new genres in their formal music scheme.


Feshareki herself has been fascinated with children’s responses: as well as her music qualifications, she also has a psychology degree and this too has informed the way she works.


‘The children do influence me and I go back to this idea of playfulness of ideas, of incorporating their experiments into the work I do. It’s not about me teaching them, it’s about them choosing the gear they want to play with. Of course, you have to make sure you’ve chosen the right equipment, which is intuitive to use, and then allow them to explore their creativity.’


Feshareki says the workshop provided a ‘rewarding day’ and that she was ‘really proud’ of the way the children worked.


‘Their class teacher was brilliant and it was interesting to hear her extremely positive reaction to how they had performed and collaborated.


‘There was no pushing them. They picked up the technology very quickly. A few did something really quite special, but for me what was more moving was the way in which they all just went for it and the excitement they generated.


‘It has expanded their perceptions of what they can do and opened a door for them. It also opened my eyes to the importance of not segregating subjects, of integrating different disciplines and, as a consequence, really helping children make sense of the world.’


what the children say

‘I enjoyed learning how to work the equipment and learning how to make and create music.’ – Qumia, Year 5, Jessop Primary School

‘I worked on my confidence and I also tried more to make some new friends.’ – Innes, Year 5, Ashmole Primary School

‘I liked experimenting and playing around with the music and having teamwork with the other school.’ – Layla, Year 5, Jessop Primary School


from a parent

‘Good fun… We love it – the more exposure to different musical genres the better.’ – Year 5 parent

from a teacher

‘I think the children really enjoyed it and it was great to see them doing something so different and learning new skills’ – Rebecca Dwyer, deputy head teacher, Ashmole Primary


Rhian Morgan, Music Teacher Magazine

Further to our session at the Association of British Orchestras Conference in January entitled ‘The Diversity Challenge: The Musician’, London Music Masters invites delegates to come together again to reflect on the commitments made to increasing the diversity of musicians in orchestras. The follow-up sessions will also feature an inspirational speaker who will share their own encouraging experiences of how inclusion and positive action has led to better diversity in their organisations.
Posted on 11/07/2017

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