Who teaches the course?
Heads of Department – Strings
Sarah Crooks & Helen Dromey
Sarah is a widely experienced teacher of the violin and general musicianship, working with string players in a range of contexts. Her approach as a teacher is to guide rather than to prescribe learning, encouraging self-discovery through exploration.
At the RNCM she is Senior Tutor of Young Strings, a programme with an integrated approach which aims to engage the whole child in musical learning. The methods of Dalcroze and Kodály are central to the programme’s pedagogy. Pupils move, sing, play, improvise, collaborate, discuss and reflect. This holistic, creative approach to music education underpins Sarah’s teaching in all settings, inspired by her training as a Dalcroze Eurhythmics teacher.
Sarah also enjoys working with advanced musicians and teachers, helping them to develop their teaching, research and reflection skills. She leads CPD in many settings and works regularly with undergraduate and postgraduate students at the RNCM. She was delighted to be invited to join the Mentor panel on the ESTA PG Cert and relishes the opportunities to share practice with teachers from all over the world.
In other roles, Sarah is a mother of two young children, a Child Protection Officer at the RNCM and a student of the Alexander Technique. She hopes to train as an Alexander teacher in the near future, which will add new dimensions to her work with musicians.
Helen has been a Mentor for ESTA’s PGCert in String Teaching since its inception in 2017. She was Lead Teacher for Strings for West Sussex Music until 2019, when she embarked on her PhD research into string pedagogy at the University of Portsmouth.
Helen has a wealth of experience of teaching the violin and viola in individual, small- and large-group settings, including Whole-Class Ensemble Tuition (WCET). A qualified primary school teacher, she has also worked as a Music Coordinator, delivering classroom Music across Key Stages 1 and 2. Helen’s current research draws on each of these experiences but focuses in particular on pupils’ progression beyond whole-class instrumental learning, the current lack of qualitative data in this area, and related problems around policy enactment and Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Helen intends for her findings to equip music hubs (and equivalent organisations) to better support their teachers, thereby enhancing both the quality of teaching and opportunities for children.
Helen addresses similar aims in her own practice: in 2015 she established String Start, a group violin-with-musicianship programme for children aged 4–7, alongside which she developed and delivered a series of CPD programmes for instrumental teachers. Helen graduated from King’s College London with undergraduate (Music) and postgraduate (Historical Musicology) degrees, gained her PGCE qualification at the University of Chichester, and also attained her LRAM at London’s Royal Academy of Music