Daniel Baxendale is GEMS Wellington Primary School’s Head of Music and was recently a part of an orchestra that performed in the UAE desert to celebrate the forthcoming EXPO 2020 Dubai. The full orchestra and choir performed the UAE National Anthem to recognise the joining together of over 192 countries at the Middle-East’s first World Exposition. Daniel was lucky enough to make the final cut of the video which has been viewed by over 1.2 million people. Here, Andrew tells us about the day of filming and how the experience matches up with working at GEMS Wellington Primary…
What was it like to perform in the orchestra for the UAE Expo celebration video?
On the day itself – very hot! We were called at 9am and then didn’t finish filming until 6pm. That was a whole day of filming in the Al Qudra desert - which was exhausting. The crew were passing round sun cream at one point and needless to say, water was a prized commodity! It was a wonderful experience to join up with musicians from so many countries, and a privilege to be featured in the final cut of the film.
What I didn’t anticipate however, was the overwhelmingly positive reaction from others. I never expected the video to be so popular, and neither did I expect it to be watched by so many people. I feel very proud to have been involved, and I think anyone that watches the video will see that it represents the UAE and all its different cultures in such a lovely way – exactly the sort of values we strive for at WPS.
Tell us about your journey to becoming the Head of Music at WPS.
I graduated from university in York, UK with an honours degree in Music in 2009. From there I went straight into music education, teaching Samba and African Drumming for the local music hub in Trafford, Greater Manchester. I stayed with the music service and broadened my teaching skills gradually over the next few years, gaining experience in teaching singing in primary schools, as well as directing Concert Bands and Brass Bands, and teaching on the Wider Opportunities Programme. The Wider Opportunities Programme involved children learning a musical instrument with their whole class for a term, and then at the end we would hold a concert for the parents.
After seven years with the music service I decided to get a formal qualification, so I took the PGCE qualification at the University of Manchester. I am proud to say that I graduated as an ‘outstanding’ teacher after the one-year course. At the time I was in touch with a former teacher, who was telling me all about this amazing school he had joined in Dubai, called GEMS Wellington Primary School. As it happened the school were looking for another music teacher, and so after some consideration, I decided to take up the school’s offer of an interview. Needless to say, I was offered a position as a Music Teacher and I delightfully accepted. I have spent three very happy years as a Music Teacher here at WPS, and when the Head of Music post became available I was only too happy to apply.
Why is the Music curriculum so important for the children of WPS?
Music is many things. It is of course an art form. It is also a language. It is mathematical, and it is Science, History and Physical Education. Music develops insight and demands research. Music builds self-esteem, and enables you to recognise beauty and have more compassion. It is no secret that a strong Music curriculum can improve children’s performance in all their academic areas of learning.
Sometimes people have the opinion that music is one-dimensional and caters only for individual performers with a special ‘talent’, which sadly leaves many people believing that they have failed if they are not the ‘star of the show’. However, I am very proud to say that our Music curriculum at WPS is very well-rounded and, at its heart, is a focus on building the self-esteem and confidence of every child. We pride ourselves on giving every child at school access to our curriculum in some way, and my proudest moments are when children find that one aspect of music that they’re really good at.