Christa Liggins Ocarina Workshop

Christa Liggins – language and music

After our marriage in 1989, I left language teaching to become business partner in Ocarina Workshop. Within 6 months we had published our first computer-generated music books and exhibited at national Education Shows.

My modern foreign language teaching experience underpins Ocarina Workshop’s music-making model and our preparation of new resources. My German lessons were filled with the sound of spoken German as children confidently handled inflexion and vocabulary, ready to converse with a ‘sympathetic native speaker’ as dictated by GCSE oral criteria. New words, questions, phrases, and even grammatical structures were elicited by visual stimuli – pictures, objects or actions – the use of English was rare, allowing for immersion in the target language.

Just as children are keen to learn languages, they are keen to play musical instruments. They want to make sounds, play tunes and discover the world of music. The different ways of covering the Ocarina’s four finger holes can be pictured in code, by-passing formal learning of music ‘theory’ and allowing even pre-readers to recognise each finger-pattern and play accurately tuned notes. Staff notation, the written ‘target language’, gives musical direction whilst the ocarina finger-charts act as a visual prompt to facilitate fluent playing from the start. The motivation gained through playing ‘real’ music in class and in front of audiences is key to children’s rapid musical progress with Ocarinas. And when English is already a second language for many pupils, this resource is most welcome in twenty first century classrooms.

The English National Curriculum Music Programme of Study for English Primary Schools starts with the words ‘Music is a universal language…’ And the curriculum requires active music-making with tuned musical instruments for all children from the age of five upwards: In equipping pupils with English 4-hole Ocarinas and an immediate octave of notes, we are giving children a voice and something to say, enabling teachers to keep music as the target language in whole-class music lessons.

I still love class teaching and training teachers; this, and preparing ocarina-resources is a wonderful multi-faceted job that has grown with us over the last 30 years, along with extensive music-making and language-learning with our own children!