48 episodes

Welcome to the music teachers in international schools podcast! In this podcast, experienced music educator and researcher, Chris Koelma, explores the unique world of music education in the international school context. You will hear engaging stories from music teachers working in international schools all around the world, learn tips and tricks from a global community of leading music ed experts, and be inspired to develop your capacity to be truly ‘international’ in your approach to music education.

Music Teachers In International Schools Podcast Chris Koelma

    • Education
    • 5.0 • 3 Ratings

Welcome to the music teachers in international schools podcast! In this podcast, experienced music educator and researcher, Chris Koelma, explores the unique world of music education in the international school context. You will hear engaging stories from music teachers working in international schools all around the world, learn tips and tricks from a global community of leading music ed experts, and be inspired to develop your capacity to be truly ‘international’ in your approach to music education.

    EP. 44 – Finding your community as an international school music teacher w/ Desta Olds

    EP. 44 – Finding your community as an international school music teacher w/ Desta Olds

    Desta Olds is a Performing Arts Teacher at the International School of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

    Desta joins the long list of cellists that we've had on the MTIIS podcast - this is purely a coincidence of course 😅!

    Originally from the USA, Desta worked in South Korea and Hong Kong before joining ISPP a few years ago. Desta came to the recent Big Gig Japan (hosted by Canadian Academy Kobe and delivered by the team at Musical Futures International and MTIIS) and was such a vibe! She was a fantastic presence at the event and we wanted you all to meet her as well!

    In this episode, we explore:


    what it's like to live and work in Phnom Penh, including the post-genocide development that is happening in the city and country.
    the flourishing Arts scene in Cambodia since the terrible genocide.
    Desta's role as a Performing Arts teacher, including why she loves the drama teaching element of her role.
    how Desta came to love teaching choir (as a strings-centric teacher) and how having her own singing lessons has been a game-changer!
    how Desta has found community in each location she has worked, including some top tips for single people working away from their home country.
    why it can be valuable to have friends outside of work.
    the importance of connecting with local musicians and the local music scene as an international school music teacher. This links directly to our MTIIS community principles found here.

    A mega thanks to Desta for sharing her insights in this episode! See below for lots of links and ideas, including Desta's amazing blog chronically her international school music teaching journey so far.

    Get in touch with Desta:


    Email: destaolds@ispp.edu.kh
    Desta's epic blog: https://cellophnompenh.wordpress.com - seriously so much amazing stuff in these blogs.

    Links and resources from this episode:


    History of the genocide in Cambodia
    Cheryl Porter - YouTube video vocal method
    Youth Symphony Pnom Penh
    Clockenflap Music Festival, Hong Kong





    Thank you to the episode sponsor Trinity College London. It can sometimes be tricky to navigate the world of music exams for international school students - but Trinity College London love to help make this whole process a lot easier!

    Trinity works worldwide to support the music education of hundreds of thousands of students with assessments across a wide spectrum of styles, including Classical, Jazz, Rock & Pop and theory of music. 

    If you’re looking for music exams for your students that are super flexible, learner-centred and come with plenty of local on-the-ground support, then Trinity College London could be the perfect option for your international school setting. 

    As you can see in the image above, Trinity is kindly giving away their ‘Bitesize Theory’ eBook to the MTIIS community! To get your free copy, usually valued at 9GBP, head to ⁠https://resources.trinitycollege.com/mtiis⁠

    • 35 min
    EP. 43 - from Penang, Malaysia: Dalcroze, Strings & Play-based learning in Early Years & Primary w/ Asta Hodgson

    EP. 43 - from Penang, Malaysia: Dalcroze, Strings & Play-based learning in Early Years & Primary w/ Asta Hodgson

    Asta Hodgson is the Head of Music at Prince of Wales Island International School in Penang, Malaysia.

    Beginning with her formal music training as a cellist, and subsequent music teacher training focusing on Dalcroze, Asta then completed a dissertation looking at how entrainment interventions impact prosocial behaviours in early years children. This is such a cool study! Asta has so many practical and strategic ideas for how to integrate Dalcroze, strings and play-based music learning together.

    In this episode, we explore:


    what it's like to live and work in Penang, Malaysia.
    some powerful approaches to fostering creativity through play-based music learning in early years and primary music settings. 
    the role of the 'teacher as facilitator' in play-based music education.
    the Dalcroze approach and why this might be a useful pedagogy to explore.
    a range of resources and strategies that teachers can take into the classroom tomorrow!
    who is "Steve the mouse" and why we have to keep him safe (yep, random...but you'll have to watch the episode to find out more.

    A massive thanks to Asta for sharing her insights and providing some valuable challenges and inspo for the community. Get in touch with Asta or grab some links to resources mentioned in the episode below.



    Get in touch with Asta:


    Email: asta.hodgson1985@gmail.com
    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/asta-hodgson-a59225258/

    Links and resources from this episode:

    Teaching Resources:


    Improvisation: Sketching at the Keyboard series by Laura Campbell
    Singing games (EY, Middle School): National Youth Choir of Scotland Singing Games & Rhymes series 
    Abracadabra Strings Beginners Series (Collins Music)

    Dalcroze Societies:


    Dalcroze UK: https://dalcroze.org.uk/
    Annie Lennox patron of Dalcroze UK: https://dalcroze.org.uk/annie-lennox-announced-as-patron-of-dalcroze-uk/
    Dalcroze Malaysia Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1541412036100123/
    Dalcroze Society of America: https://dalcrozeusa.org/ (and a link to an article Asta wrote for them last year about Plastique Anime: https://dalcrozeusa.org/blog/plastique-animee-the-importance-of-the-embodiment-of-musical-expression-and-communication/)

    Further Reading:


    Primary Music Magazine: https://musiceducationsolutions.co.uk/primary-music-magazine/(Asta's article about musical play coming soon!)
    Campbell, P . S., (2010). Songs in their heads: Music and its meaning in children's lives (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.
    Marsh, K., & Young, S.. (2006). Musical Play. In G. McPherson (ed.), The child as musician: A handbook of musical development (pp.289-310). Oxford University Press.
    Rowe, V. (2012). Young children’s thinking in music. In S. Robson (ed.), Developing thinking and understanding in young children: An introduction for students (2nd ed., pp.192-200). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203133354

    Other links:


    Royal Northern College of Music: https://www.rncm.ac.uk

    • 51 min
    EP. 42 - 20 years in Spain, songwriting camps, student-led events & honouring all learning w/ Kerry Wickersham

    EP. 42 - 20 years in Spain, songwriting camps, student-led events & honouring all learning w/ Kerry Wickersham

    Kerry Wickersham is an Apple Distinguished Educator and the Head of Music and CAS Coordinator at Sotogrande International School in Spain.

    He has spent 20 years in Spain and has developed some incredible opportunities for his students. In fact, as you'll find out in this episode, many of these opportunities have been led by his students.

    In this episode, we explore:


    Kerry's background as a musician and music educator, including how a combination of his father's job as a pilot and the TES, gave him an initial introduction to international schools.
    the songwriting camps at El Cañuelo that Kerry has been running for 16 years! Check out the links below.
    the mega impact that the off-site songwriting camps have on the overall music program at Sotogrande International School
    how being at one school for 20 years has led to the establishment of some wonderful student-led initiatives.
    Sotorox - the mega music event held at Kerry's school every 4 years. We also dig into the value of hosting an event every four years, instead of every year...a difficult concept for many international school owners/leaders to entertain! 😅
    our mutual connection to the 'Coalition To Honour All Learning', a collaborative of hundreds of school & university leaders who are looking to make impactful change to the current state of school leaving certificates.

    Please take a minute to check out the links below! Some amazing resources and inspiration for your events!



    Get in touch with Kerry:

    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kerry-j-wickersham-9167592a1/

    Links and resources from this episode:

    El Cañuelo - songwriting trip and playlist

    Building the Sotorox stage + setting up the event

    This is Sotorox! video

    The Coalition To Honour All Learning website



    EPISODE SPONSOR:This episode is brought to you by AIM - the Australian Institute of Music. AIM is Australia's first, and only creative institute entirely dedicated to music. AIM has more than 50 years of experience in the industry, empowering over 6,000 artists, and teaching them the tools and knowledge to hone their skills and find their place in the music world.

    We often get asked by international school music teachers for fantastic institutions for further study for students, especially in the wider Asian region. Instead of having students go to the US or UK to study Western music, many students are now opting for AIM due to timezone similarities and the epic lifestyle of cities like Melbourne and Sydney.

    If you have students who are looking to study diploma, bachelor’s, or master’s degree courses in classical or contemporary music performance, composition, creative technology, musical theatre, or arts and entertainment management, then AIM is a brilliant option. You can find everything you need at https://aim.edu.au

    • 52 min
    EP. 41 – Living in Barcelona, early years, democratic choir directing & embracing unlearning w/ Anastasia Mousouli

    EP. 41 – Living in Barcelona, early years, democratic choir directing & embracing unlearning w/ Anastasia Mousouli

    "I had to revisit my philosophy...I had to rewire my brain"

    Anastasia Mousouli was trained to sing and play the flute in a rigid and formal setting. It allowed her to become a professional flute player and perform in some incredible contexts. However, as Anastasia entered the international school music classroom, it became clear that some considerable unlearning might need to happen to provide access to music and support as many students as possible. What ensued was a period of incredible growth, transformation, and new experiences in just about every educational setting. Anastasia has taught early years, elementary, middle school, high school, tertiary, band, choir and El Sistema. 

    She's now based at Benjamin Franklin International School in Barcelona and teaches early years and elementary/middle school choir.

    In this episode, we explore:


    Anastasia's journey from professional musician to international school music teacher.
    What it's like to live in Barcelona, including a particular deep dive on why it's been such a great place to bring up kids.
    Some awesome resources for Early Years music teaching (see links below).
    How Anastasia leads her choirs democratically.
    The positive aspects of working in a small international school.
    Some of Anastasia's best pieces of advice for those interested in teaching in an international school.

    Anastasia is such a passionate educator who epitomises what it means to transform one's practice to help better support student learning. We hope you enjoy this episode!



    Get in touch with Anastasia:

    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anastasia-mousouli-86916131/



    Links and resources from this episode:

    International School Brussels: https://www.isb.be

    North Western - Master of Music Education degree: https://www.music.northwestern.edu/academics/degrees/mm/music-education

    Kindermusik: https://www.kindermusik.com

    Musik Garten: https://www.musikgarten.org

    Internationally small schools by ECIS: https://ecis.org/intentionally-small-schools/

    UDL (mentioned in the list of professional learning experiences): https://www.understood.org/en/articles/universal-design-for-learning-what-it-is-and-how-it-works



    This episode is brought to you by AIM - the Australian Institute of Music.

    • 34 min
    EP. 40 - Designing spaces for creativity, the value of mentoring & life in Ecuador w/ Jeff Tollefson

    EP. 40 - Designing spaces for creativity, the value of mentoring & life in Ecuador w/ Jeff Tollefson

    Jeff Tollefson is the Fine Arts Director at Colegio Menor Quito in Ecuador.

    I first heard about Jeff during my interview with Jefferson Aranda for Episode 17 of the MTIIS podcast. Jefferson spoke super highly of Jeff and referred to his mentorship numerous times during the conversation. So, after a few back and forth messages via LinkedIn, it became clear that it would be a great idea to speak with Jeff about his work and life in Ecuador. 

    Jeff provides a bounty of ideas and insights and demonstrates an example of what it means to relearn, unlearn and self-reflect as an international school music teacher. Jeff has found a sense of place in his role and epitomises the incredible reflexivity that we find in many long term international school-based music teachers.

    In this episode, we explore:




    Jeff's background as a musician and music educator, including his fortunate appearance at a job fair that led to his move to Ecuador.
    the importance of mentoring in the international school music teaching context.
    why Jeff has stayed in Ecuador for 20+ years!
    how Jeff's teaching and musicianship has shifted and changed as a result of connecting with the local Ecuadorian music and music education scenes.
    Jeff's experience in designing creative media spaces to help his students explore the true breadth of their creative potential. Jeff provides a number of tips about creating both physical and mental creative spaces in a school.
    the need for international school music teachers to balance their personal music education passions with the context in which they live and work.

    Please enjoy this wide-ranging and inspiring interview with a wonderfully experienced member of our international school music teaching community.



    Get in touch with Jeff:

    Email: mr.t.musiceducation@gmail.com

    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeff-tollefson-66562548/



    Links and resources from this episode:

    More info about Jay Byron - https://louisville.edu/music/academics/areas-of-study/jazz/past-events/2015-jazz-fest/jay-byron-trumpeter

    • 41 min
    EP. 39 – “The classroom is a stage”, teaching from the drum kit & a personal journey with ADHD w/ Chris McLeay

    EP. 39 – “The classroom is a stage”, teaching from the drum kit & a personal journey with ADHD w/ Chris McLeay

    Chris McLeay didn't really start getting 'into' music until his twenties.

    Music became an expressive outlet and tool for personal growth for Chris. 

    After completing a music education degree, some time spent working with a powerful Musical Futures program in South Melbourne (Australia), and multiple other music ed projects, Chris moved into the role of Primary Music Teacher at Discovery College, Hong Kong.

    In this episode, we explore:


    Chris' journey to teaching in Hong Kong, and what he loves about living and working there.
    his unique approach to teaching early years and primary music.
    how Chris uses colour-coding to support neurodivergence in his classroom.
    the concept of "the classroom is a stage", including why Chris has a full lighting rig in his primary music classroom.
    why/how to teach primary music 'from the drum kit'.
    Chris' project 'ta-da music' - a collection of super fun themed songs for early years and primary students!
    some strategies for how he manages his ADHD as a music teacher in a demanding international school.

    Chris is such a fun guy. Seriously, when you hang out with the dude you can't help but laughing and joking most of the time! Chris is also a keen hiker and took me on a beautiful hike in HK when we were together in November 2023 - all avid hikers/trail runners should definitely add HK to their travel bucket list! 

    We hope you enjoy this wide-ranging and enlightening episode.

    Get in touch with Chris:

    Email: mcleac2@dc.edu.hk



    Links and resources from this episode:

    Ta-Da!!! Music - FREE online sing-alongs made by Chris: Full channel: https://www.youtube.com/@Ta-Da-cq3hx

    Featured Songs:- Build It Up - https://youtu.be/flbYa5_j-dY?si=jNHOR6Cd1hNidIJ0- I'm a Little Robot - https://youtu.be/9Mo8Bml5rsE?si=684rjIfm1mLH5qAz- Evergreen Desiduous - https://youtu.be/rqJG2ENqH3M?si=83q6xMjxxkkH705U

    'ESF (English Schools Foundation) Schools' - 22 international school in HK: https://www.esf.edu.hk 

    'What comes before phonics' book: https://www.amazon.in/comes-before-phonics-Sally-Neaum/dp/1529742250

    Planbook - planning tool: https://planbook.com

    Future AdHD - specific ADHD Planner: https://futureadhd.com

    Musical Futures International: https://www.musicalfuturesinternational.org



    Learn more about MTIIS here: https://mtiis.co

    • 41 min

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Gracieliz ,

Thanks for such a great resource!

Chris is such an expert in the field and love the way he interviews guests. 💯

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