Folk Student Undertakes Project at a Partner Primary School

By Lauren Bickerdike


Leeds Conservatoire first year Folk student Dabiela Timóteo has recently completed a Vocal Leader placement at Holy Rosary Primary School, a partner of the conservatoire. The placement aimed to empower students from underrepresented backgrounds to explore pathways into Music Education.

Dabiela worked with Year 6 students on a new songwriting project with the support of Sally Egan, music teacher at the primary school and a fellow of the conservatoire.

Sally shared her thoughts with us about working with Dabiela throughout the project:

It was a pleasure to have Dabi in school on a Vocal Leader placement last term. It was obvious from the start that her natural rapport with the children, which stems from a genuine interest in and respect for them, meant they would engage and enjoy working with her. 

Dabi undertook a variety of activities during her placement with us such as leading Training Choir rehearsals with repertoire that she had chosen well to suit the children’s ages and abilities, leading a song composition project with some Y6 children, which they performed to great acclaim to the rest of their class and sharing some of her favourite music with Y6 as part of our Listening Curriculum and encouraging the children to talk about their own reactions to it.

Dabi is a natural communicator and teacher and the children were all sorry when her placement came to an end.  As Emmanuel, aged 7 and a member of the Training Choir, said:  “I enjoyed working with Dabi a lot and if there were words I didn't understand in the songs she taught us, she was always very helpful and kind.”

We spoke to Dabiela about the songwriting project, her experience working with the students and the benefits of work placements in general.


Image of Dabiela Timoteo

How did you gain your placement at Holy Rosary Primary school?

I received an email from my course leader mentioning that the school was looking for singers wanting to expand their curriculum by doing a placement, and I decided to apply for it.

The application process was simple and divided into two parts. First, I needed to complete a form and write about why I was suitable for this placement. Secondly, the school selected me to attend an interview/audition where I needed to tell them why I wanted to do this placement and perform a song for them. 

Can you explain a little bit about the songwriting project you worked on with the children? 

This project was such a good experience. The idea was not to teach the students how to ‘write a song’ but to let them lead the sessions and explore creatively. The ethos was to help them learn a new way to maintain their mental health by acquiring a new skill, making it possible for them to express their emotions through writing music. In addition, this project aimed to teach the students collaborative skills as they were all writing one song together. 

How did the children respond to the task? Did they create some exciting work? 

Really well! The students were all brilliant and creative. The lyrics they wrote were powerful and meaningful as they decided to talk about their rights as the theme for the piece. The group I was working with had six students, and together, we managed to finish the song for the end of the placement. It was fascinating listening to them singing the lines they wrote and putting them together, which worked well for the final musical product. 

What was it like working with young songwriters? Did you enjoy the process? 

I loved it so much. It helped me find a new way of expressing and learning my art and finding a new professional path. After the placement, I decided to study Music in the Community for my second and third year at the conservatoire.

Of course, there were challenging moments because even though they respected each other's opinions, at some point, they all wanted their ideas to prevail. Working with young songwriters made me understand that I tend to overthink my art as a mature artist. Whereas they expressed their feelings and emotions dynamically and proactively, thus I should mention that they made the process quite simple for me. 

What did you learn in your time at Holy Rosary Primary?

I learned many different things, from applying new exercises to improve my vocal technique to my approach to songwriting. But the most valuable things I learnt is that when we do something we love, there are 100% more chances to be successful at it and that by teaching others, we have an opportunity to change their lives. The love we receive back is precious and a profound source of inspiration. 

Is this placement something you would recommend to other students at the conservatoire?

Absolutely! It’s a great way to gain more practical skills and to put into practice what you learn at the conservatoire. It’s a great way to develop your skills by working outside of your comfort zone in a new environment. And finally, it’s a wonderful way to explore all the fantastic and funny ways of teaching music. 

Learn more about studying Folk or studying Songwriting at Leeds Conservatoire

Find out more about our partners

Schools and Colleges can find out more about our Leeds Conservatoire Futures programme

By Lauren Bickerdike

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