Through our project Connect: Resound we’ve been pioneering online music education and experiences for over six years. With the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions accelerating interest in this area of practice, we spoke to one of our partners, the English Folk Dance and Song Society about the techniques they’ve used to engage groups in online music projects. Here we share their learnings.

Their quarterly National Youth Folk Ensemble residential courses bring together talented instrumentalists aged 14 to 18 from across the country for a week. April’s event moved online immediately, with the EFDSS using Zoom for the majority of their activities. The schedule aimed to replicate a typical day’s activities, but included time away from the screen, whether for independent learning or breaks. Participants enjoyed one to one lessons to develop their individual skills as well as recorded workshops to work through in their own time and a full social programme.

Sarah Jones from the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) explains that they quickly made the decision to host their upcoming National Youth Folk Ensemble Residential online, “It was vital for us to keep connected during this period and we adopted a positive, can-do attitude as we moved the bulk of our educational work online.”

The sense of being together was critical, as Sarah describes, “Every morning we met for a warm up session and set creative tasks for the day. For group music-making we used Zoom’s gallery view so we could all see each other. We played tracks that the Ensemble had previously recorded and then each participant played over top.

“Creating music together is an essential component of our Residentials and we taught our participants how to use music technology programme BandLab so that we could still collaborate easily. We were really impressed with their levels of experimentation. We also took advantage of EFDSS’ digital archive ( of folk music materials, encouraging the young musicians to uncover and interpret tunes from old manuscripts.”

The social side of the week included optional sessions in everything from photography and nature art to clog dancing, as well as the ever-popular music quiz and Listening Club, where everyone shares their favourite tracks.

Similarly, the EFDSS put a lot of energy into their pastoral offer, “The Residential was held at the beginning of lockdown and it was such a confusing and scary time for everyone. Our pastoral team was on hand all week to chat to individuals and help them get through it. Meanwhile the social programme proved a welcome distraction!”

Originally the week would have culminated in two live performances. As this couldn’t happen, each player created a short film of themselves playing and these were all edited together into one fabulous film which can be watched here:

 “There have been some unexpected benefits of working together online. The young musicians have extended their digital skillsets, from recording and mixing music to creating new arrangements and pieces of music together online.

“Meanwhile, our tutors have quickly adapted to the new teaching environment, upskilling themselves and investing in new equipment to make online lessons far easier, both now and in the future. We will be continuing to support them to build upon skills in this area, including recommending NYMAZ’s series of Connect: Resound CPD webinars which can be found here:

With the Residential under its belt, the EFDSS has gone on to host eight Youth Folk Sampler Days online, enabling it to meet around 100 young people across the country who are interested in playing folk music.

“I’ve been really impressed by the music education sector’s ability to adapt rapidly to new ways of working and I’m glad we’ve been able to provide an online space for young folk musicians to learn, create, and connect with each other this year.”

For more ideas on working with groups, watch the webinar: