New York, New York!

New York Skyline

On the 30th October 2022, our Figurenotes team flew across the pond to New York. Emma, Rebecca and Caitlin spent five days in New York spending time with renowned music educator and expert, Kim McCord.

Here is a little diary of our experiences in the Big Apple!

30/10/22 – Travel Day

Raring to go for our long flight, we set off for the first of our two flights from Edinburgh to London, then London to New York. The excitement was definitely kicking in at this point, and I think holding off putting our fellow passengers off with how excited we were. We arrived, and got a classic Yellow taxi to our hotel, near Times Square! We got settled in, and celebrated our arrival with a beautiful view over the city.

Emma, Rebecca and Caitlin on the plane to NYC
Emma, Rebecca and Caitlin on the plane to NYC
Airpot signage that says "Welcome to JFK Terminal 8"
Welcome to JFK

31/10/22 – Day 1 at NYU

Caitlin, Emma and Rebecca taking a selfie in front of the Washington Square Arch
Washington Square Park

Our first day was Halloween! We got our bearings and headed to Washington Square Park, which is a very pretty place for a university. New York University’s Stenhardt Campus is situated just at the edge of the park, and ready to greet us was Kim McCord. Kim is Professor Emeritus at Illinois State University, and Adjunct Professor of Music Education at Steinhart’s Music Education Programme, who were our first visit of the week. We met the students, and introduced ourselves. Emma spent some time talking about the work of Drake Music Scotland, and then Rebecca and Caitlin led a Figurenotes session getting the students to play “Thriller” – after all, it was Halloween! Didn’t we know it too! Surrounding the university was halloween central, and little did we know that just round the corner was NYC’s Halloween parade. After some delicious lunch, we headed back to see the students in action to deliver their own sessions using Figurenotes. Two of the students led their own sessions to the rest of their peers. We got to see some of Kim’s teaching style come out in these students and how they presented their spooky tunes to the rest of the class.

Emma presenting to students in front of a screen with instruments in the foreground
Emma presenting to students
Rebecca leading a session of Thriller with NYU students playing various percussion, keyboard instruments and violin
Rebecca leading “Thriller” with students
Caitlin and Rebecca leading a warm up game where everyone is pretending to be a motorbike with their hands as if they are riding one
Caitlin and Rebecca leading a warm up session
NYU students Jaime, leading a session with her classmates with a song called "On Halloween"
NYU student Jamie leading a session

“Thank you for spending so much time with all of us during your recent trip to NYU. I was so honored to have lunch with you and hear about your perspectives working with teachers in Scotland and in other countries. I am hoping to come visit Edinburgh and watch the Digital Orchestra rehearsal. It would be an exciting project to bring to the USA and would allow me the opportunity to work with an ensemble of musicians with disabilities.” Joey Duke

1/11/22 – Day 2

Day two took us to Connecticut. After stopping at the beautiful Grand Central Station to catch the train we headed to Fairfield. Kim was our tour guide and transport for the day, and took us for lunch in Milford. After that we went to her beautiful home, and to see her incredible basement studio where she delivers sessions mainly in Figurenotes to disabled students of all ages – Just Accessible Music (JAM) is her own music practice that she delivers with colleague, Laura Ziegler. After this brief stop we headed to Bridgeport University to meet her second group of students for the week. These students are different to those at NYU. The NYU students are young university age students, and the Bridgeport students are mature students, with full time jobs, and learning new skills in an evening class after a long day – true dedication! These students are also learning to teach using Figurenotes. Kim has been to Resonaari, and is a huge user of Figurenotes in the United States.

First of all we chatted with the students, to find out their interests, their pain points in their practice, and to see if we could offer any advice or suggestions for how to work with their pupils. As a bit of fun after some serious chatting, and sharing more information about Figurenotes, we let them have a go at Lenny Kravitz’s “Fly Away”. Great fun! After this session, we got to see them work together as a group to teach the JAM students themselves with a young adult rock band using Figurenotes. A much different set up to NYU where they can actually practice their skills on students with additional support needs (with permissions from their families of course), rather than having to practice on each other. After a long but fun day exploring Connecticut, we three sleepy musicians headed on the train back to the Big Apple!

Kim McCord's incredible basement studio. Loads of guitars on the walls, Drum kits and instruments everywhere in a mid blue room.
Kim’s amazing basement studio
Bridgeport University with the USA Flag and fluffy clouds
Bridgeport University
Four Bridgeport University Students playing guitars
Bridgeport Students playing “Fly Away”
Bridgeport Students teaching students with additional support needs on piano, bass guitar, voice and samba drums
Bridgeport students leading JAM students


2/11/22 – Day 3

The first port of call for day 3 was to meet Kim’s partner at Just Accessible Music, Laura Ziegler. We had some brilliant conversations about networks, training, mentoring, how to work with specific students and our collective experiences as well as what Laura does at JAM and what we do at Drake Music Scotland. These are some conversations we will definitely be keeping going! It was a very speedy, but brilliant knowledge exchange between 5 musicians who absolutely love what they do! We all know that speaking to other musicians and educators is invaluable, and sharing that knowledge internationally is even more valuable.

After that Kim took us back to NYU for our second day there, and this time with some different students at the Colloquium. While we were there we also met Jason Thompson, the Head of Music Education at New York University who sat in on our time there. We spent time with the Colloquium students discussing why they chose to choose this particular course, and where they hoped it would take them in the future. There were many responses from personal lived experience of disability and a pure love for the work; wanting more skills to work in mainstream classes and expecting groups with differentiated learning; as well as just a pure interest in new teaching methods to add to their toolkit. Emma showed this class how Figurenotes works, and explained how Figurenotes can be used in classes with differentiated learning. Rebecca and Caitlin had some fun with this class too, with “Fly Away” again, and then Caitlin led a creative improvisation session to get the students thinking about alternative ways to engage students on the spot!

Emma, Caitlin and Rebecca outside NYU with Rebecca pointing at the sign
NYU Students sitting on the floor playing percussion instruments with students with guitars and iPads seated behind them
NYU Students getting creative with Figurenotes

That was the end of our knowledge exchange, and we had just a little bit of free time to explore some of NYC before our flight home the next day. We were very lucky to catch some incredible Jazz musicians at the after party from the Blue Note at the stunning Zinc Bar – don’t we sound cool! Was purely a coincidence, but one that none of us would have missed at all, felt like a real privilege to hear them!

“I have felt so grateful all semester to be able to be taking this course on Disability and Music Education from Dr. McCord. The icing on the cake that really blew us all away was having the three of you sharing yet more incredible teaching and music with us. I can’t wait to go out and teach and do this myself! Thanks so much for making the long trip to share your wonderful expertise with all of us.” Jahnvi Seshadri

3/11/22 – Day 4 Tourist time

Day 4 was our final day before our overnight flight back to cold Edinburgh. After going to a good old NYC Diner for breakfast, we headed to the Top of the Rockerfeller Centre for panoramic views of the city, followed by a fancy walk down 5th Avenue to the beautiful autumn (fall!) sights of Central Park before packing our bags and starting the long journey home!

What an amazing, busy, fun, and JAM (!) packed week we had! When can we come back?!

Washington Square Park arch
Washington Square Park
View of the Empire State Building and Manhattan from the Top of the Rockerfeller Centre
Top of the Rock!


Times Square lights and adverts with Yellow Tazi
Times Square!

With thanks to Creative Scotland‘s YMI CPD Funding administered through Scottish Music Centre for making this trip happen.

With thanks to the Scottish Power Foundation for funding our software development