Q&A with Keziah Thomas, Harp professor & PGCert Performance Teaching student


Harp professor and current PGCert Performance Teaching student Keziah Thomas shares her experiences of the programme.

The Post-Graduate Certificate (PGCert) in Performance Teaching is a Masters-level course designed to support professional musicians, actors, production artists and dancers who teach as part of their practice, either as their main employment or as part of a portfolio career.

We spoke to harp professor and current PGCert Performance Teaching student Keziah Thomas about what interested her in the programme and her experiences so far.

What interested you about the PGCert Performance Teaching?

As was the case for many of my colleagues, the pandemic gave me some breathing space and an enforced career sabbatical! I used the time to reflect on the areas of my career that I was most interested in developing and what support I could find to help me do this.

I learned about the PGCert at the same time as having the opportunity to work for the first time in a higher education setting and I wanted to embark on this new role with the confidence that the personal methods that I had developed over my teaching career to this point connect to wider pedagogical ideas.

I have recently developed a group harp learning programme which is being used by harp teachers internationally and as I develop my skills in supporting harpists to use my programme, I was excited that my growth as an educator could come from engaging and sharing ideas with a new group of colleagues outside my discipline.

What do you hope to gain/what are some key learnings you’ve already gained from the course?

Instrumental teaching can be solitary, particularly for those of us who work primarily from home and the PGCert offers a programme of inspiration and community. As well as taking part in whole group workshops and seminars, the course gives us the opportunity to work in smaller study groups in which we have chatted and met up socially, discussed problems and successes in our teaching practices and supported each other with the course assignments.

The group workshops have given me some light bulb moments in connecting what I already do in my teaching practice to pedagogical theory, and I have been able to immediately put some of these ideas into practice with my students. I already feel more connected with my core values as a teacher and how I can use them to support my students to work independently.

A highlight of the course for me has been the 1:1 sessions with my personal tutor who has supported and coached me through the assessments and course readings. In twenty years of teaching, I haven’t had the opportunity to have my own teaching observed in such a rigorous and motivating way!

How does distance learning/learning online work for you around your teaching or other commitments?

As well as being a teacher and performing musician, I am a parent so for me (and many others in my cohort this year) being able to take part in the workshops and seminars online has made the commitment to the PGCert possible.

The course is extremely well organised with workshop dates set out at the beginning of the academic year. There is also a huge wealth of information on the online platform, from essential readings, recordings of the sessions to helpful explanation videos. I was nervous about coming back to higher education as a mature student, so I value the clarity and professionalism of the course.

Looking ahead to the future, what do you hope to go onto after the course?

I am engaged with continuing my own personal development as a teacher and have new ideas about how to connect what I do with the wider performing arts world. I am inspired to seek out ways to connect and share ideas with my colleagues and excited about how this will support my students’ growth.

Find out more about PGCert Performance Teaching on our website, or email programme leader Carlos Lopez-Real at carlos.lopez-real@gsmd.ac.uk