Eid Al Fitir was announced last week, marking the end of Ramadan. The opera house is currently dark as we are out of season. This means that the strict rules of no music, no eating or drinking are more easily adhered to during this holy month. Many expats choose to take their annual leave during this period. However, the Sound and Broadcast department use this quieter time for maintenance and training. For us, this is pretty exciting!
Post formal education, the training normally received ‘on the job’ in our industry can vary wildly. From workshops with experts at hire companies, to companies selling their equipment to learning a new mix for a show. In my experience, given the nature of our work, we are always very grateful to receive any guidance at all.
Training at the opera house takes two different but intrinsically linked paths. Primarily as expats, we are employed to train Omani colleagues as part of the Omanisation programme. We also have to consider the development of the skills of all team members for effective show running.
On my arrival last July, under the guidance of our technical director, Ric Green, and head of the sound and broadcast department, Mike Compton, I started developing a skills competency framework. It was imperative at this stage, that we were careful to limit the framework to the most basic skills that we needed our trainees to perform during the season. This would mean that progress could be easily tracked. My previous three years spent in teaching was invaluable in applying solid educational theory to teaching and learning in this new environment.
The development of the framework depends on whole department collaboration. The sound and broadcast department covers two areas, so we chose to have two separate frameworks- one to cover sound and the other to cover broadcast. Because of the nature of our season we wanted the framework to be trainee led. After agreeing on the areas that we wanted to cover, we then created four levels of competency. Since we have to presume any trainee arriving at the opera house has no experience of a particular area this is where we started. Based on Blooms taxonomy, three further levels were then developed:
None: No skill in this area
Level 1: Can memorise equipment required or reproduce a basic skill after a demonstration
Level 2: Can interpret instructions or compare suitable skills in order to select the best method to complete a task
Level 3: Can demonstrate a skill by applying knowledge
The frameworks have now been in place for 12 months. They have been successful in engaging the trainees, mainly due to the clarity of showing exactly what is required of them. It is easy for us expats to forget that we come from a culture of hundreds of years of western theatre, opera and ballet. Oman has an incredibly rich heritage of music and performance and with the opening of the opera house, it is has just embarked on its engagement with classical western arts. With this in mind we must remain open minded to this fusing of cultures.
In a recent department review of the skills competency frameworks we discussed how we should now move forwards. It was agreed that we shouldn’t ‘add’ increasingly more difficult levels. This is because once basic skills have been mastered, trainees are able to engage in the work and develop at their own pace- much as most trainees in western theatre environments. However, we are leaving a legacy to any future leaders of the department and we are cautious that we should develop a training ethic that can be followed. With this in mind, we will work on an approach that identifies needs and pinpoints specific areas for development.
Clare Hibberd: Clare is a Senior Sound and Broadcast Technician at the Royal Opera House, Muscat. Clare gained her first class bachelors degree at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Her career has taken her all over the world, working on some of the most successful (and not so successful) musical theatre productions to come out of the West-End. With the added bonus of recently completing a post graduate teaching certificate, she is now looking to implement teaching and learning programmes for Omani technical trainees as part of a wider Omanisation strategy.