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Alexandra College

Staff Spotlight - Joe Carroll

Every Friday we feature a member of our staff in our Staff Spotlight! This week, we spoke to Music, SPHE and Learning Support teacher and supervisor Joe Carroll about his teaching career.




What was your first instrument, and why did you choose it?

When I was 4 years old I got a drum kit off Santa Claus and I chose it because it’s probably the noisiest thing in the world. Then I started playing piano when I was six, and guitar when I was nine. That was when I started getting really interested in music because guitar really was my instrument, and something just clicked. 


What instruments do you play?

Guitar, piano, drums, banjo, bouzouki, bass guitar, harmonica; there’s plenty of them. I’m not particularly good at woodwinds or brass, but I’m okay with percussion and strings. 


What’s one of your favorite performances you’ve done?

There’s been some great ones like when we performed at Electric Picnic and on The Late Late Show, but I have to say my favorite is when me and the band got to perform at the Secret Solstice Festival in Iceland in 2014. It’s on the summer solstice weekend and Iceland is in the Arctic Circle so the sun didn’t go down at all, and it was daytime all the time. It got a little bit dusky at about 2 am, and by 3 am it was bright again. It was a really cool experience to play a show to a bunch of Icelandic Viking people, and they seemed to really enjoy it! It was a really fun time.


Why did you begin teaching?

It just started when I was 16 - I started doing guitar lessons for younger kids in school. Their parents kept asking me if I gave lessons because I was known for playing at all the school concerts. I decided I’d try it out because I didn’t have a summer job lined up, and I love playing guitar so I thought I’d share that passion with other people. I started as just a guitar teacher and found I really enjoyed it, so after I did my music degree in college I decided to do a teaching degree as well. 


Why did you choose to join Alex?

Initially it was because it was down the road from me, which was great. What’s really made me stay in Alex since I joined four years ago is the great sense of community we have. The girls are allowed to be themselves; you get all kinds of girls in Alex from different cultures, different backgrounds, different countries, and that whole big melting pot of different ideas really drew me to Alex and made me want to stay. 


You work with your colleagues in the Music Department to arrange and perform our Funky Friday videos each week - how did that come about?

It was initially Mr. Barrett’s idea; the idea was to do something a bit more engaging on Fridays during Assembly. We started out arranging some hymns like This Little Light of Mine, and it slowly evolved into pop tunes which really just got people going. It started out as myself, Mr. Barrett and Mr. Wilson, and has evolved from there as other teachers join us sometimes. We just have real fun with it, and it really brings everyone together; music is a great motivator and a great leveller. There’s lots of girls from different backgrounds and with different interests, but once you get them all in the Concourse and they’re all singing a great song it brings everyone together. The main reason we do it is because it’s a fun thing for us to do; people get a lot of joy out of it and so do we. It’s why we did it in the first place, but since lockdown I think it’s become even more important.


What’s the process you go through to create Funky Friday each week, and how have you adapted Funky Friday for Covid-19? 

While we were doing them live in the school, we would just go in early on a Friday and jam out the song a few times, then just go for it; now that process is a lot more complicated. When we went into the first lockdown, the first song we did was I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor. We had no idea of how to put the video together really, so we all recorded it individually. It sounded a bit messy but it was something to get people going. 

As we got going after that, we slowly worked out how to put these videos together. In the first lockdown we all had a go at editing them together each week, but this lockdown I’ve been putting them all together. First we either need to find a backing track to the song or make our own, since we can’t record drums from home. Then everyone records their parts with their earphones in so that they can keep to the beat, and then everyone sends them to me with the video and audio separate. I put the sound together first in Logic Pro and mix it all together. It’s kind of like a smaller version of what Dr. Dre does in a studio with the big screens and sound boards; I do a condensed version of that in Logic Pro on my laptop. I mix it all together and make sure everything’s at the right level and sounding right. Then I start in on the video in iMovie and put everyone’s video together. It’s sometimes quite hard to make sure that the video is synced up with the music, and I find myself dragging clips very slightly here and there to try and get it perfectly bang on. Then once I’ve got it all lined up and ready to go, it goes out to everyone on Fridays. 


This week's Funky Friday: Holiday by Madonna