School of Creative

Karen Denise de Silva

Karen Denise de Silva

MA Arts Pedagogy and Practice
2020 — 2021

Karen de Silva is a music performer, composer and educator who graduated with a Master’s degree in Arts Pedagogy and Practice at LASALLE College of the Arts, awarded by Goldsmiths, University of London. Having practised law, she gave up her legal career to pursue her passion for music, graduating with First Class Honours from Goldsmiths, majoring in jazz performance.

A frequent performer at concerts and outreach programmes, Karen has led several ensembles locally and abroad. Karen founded Musika Creations with the vision of using innovation and creativity to engage one's audience in its musical projects including education, outreach, composition and performance.


Teaching philosophy and research interests
My classroom is a safe place where I hope to nurture my students' love for music so that they will come to appreciate and value this art form in whichever way is most resonant with their personalities. This sense of inclusivity and security can be attained through a non-judgemental environment where 'ability' is a location from which growth and development will occur and should be allowed to flourish.

My teaching approach mirrors my practice as a jazz violinist in that it is a form of 'improvisation' being a balance of creativity and structure. As a composer, I notate materials which present improvisational opportunities that support my band members' strengths. I often create music with pockets of space to showcase and develop my musicians’ unique styles. An analogy can be drawn between this and my facilitative role as a teacher in designing a learning experience, where I create and adapt structures to best scaffold effective learning.

I hope to equip my students with the confidence that they are in a position to and have a right to develop at their own pace. Along the way, I will provide them with the many different building blocks and offerings which could inspire them to find the most meaning and enjoyment in music which is true to themselves, to enrich their lives and perhaps inspire life-long learning in this area. I endeavour to achieve this by creating a fun and creative environment during lessons, taking into account my students’ interests and learning styles where we can work collaboratively in a journey of guided discovery.

My research interests include interdisciplinary exploration and synthesisation of popular culture with traditional music education. This has led me to investigate how we can connect with music through manga for my thesis. A holistic approach to education and use of improvisation as a teaching tool are also key areas of interest for me.

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Thesis abstract

Personal authenticity in the interpretation and performance of music should be centred upon a holistic rather than a formalist approach to musicianship.

A holistic approach allows one’s whole being – intellectual, social, cultural, artistic, physical, emotional and personal, to be present in music-making. A key element of this is the role of the performer’s emotions. Through my research, I developed and tested a teaching methodology to help musicians reconnect with their emotions and express their sense of self, towards enabling them to achieve a greater level of personal authenticity in their music-making. I used a/r/tography as my research method to complement my practice-led approach. 

As background research, I investigated whether manga could be used as a medium which could facilitate a more emotion-based interpretation of music. I selected manga because I was interested in exploring the parallels of manga and music through the lens of my artistic and teaching practice which has composition, improvisation, imagery and narrative at its core. This culminated in the development of an experiential teaching methodology, Emotive Musiking which utilises elements of embodiment, visualisation, improvisation, reflection, discussion and the symbolic visual language of manga which I tested over a series of two workshops.  My findings indicate that through the process of reconnecting with their emotions, the Participants gained a greater sense of their musical identities which in turn increased their confidence in expressing their sense of self during the workshop activities, thus bringing them a step closer towards achieving personal authenticity in their music-making.

Work experience

2011 – present
Freelance Violinist and Music Educator

2015 – present
Musika Creations

2016 – present
Dulwich College and Canadian International School
Freelance Violin Instructor

2017 – present
Musika Creations Registered NAC-AEP Arts Exposure Assembly Programmes
Creator and Instructor