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Government 'lets children down' in music 

10 December 2014

Leading figures in the music industry say the Government has broken its promise to give every child in Britain the opportunity to learn a musical instrument.  


Julian Lloyd Webber, Sting, Alison Balsom and the heads of the Royal College of Music and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra are among the signatories to a letter to the  Telegraph demanding that all children have the chance of learning to play an instrument. They want Ofsted rules to be changed so that a school cannot be rated 'good' or 'outstanding' unless it offers good or outstanding music provision.   

The Government unveiled its National Plan for Music in 2011, claiming it would ‘enable every child to have the chance to learn to play a musical instrument for at least a term, ideally a year’.  

However, the funding model has become a postcode lottery, and access to instruments is ‘simply out of reach’ for a great number of children, according to James Rhodes, concert pianist and lead signatory to the letter published in the Telegraph on 23rd November.  

Mr. Rhodes visited schools for a recent Channel 4 series, Don't Stop The Music, and found children using dustbin lids and yoghurt pots in place of real instruments. He said headteachers feel under pressure to meet targets for English and maths, and music lessons often become the lowest priority  

‘I don't think anyone would say music doesn't deserve to be studied. But if you are a headteacher in a school where you know you will live or die by ticking Ofsted boxes on literacy and numeracy, that is all you're going to focus on’.  

‘We have not moved on from the idea that music is a privilege and a luxury if you have the time and the budget. But learning to play an instrument gives you self-esteem, discipline, confidence. In what other field ... when there's an app for everything, and everything is instant, do you have  the chance for slow, incremental, messy improvement?’.  

Julian Lloyd Webber initially lent his name to the National Plan for Music but said it had failed to deliver.  ‘The biggest frustration of all to me is the idea that it's an 'either/or' situation. It's not a case of, 'If my child learns to play the cello they are not going to learn their maths as well'. In fact, it's the reverse. Having access to music is a help, not a hindrance. It takes discipline to learn an instrument - it is a complex thing to do.’  T

he Department of Education declined to supply any information on how many schools have met its 2011 target. 

El Sistema - a new publication polarises the music education community

17 December 2014

A storm of words has erupted following the publication of ‘El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela's Youth’ (OUP). Geoff Baker, a Reader in the music department at Royal Holloway, University of London, wrote the book following extensive travel and research in Venezuela.  


The reaction to this book has deeply polarised the music education community and there have been heated discussions on many blogs and websites both supporting and rejecting Baker’s findings.  A central thesis of the book is that El Sistema has become an institution serving the middle classes, rather than those less fortunate. In an opinion piece, published in the Guardian he begins:  “Far from the shining example of how classical music can change vulnerable young lives many claim it to be, Venezuela’s El Sistema fails the country’s most deprived children”  

There are also allegations of sexual abuse which have been picked up by pianist Ian Pace in his blog "Geoff Baker on El Sistema: sexual and other abuse in an authoritarian, hierarchical, archaic music culture"  

The author does point out that these allegations only refer to the situation he perceives in Venezuela and do not necessarily imply criticism of Sistema inspired initiatives in other countries. 

Baker is organising a conference for those who want to find out more and engage in the debate. The event, El Sistema and the Alternatives: Social Action through Music in Critical Perspective, will take place in the Senate House, University of London on 24 April 2015.              

Darren Henley appointed as chief executive of Arts Council England

16 December 2014

Darren Henley, managing director of Classic FM and the godfather of the National Plan for Music Education has been appointed chief executive of Arts Council England, replacing Alan Davey, who leaves after seven years in post.
Henley, who has chaired the Music Manifesto and is much in demand as a patron and board member, commented: 'Public investment has ensured the vitality and creativity of England’s cultural life. Arts Council England and the artists, performers and institutions we invest in contribute to who we are as a nation. I’m privileged to have the opportunity to lead this important organisation and support the extraordinary creativity and innovation that exists across the country in arts organisations, museums, galleries and libraries. 
'Alan Davey leaves quite a legacy. He made sure that the Arts Council enabled great work to happen. I want to build on that by working with our national chair and the chairs of our Area Councils to champion the importance of art and culture in so many aspects of our lives – personal, social and economic. Of course we must be responsive and adapt to the world around us, but the foundation stone is laid in terms of the Arts Council’s ten-year strategy. I look forward to working with the Arts Council teams around the country, particularly Althea Efunshile who is acting as chief Executive until I arrive. Together, all of us at Arts Council England will continue to strive towards achieving great art and culture for everyone, no matter who they are or where they are in England.'

Spitalfields Music Chief Executive Abigail Pogson joins Sage Gateshead as Managing Director

16 December 2014

After seven years as Chief Executive of Spitalfields Music Abigail Pogson has been appointed as Managing Director of Sage Gateshead. She will leave Spitalfields Music in May 2015 and the trustees will start recruitment for her successor in the New Year. 


Abigail Pogson commented:“It has been a privilege to lead Spitalfields Music for the past seven years and a joy to work with such brilliant partners, artists, educators, donors, team and trustees in the service of our audiences and participants. It was always going to be something pretty special to tempt me away from East London and Sage Gateshead is very special indeed. Its founding mission is very close to my heart. So I’m greatly looking forward to this next phase of my working life. And I’ll take to it my Spitalfields Music memories of a hugely inspiring organisation in such an incredible part of London. I am delighted that my last festival will be Spitalfields Music’s first ever festival made entirely by young people – our Takeover Spring Festival in March 2015.”

Sir Alan Moses, Chair of Spitalfields Music said:“Although sad news for me personally and for Spitalfields Music generally it is a well-deserved triumph for Abigail. The enormous energy and strength which she has devoted with such spectacular results for us will be of great service to the Sage. They will be as fortunate as we have been.”

This announcement comes on the penultimate day of Spitalfields Music's Winter Festival 2014 which has seen record audiences numbers. Over the past five years, festival ticket sales have increased by 35% and local first time attenders have been encouraged to attend through a free ticket scheme funded by regular buyers.During Abigail Pogson’s tenure as Chief Executive the charity has expanded its groundbreaking Learning & Participation programme. A recognised innovator within the arts sector it has won five national awards and, as well as serving East London, is in demand around the UK and in Europe. 

In 2014-15 Spitalfields Music toured its flagship project Musical Rumpus (a series of multi-sensory operas for 0-2½ year olds) across the UK and internationally, and has recently developed Sound Explorers - interactive, narrative based music concerts for  5-7 year olds. In March 2015 the organisation will present its first public Takeover Spring Festival in which pupils from Tower Hamlets’ primary schools curate and produce their own in-school music festival.

Southbank Centre’s Imagine Children’s Festival 

15 December 2014

Southbank Centre’s Imagine Children’s Festival returns for two weeks over half term with a wide-ranging programme to stimulate creativity. Over half of the 2015 programme will be free of charge, offering all families and schools access to literature, music, theatre, poetry, dance, interactive installations and workshops. 


Highlights include: 

·         A presentation by Russell Brand and Chris Riddell, about their children’s book The Pied Piper of Hamelin  ·         The London premiere of Brundibár, a renowned children's opera by Hans Krása, performed by Mahogany Opera Group  
·         A free family concert, with the Young Orchestra for London, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle  
·         A rare concert featuring the 12 Cellists of the Berliner Philharmoniker  
·         Southbank Sinfonia with Music and the Deaf offering a truly immersive and tactile experience for both hearing and deaf children 
·         Back by popular demand, The Big Sleepover on the iconic Royal Festival Hall stage  
·         Interactive performance pieces  
·         A new early years soft play village and a programme for babies and under-threes 
·          Readings and events with award-winning children’s authors and illustrators  
·         A new Southbank Centre commission by Hip Hop spoken word artist Maxwell Golden  
·         Immersive opera, theatre and site-wide installations to celebrate Alice In Wonderland’s 150th anniversary 

Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre, said:We believe that by giving young people the chance to shape the culture they grow up with, and share their ideas with their friends, schools and families, their creativity will be given a platform that can influence all of us’.  

Guardian Children’s Books will be giving children the chance to interview authors, upload podcasts and guest edit the site, extending the reach of the festival beyond London and Southbank Centre. http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site  

For ticket or price information contact: Southbank Centre Ticket Office – www.southbankcentre.co.uk

Southbank Centre, Monday 9 – Sunday 22 February 2015
www.southbankcentre.co.uk/imagine 


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