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Latest News

Ukelele group strikes chord with audience

22 September 2014

As they progress from strength to strength, the Grantham U3A Ukelele Group are proving that you’re never too old to learn a new skill.

The group, led by SoundLINCS music facilitator Jonny Gillard, have begun to take part in concerts and events at care homes, fundraisers and even weddings. Videos of the group playing two of their favourite repertoire pieces, Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around the Clock’ and Tom Jones’ ‘Delilah’, have been uploaded to YouTube and are receiving great feedback online.

‘The progress and increased confidence of the group has been brilliant,’ said Jonny Gillard. ‘Their enthusiasm to learn and play is infectious with nobody ever missing a session!’

Research suggests that as we grow older, active music-making can enhance social cohesion, increase personal development and help contribute to all-round wellbeing.  If you’re interested in setting up a similar project, contact SoundLINCS.

Music Tuition Service struggling in fight for survival

19 September 2014

Music Cornwall’s Music Tuition Service has been dealt what may be the final blow in its fight for survival.

Acclaimed as the most successful music service in Britain ten years ago, Music Cornwall had been subsidised by Cornwall Council with an annual input of between £200,000 and £300,000. The council can no longer afford to provide this subsidy without cutting other facilities, so has decided to close the Tuition Service – which is one of three strands of the wider Cornwall Music Service.

The Cabinet voted in May to implement a new brokerage model, whereby instrumental teachers would have to register with the council as self-employed. Members of the cabinet agreed to consider any further proposals from staff and unions, but two alternative models brought forward at a meeting last month were deemed financially unviable by the Council’s chief financial officer.

However, the knell has not yet sounded for the Tuition Service. A group representing music teachers currently employed by the Council are trying to set up a trust to deliver the service. An initial meeting has been held and further discussions will determine whether this is a viable solution.

Hannah Packham, NUT Regional Officer, told Music Teacher: ‘Our members have demonstrated remarkable resilience during this process, continuing to deliver an excellent service while contemplating their futures. Our members are bearing the brunt of government cuts to local authorities, losing their employment, terms and conditions, and pay. It is not good enough for David Laws, with much fanfare, to announce increased spending on music, when the reality on the ground is that cuts to local authority funding have resulted in the reduction or removal of key support services for schools and education.

‘The NUT will continue to support our members in their new venture, working with the Musicians Union, with whom we have a partnership agreement, unionlearn and our other sister unions.’

A minute a day...

18 September 2014

A new teaching app has been developed by Sound and Music which makes 60 seconds of music or sound available to classrooms every day of the school year, for children to hear and discuss.

‘Minute of Listening’ has been designed to encourage children in key stages 1 and 2 to spend some time each day just reflecting and listening, discovering a new world of sound that can stimulate their imaginations. The app was developed as the new national curriculum requires teachers to use materials that encourage listening, creativity and spoken language as part of a broader education.

Minutes come with background context, questions to stimulate a classroom discussion, and ideas for further creative activity. Individual minutes include sounds from Matthew Herbert’s An Apple a Day; a field recording of an East London Market from London Sound Survey; and an extract from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra. Sound and Music will create new ‘packs’ of minutes on a regular basis.

ABRSM finds 'music boom' in schools - but only for the well-off

15 September 2014

The ABRSM has led the most comprehensive survey of the learning, progression and teaching of musical instruments ever undertaken in the UK.

‘Making Music’, which builds on smaller surveys carried out in 1993 and 1999, is the product of a partnership between leading exam boards ABRSM and Trinity College London, alongside organisations including Ofsted, the Arts Council England and Youth Music. Nearly 4,500 teachers and 3,000 children and adults from the general population were interviewed as part of the survey.

The findings of Making Music, which were released on Monday 15 September, revealed that:

-          76% of children aged 14 or under say they ‘know how to play an instrument’, compared with 41% in 1999.

-          Electric guitar has overtaken violin for the first time in the list of top six most popular instruments learned. Piano has seen a 15% growth, securing its place as the most popular instrument played.

However,

-          21% of the 6.7 million children who play an instrument are ‘self-taught’, through friends or digital technology

-          The proportion of children who have had instrumental lessons only at school has dropped from 78% to 60% since 1999.

-          Cost, and lack of opportunity at school are cited as the main reasons for never learning an instrument. The average age to give up learning an instrument is 11.

-          74% of children from A/B backgrounds have had instrumental lessons, either individually or in class groups, compared to 55% from social grades C1 and D/E.

-          40% of children who have never played an instrument are from the lower social grades and said they had no opportunity to learn at school.

It is clear from the report that more children than ever are playing a wider range of musical instruments – a fact celebrated by the report as a ‘music boom’. Technology also seems to be an important factor in creating more opportunities for people to engage with music. However, this picture is extremely uneven in social and geographical terms. Despite a rise in enthusiasm to play instruments, children clearly have fewer opportunities to progress through formal educational routes beyond primary school.

Lincoln Abbotts, director of strategic development at ABRSM, commented:

‘This ‘Making Music’ report is the result of a major collaboration between individuals and organisations deeply committed to music education across the UK. ABRSM is particularly proud that the two leading music exam boards – ourselves and Trinity College London – have been able to work together on this project with so many others. It is hoped the report will be used to influence, change and further improve the circumstances in which children and adults engage with music.

‘We must continue to collaborate to improve progression routes in musical learning and coordination among schools, private teachers, music services, community music and national organisations. Together we should explore the implications of the report’s findings and continue to champion the role of music and music specialists in schools, so that leaders can truly understand the positive impact they make. We must help policy makers target and align funding to support disadvantaged learners and address regional imbalances.’

The full report is available to read on the ABRSM website.

ISM urge response to GCSE and A Level consultation

11 September 2014

The ISM has called on everyone in the music education sector to protest against the government’s proposals on the new GCSE, AS and A Level in Music, despite having been closely involved with the formulation of the proposals, alongside the Music Education Council and other bodies. 

New exam proposals include just one properly defined area of study: ‘music composed in the western classical tradition between 1700 and 1900’. Such a timeframe would mean that students miss out on discovering a wealth of important music.

In addition, the government is proposing to limit the percentage of the exam dedicated to performance and composition, with more weight given to the sit-down examination.

Chief executive of the ISM Deborah Annetts voiced her concerns that the new GCSE, AS and A Level exams may be neither rigorous nor relevant enough for the next generation of budding musicians:

‘We need engaging qualifications that will get pupils learning the key knowledge and skills they will need to study music at GCSE, AS and A level and perhaps follow this into higher education. These proposed reforms, especially the proposed areas of study, risk music becoming a rigid, restrictive subject and remove the important processes that make the subject creative. We urge everyone to respond to the consultation to get this fresh threat to music education stopped in its tracks.’

For more information and to respond to the consultation, visit the ISM website.


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