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Government publishes new GCSE, AS and A Level subject content

28 January 2015, Thomas Lydon

The Department for Education has published details of the subject content for the GCSEs, AS Levels and A Levels in music to be taught from autumn 2016. It is anticipated that exam boards will soon publish their own specifications, based on these guidelines.

The headline here is that the much-criticised compulsory 1700 to 1900 area of study at all levels has been widened to the more conventional stylistic boundaries of 1650 and 1910, largely due to the efforts of the ISM's Protect Music Education campaign. The other specification at all levels has also been re-framed, now stating that one other area of study ‘must not be drawn from the Western Classical Tradition’. Otherwise, there are no huge surprises here, with the final content guidelines being based  largely on the consultation documents published last July.

Some of the more proscriptive language around the demands on the composition element at all levels has been dropped (no longer must students be able to show that they have achieved their work through one or more of a set list of ‘means’, including experimenting, developing, or critical refinement).

At GCSE, the ‘musical elements’ have been updated to include sequences (listed at A Level in the consultation) chord progressions and simple modulations.

At AS and A Level, we're pleased to report that the ISM’s sub-campaign to save the gerund has been successful, and the terms ‘performance and composition’ from the consultation documents have been re-phrased as ‘performing and composing’, presumably in response to the ISM’s stated preference for stressing the ‘musical processes’ rather than the ‘end products of study’. Elsewhere, in the ‘musical elements’ section, all reference to identifying sonorities of different instrumental groupings has been removed, and there is some genuinely interesting new wording in the 'musical context' section. Lastly of note, in the ‘appraise’ section, the requirement to be able to make critical judgement about your own work has been removed.

The GCSE content can be found here

The AS and A Level content can be found here

If you want to play a game of 'spot the difference', here are the consultations documents for GCSE and AS/A Level.

Glyndebourne opens training scheme  for young singers

28 January 2015

Glyndebourne is now recruiting for a new scheme to help young singers pursue professional training.       


The Glyndebourne Academy is for singers with exceptional potential aged 16-26 whose circumstances, whether economic, social or geographic, have prevented them from following a traditional path towards a career.   

The scheme was devised in response to a seminar discussion about the lack of diversity amongst young opera singers in professional training at the 2008 conference, The Singers of Tomorrow, held at the National Opera Studio and attended by Glyndebourne’s vocal talent consultant, Mary King. 

Following the event, Mary and Glyndebourne’s education team sought to pinpoint the reasons for this lack of diversity and design a programme which might help.  Contributing factors included the patchiness of music  education provision in schools, a decline in school singing outside the curriculum, cuts to local music services, making subsidy for individual singing lessons harder to come by, and the intensity of competition for conservatoire places. 

 Mary King, artistic director of Glyndebourne Academy, said: ‘Operatic voices don’t spring up ready-made. If you go to a fine school with a great music department and your interest is awakened and recognised early, then all can be well. But if not, and you don’t discover your potential until the age of 15 or 16, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do. With no access to good musical education and advice, it is difficult for a late starter to really compete at conservatoire entrance-stage. We wondered; could we identify a small group of exceptionally talented singers who had fallen through the gaps and take them through a process that would make a difference?’. 

A pilot run of the programme in 2012 provided a select number of young singers, several of whom were entirely new to opera, with intensive instruction in operatic vocal technique and performance. More than half of the participants have moved on to further training. 

 The deadline for applications to Glyndebourne Academy is Monday 16 February 2015. Visit glyndebourne.com for further information.

Vivienne Price Memorial Concert - 1 February at the Royal Festival Hall 

27 January 2015

 Vivienne Price, much-loved founder of the National Children’s Orchestras of Great Britain, (NCO) died last November.  A special memorial concert to celebrate her life and achievements will be held at the Royal Festival Hall on 1st February, at 5pm.  Vivienne founded the NCO in 1978 to provide inspiration and first-class musical training for children. Her enthusiasm and dedication helped to transform the lives of countless young musicians, stimulating a life-long love music in both musicians and their families.  This concert will celebrate the enduring impact of Vivienne’s commitment to music and young people. 


Invited guests will combine to form the Vivienne Price Memorial Orchestra. The programme will include Vaughan-Williams' The Lark Ascending, the 2nd movement of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 and Marquez's Danzón no.2 . The concert will end with Strauss's Radetzky March which Vivienne herself conducted at the first NCO concert. 

Principal conductor, will be Roger Clarkson, supported by guest conductors Daniel Harding, Natalia Luis-Bassa, Peter Stark and Howard Williams. 

 Tickets from www.southbankcentre.co.uk 

Nicky Morgan announces music funding for 2015-16

26 January 2015

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has announced £109 million funding to support children’s cultural education programmes in the 2015 to 2016 financial year. 


On 22 July 2014, the Department for Education announced that an additional £18 million would be made available to support music education in 2015 to 2016. Of the £18 million, £17 million would be made available to the 123 music hubs, bringing the total to £75 million in 2015 to 2016. The additional £1 million will be provided to support the Music and Dance Scheme, bringing the total to £29 million for 2015 to 2016.  

It has also been announced that £1.1 million will be allocated this year to support education through six In Harmony programmes and National Youth Music organisations, including the National Youth Orchestra, Music for Youth’s School Proms, National Youth Jazz Collective and National Youth Choirs of Great Britain. 

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the ISM said: ‘This is wonderful news for our excellent music education system. We are delighted that the increase of £17m will be going directly to music education hubs to enable them to continue with their vital work, delivering the National Plan for Music Education. Stable funding is desperately needed for music education and we hope that this announcement is the starting point for continued funding at least this level over the next five years.’

The Boise Scholarship Foundation Awards

26 January 2015

 The Boise Scholarship Foundation have just released details of their scholarship awards for 2015. 


The age limit is under 30 years and, whilst a lower age limit is not specified, the award is usually made for post-graduate studies.  As is often the case with this type of award, application is by nomination only, and all nominated candidates are automatically auditioned.  Nominators include all the conservatoires in the UK together with all universities with a music department, as well as two individual nominators.  

The 2015 Boise Scholarship is worth £9,000 in total.  The monies are usually shared between two or three candidates.  Candidates are auditioned by a panel of adjudicators and have to present a twenty minute programme.  An official accompanist is provided, but they may bring their own accompanist.  There is no interview.  Auditions will be held in London in early April and the winners will be announced in May 2015. 

Established in 1950. The Boise Scholarship Foundation is awarded every other year for outstanding performance by singers or any instrumentalist to assist with furthering their musical education in the UK or abroad.  Previous winners include Alan Hacker (clarinet), Samantha Rutherford (flute), and the conductor Paul Hoskins. 

Further details are available from  info@boisescholarship.com 


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