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Chetham's officially opens new extension

22 March 2012

Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester has officially opened its £31m extension. The building houses two new concert halls and an outreach centre as well as practice and teaching rooms. Chets is the largest school in the Department for Education’s Music and Dance Scheme, with 290 students between the ages of eight and 18. 'We have seized the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire the land adjacent to our current site with the school’s developmental journey in mind,' said Claire Moreland, the head. 'Our new facilities will take Chetham’s and its music-making into a whole new era, unmatched in this age-group.'

The new site spans seven floors, at the heart of which is an atrium which can be used for performances. There are also two new performances spaces: a 400-seat concert hall and a 100-seat recital hall, as well as an outreach centre, which will allow the school to continue working with community groups, young musicians and people who use music as a form of therapy.

Stephen Threlfall, director of music, said everyone was extremely excited about the move. 'These facilities are long-awaited as we have existed for over 30 years in what was considered "temporary" accommodation. It presents new opportunities for how we deliver our music programme for our students and it will greatly enhance both our creative and community activities.'

The new building lies between the school’s original medieval site, which dates back to 1421, and Victoria railway station. A steel footbridge across the River Irk links the two buildings. The school hopes eventually to open a visitor attraction based around its nearby medieval buildings. The building has been designed by Roger Stephenson Architects and the project is funded by the Department for Education, the North West Regional Development Agency and the school itself.


York University marks 30 years of gamelan teaching with symposium

15 March 2012

The University of York is to mark 30 years of teaching gamelan with an international symposium, The Gathering of the Gamelans. The event will culminate in the premiere of Wayang Lokananta (the Gamelan of the Gods), an all-night shadow puppet play, with traditional and new music performed by musicians from across Britain.

One of the organisers, Ginevra House, said: 'York was the first university in the UK to have a Javanese gamelan, and many of today’s top British performers had their first experience of playing Indonesian music here. To celebrate this anniversary, we wanted to bring the British – and indeed the international – gamelan community together, to share ideas and best practice, to learn together and, especially, to perform together.'

A gamelan is an ensemble of tuned bronze percussion and other instruments, typically from Indonesia. Wayang Lokananta was commissioned for this event, weaving together myth, legend and folktales about music from the island of Java with the modern story of gamelan in Britain. The play will bring together more than 100 British gamelan musicians from 15 ensembles across England, Scotland and Wales.

Wayang Lokananta takes place during a four-day symposium, running from 26-29 April, aimed at gamelan performers, composers, academics, teachers and the wider community of ethnomusicologists. Delegates will be joined by Bapak Aloysius Suwardi, a composer, performer, instrument maker and academic from Java, who was a prominent figure in the rise of the Indonesian avant-garde movement in the 1980s.


Drake Music publishes nationwide SEND music consultation

15 March 2012

A nationwide consultation into problems faced by young people with disabilities who want to be involved in music education has shown that 'poor organisation and planning can be as significant a barrier to participating in music as the nature of a person’s disability'.

Drake Music, which carried out the study, works with disabled musicians of all ages, using technology to develop new resources and approaches. Their report, entitled Disabling Barriers to Formal Music Education, was commissioned before both the National Plan for Music Education and Ofsted's recent music report were published, but Drake Music says its findings are in line with both reports, which emphasise the need for equal opportunities for all pupils.

The study, say its authors, offers 'significant insight' into the experiences of the SEN/disabled young people and the musicians, teachers and music educators who work with them. Among the study's key findings are the facts that poor organisation and planning can be as significant a barrier to participating in music as the nature of a person’s disability, and that teachers need an improved range of skills in terms of making music accessible for SEN/disabled people.

The young people questioned also found it hard to access 'not only buildings and musical instruments but also the vital business of joining social networks and feeling part of a wider "musical crowd" that goes to gigs and performs for fun'. Teachers themselves said that 'a lack of time for planning and delivery is the biggest barrier to quality music provision for SEND pupils and students, and is more significant than needing money for equipment'. Some also felt that 'many people in education have low expectations of what SEND pupils and students can achieve in formal music education'. Teachers also said they needed more support in terms of training, using equipment and finding information on accessible music courses and resources.

Drake Music is now recommending that all institutions providing music education for SEND students - including schools, colleges, universities, hubs, exam boards and other music and arts organisations - must 'prioritise and regularly re-assess' using proper benchmarks. Key staff must be given enough time for planning and in timetabling, and 'students must be enabled to get to sessions, set up, participate meaningfully, pack away and get to their next engagement'. Formal musical pathways, including exams, should fit with a flexible, personalised approach to quality SEND provision and all spending on musical equipment should include a percentage of spending on training in 'how, why, when and with whom to use the equipment.'

As well as recommending a better use of technology and more comfortable rooms, the report advises that students also get  'opportunities to experience live music as a performer and audience member, both within institutions and outside in the wider world, in accessible music venues.' The full report can be found at www.drakemusic.org.

Yorkshire music and drama library saved from threat of closure

15 March 2012

Music groups in the north of England have won their campaign to save the Wakefield-based Yorkshire Libraries Information Music and Drama Service, which was at risk of closure because of financial problems. The collection consists of more than half a million pieces of music as well as 90,000 drama texts.

Hundreds of choirs, bands and orchestras, along with amateur dramatic groups, helped the consortium of councils which runs the service to find new homes for the collection. Music scores will go to Kirklees Council’s Library Service at Red Doles Lane, Huddersfield and will be managed by Fresh Horizons, a not-for-profit social enterprise, while the drama scripts move to Leeds Library.

Robin Osterley, chief executive of Making Music, the umbrella organisation for amateur music groups, says his organisation is 'delighted that the music collection at Wakefield library has been saved for the nation.

'We are grateful for the huge efforts of all concerned in retaining this incredibly important facility. As in most things, it shows that where there's a will there's a way, and we look forward to working with Fresh Horizons to promote the service to our members up and down the land.'

Councillor Andrew Pinnock from Kirklees Council, chairs the Council of Yorkshire Libraries and Information. He said he was 'delighted that these two very important collections have been found new homes. I am particularly pleased that local and national groups will be able to continue to use the music collection, which is an important resource.'

The YLI Music and Drama Service, based at Balne Lane in Wakefield, will close to the public on 31st March 2012. Final details of the new arrangements have not yet been confirmed. For more information, contact andrew.pinnock@kirklees.gov.uk

Next BRIT thing winners crowned

6 March 2012

Nineteen-year-old Paul Shevlin, from Ballymena in Northern Ireland, has beaten off competition from a dozen other finalists to win this year’s Next BRIT Thing General Award in front of an audience of thousands at London's IndigO2. His style was described as 'piano pounding intensity and softly tinkling melancholia' and his prize includes a recording session at Abbey Road and a share of £10,000 worth of instruments from Roland UK. Second place in the General category went to E Whizz & Airbourne, and in third place was Laura Doggett.

The Classical award went to 16-year-old pianist Sarah Gardner from Yarm in North Yorkshire. She started learning the piano at seven and was awarded her DipABRSM at 13. She is now taught by David Murray at The Sage Gateshead. Her prize includes a performance at the Royal Albert Hall as part of Classic FM’s birthday celebrations. Second place went to 17-year-old singer Louisa Haggerty from Cholesbury in Buckinghamshire, and in third place was 14-year-old violinist Paul Botje from Finchley in north London.

The Floodliners won the PRS For Music Songwriting Award for their song Freeze. They win a recording session at Strongroom Studios.

The awards, for 11-19-year-olds, are backed by the UK music industry, The BRIT Awards and the government. Launched last summer, Next BRIT Thing looked for young musicians in any genre to share their performances, compete in online charts and perform live. The aim is to offer young people the opportunity to engage with the music industry, develop their music talent and enjoy the shared experience of being part of a national event.

The competition was organised by the BPI, with the support of the record industry and the sponsorship of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Education. It has brought together all elements of the industry including artists, labels, industry bodies including the Performing Rights Society and the Music Industries Association and sponsors, Peavey and Roland.


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