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International music educators honoured by RPS

24 April 2013

British viola player Rosemary Nalden, founder of Buskaid, is one of five music-makers working on four continents who are to receive honorary membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) at the society's awards ceremony, the 'Oscars' of live classical music, on 14 May at the Dorchester Hotel. 

The International RPS Memberships are part of the society's bicentenary celebrations and are given in association with the British Council and in partnership with the Guardian. They acknowledge inspiring individuals who have put music at the heart of sone of the most challenged communities in the world, supported young musicians and made a profound difference to diversity in music-making. 
Through the Buskaid Trust which she set up in 1992 in response to a BBC TV programme highlighting the difficulties it faced, Rosemary Nalden persuaded distinguished musicians to busk at British railway stations to raise funds for the string project in Soweto, South Africa, which she now directs. In 2007 the Buskaid Ensemble was the first South African orchestra to perform at the BBC Proms and three Buskaid students have taken up scholarships at the Royal Academy of Music.
The other recipients of the rarely-awarded honorary RPS memberships are Armand Diangienda, a former airline pilot who founded a symphony orchestra in Kinshasa, DR of the Congo, one of the poorest cities on earth; Ahmad Sarmast, founder of Afghanistan's first national music school, in Kabul; pianist Ricardo Castro, a former winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition, who established a flourishing youth music programme in Bahia, Brazil; and Aaron P. Dworkin, founder of the Sphinx organisation, which gives opportunities and assistance to aspiring Black and Latino musicians in the USA. Sphinx's mission is for classical music to embrace the diversity of the society inherent in the society that it strives to serve, and Mr Dworkin was President Obama's first appointee to the US National Council on the Arts.

Andrew Lloyd Webber backs secondary schools music

24 April 2013

Andrew Lloyd Webber has launched the Music in Secondary Schools Trust, which will roll out a new music education programme in secondary schools across England. The 'Andrew Lloyd Webber Music Programme' will be supported by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation and the Charles Wolfson Trust, to the tune of £2m over its first four years. It will give every child at participating schools the opportunity to study a musical instrument as part of a compulsory curriculum.

The programme is based on the music scheme developed by Truda White, former headteacher of Highbury Grove School, Islington, North London. It aims to improve discipline and the students' commitment to learning; develop team working skills; and enrich the lives of students by providing regular music tuition and performing opportunities as part of ensemble and orchestra groups. Before implementing the scheme Highbury Grove was judged to be effective and improving but had an Ofsted rating of 4 (in 2002); one year after beginning the programme (in 2007) it was judged to be good and three years later it received an Ofsted rating of 1 (outstanding). Ms White believes the programme demonstrated that music can transform the entire academic experience of students.
Schools will be selected for the new scheme through an application process, with top priority being given to schools in areas of deprivation or communities where access to high-quality arts projects is limited. Other criteria include an Ofsted 3 judgement of 'satisfactory - requires improvement' and having high aspirations for all.
The Lister School in the London Borough of Newham will be the trust's first partner school for September 2013. Both the Lister School and Highbury Grove will run the programme during the 2013-14 academic year, with a further two schools for 2014-15. Lord Lloyd-Webber notes that this is not about creating performing artists, but about changing the lives of secondary school students. Asked by the Guardian at the Highbury Grove launch about the reaction of government to his plans, he said that at the moment he finds it difficult to get a returned phone call from ministers. 'They all pay lip service but I wonder if any of them have been to a place like this.'
The composer's wife, Madeleine Lloyd Webber, said: 'This is one of the most exciting projects the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation has been a part of.'

Gareth Malone to create new-style British Youth Choir

24 April 2013

Gareth Malone has launched a UK-wide search for accomplished singers aged 18-25 to join a 'ground-breaking' new British youth choir with the aim of 'celebrating the amazing talent in our country' and initiating 'a new choral style that is fresh, modern and utterly unique. Our aim will be to inspire a whole generation. Regardless of background, if you have the voice and the vision, I want you,' he said in a launch statement on 23 April.

Speaking on Classic FM Malone added that his intention is to form a professional choir of young singers who are already highly accomplished and ready to tackle recording projects using contemporary recording techniques and exploring a range of repertoire including both classical and pop. Sight-reading skills would be important but if there are impressive singers who lack some of the relevant experience it may be possible to draw them in.
Applications are invited through a new website, The closing date is Friday 26 April and auditions will be held on 1 and 2 May at the Royal Academy of Music, London. More information from

Latest education U-turn: ABacc plans revised

15 April 2013

The government has dropped plans which would have prevented arts and creative A levels from counting in the proposed ‘ABacc’ league tables, modelled on the controversial EBacc performance measure at GCSE.

Under the proposed ABacc, schools would have been measured by the number of students achieving ABB at A level in three of the five EBacc subjects (maths, English, science, a language and history or geography). Now, only two out of three A levels need to be in these subjects to qualify for the ABacc, leaving room for one creative subject such as music.

The Incorporated Society of Musicians, which has campaigned against the EBacc, said: ‘It is vital we now show MPs that the anti-arts Ebacc and ABacc measures should either include creative subjects or be dropped – because the Department for Education has shown how easy it is to change big things without a word.’

The Institute of Career Guidance recently called the ABacc ‘a very crude measure’, saying students ‘may be persuaded to take subjects not because they are right for the individual, but because it may lead to a higher percentage in the performance measures for the institution, regardless of the pupils’ aspirations.’

New research disputes link between music and IQ

15 April 2013

Psychologists in Canada say new research proves that music does not boost children’s IQ. Many recent reports have made a link between music lessons and a child’s academic performance, but Professor Glen Schellenberg of the University of Toronoto says that evidence linking musical children to high achievement in school can be better explained by the fact that such children usually come from privileged backgrounds and have better educated and richer parents.

Schellenberg studied the link between musical training and intelligence in a group of 130 children aged 10 to 12. ‘We were motivated by the fact that kids who take music lessons are particularly good students. In school they actually do better than you would predict from their IQ, so obviously something is going on and we thought that personality might be the thing.’

But, presenting the study at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Schellenberg said that the link between music lessons and intelligence was mainly down to the children’s personalities. And when the researchers took into account the likely contribution of each child’s personality to their school grades and IQ scores, and removed it from the equation, the link between music lessons and intelligence was no longer apparent. ‘You can explain almost all of the data by saying that high-functioning kids take music lessons,’ said Schellenberg.

Professor Daniel Levitin, a psychologist from McGill University in Montreal, said the findings did not mean music lessons were valueless. ‘There are benefits to having a society where more people are engaged with the arts, so even if music instruction doesn’t make you a better mathematician or a better athlete, even if it only gives you enjoyment of music, I think that is a good end in and of itself,’ he said.

The report is available at by typing ‘music’ into the site search engine.

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