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Voting time for Classic FM Music Teacher of the Year

4 September 2009

Nominations close on 21 September for the Classic FM Music Teacher of the Year Awards. The annual awards honour the country's best music teachers – those who have inspired pupils, achieved outstanding results, brought a rich musical culture to their schools and changed children's lives through music.

There are six categories in the competition, covering primary teachers, secondary teachers, NQTs, peripatetic music teachers and those working with children with special educational needs, plus the Lifetime Achievement award. The winning teachers will receive thousands of pounds' worth of musical equipment for their schools, courtesy of Yamaha and Sibelius, including instruments, software, recording equipment and accessories.

For more details or to nominate a teacher go to the Classic FM website.  On the Music Manifesto website music consultant Leonora Davies gives her view on what makes a good music teacher, and the topic is thrown open for discussion on a related forum page.

Obituary: Carola Grindea, founder of the European Piano Teachers' Association

3 September 2009

Carola Grindea, founder of the European Piano Teachers’ Association (EPTA) and International Society for the Study of Tension in Performance, (ISSTIP) and professor of piano at the Guildhall School of Music for 21 years, died on 10 July at the age of 95.

Born Carola Rabinivici in Moldovia in 1914, she studied piano at the conservatoire in Bucharest, where she met music critic Miron Grindea; they married in 1936 and came to England as exiles on 2 September 1936. One of their contacts in this country was the pianist Myra Hess, and Grindea was the driving force in persuading her to establish the famous wartime lunchtime concerts at the National Gallery.

Grindea studied with Hess’s teacher Tobias Matthay and established her own performing career while also working full time in the Romanian section of the BBC World Service at Bush House. After the war the Grindeas hosted regular gatherings of musicians, writers and artists such as Yehudi Menuhin, Pablo Neruda and Jean-Paul Sartre at their home in South Kensington, and Carola began to establish herself as a teacher.

Inspired by the success of the European String Teachers’ Association, set up by Menuhin and Max Rostal, and by the growth of piano teachers’ groups in the United States, she established EPTA to provide a similar basis of support for piano teachers in Europe and raise the status of the profession, which she realised most young performers considered to be beneath their dignity.

EPTA now has branches and affiliates in 40 countries around the world, through which ideas can be shared, contacts established and scholarship funds raised. Awarding Grindea a citation for leadership in 2008, Gary Ingle, chief executive of the Music Teachers’ National Association of America, described her as ‘a giant – in my eyes and in those of everyone in our profession. She represents the epitome, the sine qua non, of what we should all aspire to be and do in our lives.’ Grindea joined the staff of the Guildhall in 1968 and founded ISSTIP in 1980, in response to her concern about the pain, frustration and musical cost to performers of undue muscular tension.

The society’s inaugural international conference attracted 73 delegates and was followed by the establishment of a journal and clinics for investigation and treatment of pain and dysfunction. At the same time Grindea founded the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe. She is survived by her daughter, Nadia Lasserson, herself a well known pianist and teacher, and by three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Year of Music launched with ‘World’s Ultimate Music Lesson’

3 September 2009

The Department for Children, Schools and Families is calling on schools across the country to take part in a 30-minute music ‘lesson’ streamed live at lunchtime on Thursday 10 September to officially launch 2009/10 as the government’s Year of Music.

A host of music industry names will be featured, including Slash, Danni Minogue, Damon Albarn, The Hoosiers, Guy Chambers, Katherine Jenkins, DJ Yoda, Vanessa Mae, N-Dubz, the cast of Wicked, the cast of Billy Elliot and English National Ballet, who have all pre-recorded three minute segments. Jamie Cullum, W Brown and Killa Kela will perform live and answer pupils’ pre-submitted questions.

The lesson, which is aimed at Year 7, 8 and 9 students, will be introduced from Twyford CE High School in Acton, west London, and will be streamed country-wide via an interactive whiteboard. It is hoped that the ‘World’s Ultimate Music Lesson’ will inspire and guide pupils through the world of music, from the beginnings of picking up an instrument through to making it as a professional. Writing lyrics, forming a band, choreographing and performing live will all be discussed, with insights provided by the featured musical ambassadors.

The Year of Music was announced in July by the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, who outlined the campaign’s plan ‘to give every child the chance to get more from music’. With a broad focus, the Year of Music will include projects such as managing a musical production as well as performance and other more traditional musical activities. Funding has been pre-allocated from the £332m ear-marked for supporting music in schools in the Comprehensive Spending Review 2008-11.

Schools wishing to take part in the ‘World’s Ultimate Music Lesson’, or any future Year of Music events, should contact for full details

ABCD sets up new choral training unit

3 September 2009

The Association of British Choral Directors (ABCD) is to create a new training unit, headed by Peter Broadbent, founder conductor of the Joyful Company of Singers. Broadbent, who is also an experienced international adjudicator and workshop leader, has hitherto been in charge of developing ABCD’s conducting courses.

His new appointment with an expanded remit was announced on 30 August at the ABCD’s annual convention in Winchester. ‘Our training and development programme is at the heart of what we do,’ said ABCD chair Jonathan Startup. ‘Peter will have a core team to assist him in developing new courses and his role will also include overseeing the content of conventions and other events.

Startup added that the Sing Up initiative, in which ABCD is a partner, and recent television coverage of choral music, had created ‘huge opportunities’ for the organisation. ‘We aim to build on the success of last year. ABCD members have played a part in the resurgence of interest in choral music and we’d like to see every leader of choral singing getting appropriate support.’

Take It Away for cancer charity

3 September 2009

Practice-a-thon Music – the music fundraising initiative from children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent – is expanding its activities this year in partnership with Arts Council England’s Take It Away scheme, which provides interest-free loans towards the purchase of music instruments.  

Since 2002, Practice-a-thon Music has raised over half a million pounds by encouraging people of all ages to get sponsored to practise, play and perform to help raise money for families affected by childhood cancer. This year, the organisation is pooling its contacts and resources with Take It Away, which will provide endorsement and practical support for the campaign.  

In addition, there will be a more interactive slant, thanks to the involvement of Participants will be able to download five exclusive music tutorials to help them prepare for the Practice-a-thon. Each tutorial covers a song from a wide variety of popular music genres, from Motown to Take That. Tracks can be played or sung individually or with a band or group.  

The scheme has also attracted celebrity endorsement from Gary Barlow, Jamie Cullum and Russell Watson. Watson said: ‘Making music has given me a focus, enormous enjoyment and has got me through some very dark times.  I’m best known as a singer and consider the voice to be an instrument that requires plenty of practice, but I think it’s fair to say that having tried to play guitar, that will certainly require a lot more practice for me!  Roll on Practice-a-thon!  I’m playing my part and I’m delighted to be raising money for children with cancer in the process.’    

Practice-a-thon Music takes place during the whole academic year from September to July. The event involves musicians of all ages and abilities getting sponsored to practise their musical instrument for an agreed time, ranging from five minutes to five hours per day, over any period, but usually for around two weeks. More information and registrations for this year’s campaign:

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