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More voices join criticism of English Baccalaureate

7 January 2013, Rhian Morgan

The Musicians’ Union (MU) and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain are the latest groups to oppose government proposals to introduce an English Baccalaureate (EBacc) qualification which does not include arts subjects.

The MU believes the Ebacc, which is set to replace GCSEs from 2017, would remove the incentive for schools to teach arts subjects. It has specifically called for the 'continuation of music as a statutory core subject to the end of Key Stage 3 and the opportunity to continue this at Key Stage 4 for those who want to pursue the subject at this level'. Its main concern is that all children have access to 'high quality, practical musical opportunities ... delivered by a motivated and resourced workforce which helps deliver the next generation of musicians'.

The Writers' Guild, meanwhile, says it has 'deep concerns about the exclusion of the arts as qualifying subjects in current proposals for the English Baccalaureate'. While it recognises the importance of subjects such as English, maths and science, it also wants 'core recognition' of cultural and artistic subjects, urging the government to ensure that provision for an arts option is safeguarded for the future enrichment of the nation.

Bacc for the Future, the campaign to include creative subjects in the Ebacc, is being led by the Incorporated Society of Musicians. More than 40,000 people have signed the campaign's petition. The Department for Education consultation on the EBacc closed in December, but the petition can still be signed at

2012 Queen's Medal for Music awarded to National Youth Orchestra

2 January 2013, Rhian Morgan

The 2012 Queen’s Medal for Music has been awarded to the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (NYO). The annual prize, which is awarded to an outstanding individual or group of musicians who have had a major influence on the musical life of the nation, was received by members of the NYO during the London Symphony Orchestra’s Queen's Medal for Music Gala Concert at the Barbican.

The NYO is the first ensemble to receive the award and is the eighth winner since the prize was established in 2005. Previous recipients include Bryn Terfel, Sir Colin Davis, the soprano Dame Emma Kirkby and oboist Nicholas Daniel.

Sarah Alexander, chief executive and artistic director of the NYO, said the award is a 'fantastic accolade for our teenagers who are committed ambassadors for their art form.

'This award recognises their hard work and dedication to music-making. Through their performances and projects they cascade their love of music as a life-affirming activity to thousands of other musicians and music lovers across the country.

'It is fitting that the presentation took place at a London Symphony Orchestra concert, especially as one-fifth of its current members came up through the NYO. We look forward to continuing to champion the development of young musicians and shaping the future of the orchestra.'

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies said he was 'delighted that the NYO is this year’s winner of The Queen’s Medal for Music. This award celebrates the overwhelmingly positive influence the NYO has had on the musical world as the standard-bearer for youth orchestras, both at home and abroad. When you conduct an orchestra its quality is always enhanced by a core of former NYO members and the boundless talent that they bring. The NYO is undoubtedly a worthy and deserving recipient of this year’s award.'

More than 650 teenagers were auditioned for NYO 2013 and 87 new members joined the orchestra for its Winter course. In July, the orchestra will perform at Buckingham Palace alongside a tour to Northern Ireland, and it will give its first performance - in its 64-year history - of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Whitgift School launches International Music Competition

29 November 2012

Whitgift School, an independent boys’ secondary school in South Croydon, has launched a new International Music Competition, offering music scholarships as prizes.

The International Music Competition is open to string players only, with three age categories: 12-13, 14-15 and 16-17. To apply, musicians need to submit a YouTube video of them performing a piece of their choice along with brief programme notes. The winners will be selected by a jury after a series of live performances, taking place between 29 June and 3 July 2013.

Among others, the jury will consist of Royal Academy of Music professor Remus Azoitei, cellist and former BBC Young Musician Guy Johnston and Whitgift’s director of music development, Rosanna Whitfield. Winners will be announced at a special gala concert on 3 July 2013 and will perform the first movement of their chosen concerto with the school orchestra in a public concert.

Rosanna Whitfield said she was ‘hugely proud to be part of this educational initiative, which gives us the chance to offer so many wonderful performing opportunities to talented young musicians from around the world’.

The school, which opens new boarding facilities next year, has a 300-seat concert hall, suites for percussion, guitar, brass and string instruments, eight practice rooms and a music library. One scholarship, which will comprise boarding accommodation, full fees and instrumental lessons, will be given per age category. There are also cash prizes and performance opportunities with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Winners will begin studying at Whitgift School during academic year 2013-14. The application deadline is 1 March, and application forms are available at

New funding for national youth music organisations

29 November 2012

Eight national youth music organisations are to receive a total of almost £2.25m from Arts Council England (ACE) and the Department for Education (DfE) to help them run their programmes from April 2013 to March 2015.

ACE’s director of learning, Laura Gander-Howe, confirmed its continuing commitment to the projects in a speech at a Music Education Council seminar in London, saying: ‘We have exceptional talent in this country, and the national youth music organisations are crucial to ensuring that the musical stars of the future are nurtured and developed. Gaining a place in one of these orchestras is a significant achievement both for the young person concerned and for the teachers who have helped them get there.’

The organisations are: Youth Music Theatre UK (£300,000); National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (£500,000); South Asian Music Youth Orchestra (£236,280); National Youth Choirs of Great Britain (£214,800); National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain (£161,100); Music for Youth (£343,680); National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain (£236, 280); National Youth Jazz Collective (£257, 760).

National Music Council honours music services

19 November 2012, Rhian Morgan

Oxfordshire County Music Service and SoundStorm, which works in Bournemouth and Poole, have been jointly awarded this year’s National Music Council (NMC) Major Trophy at a ceremony at London’s Southbank Centre. Diplomas went to Barking and Dagenham, East Ayrshire, East Lothian and Southwark.

Liz Stock, deputy head of service at Oxfordshire, said they were delighted by the award. ‘Like most music services we have been extremely busy responding to the National Plan for Music Education and bidding to become the lead partner in a hub,’ she said. ‘2011-12 was a particularly eventful year for Oxfordshire, entailing a significant expansion of activity and broader engagement of children and young people, and it was this that was particularly recognised by the NMC.’

She believes it was the music service’s work with disadvantaged and vulnerable children that particularly caught the eye of the awarding committee, as well as the development of new partnerships, both within the local authority and with a wide range of charitable and other organisations, including Youth Music, to develop programmes and performance opportunities for looked-after children and those at risk of educational and social exclusion.

Julie Spencer, head of community music at Barking and Dagenham Music Education Hub, said their award was ‘a testament to the commitment and high quality of our team of teachers and staff’. ‘We see our relationship with schools and headteachers as key if we are to ensure children experience enjoyment and success from the earliest stages of musical learning,’ she said.

The NMC promotes the interests of the music sector as a whole, with membership drawn from professional and amateur groups. It aims to ‘celebrate and promote the value and enjoyment of music, which contributes, in all its forms, to the cultural, spiritual, educational, social and economic wellbeing of the UK’.

Another winner, Dan Somogyi, team leader at SoundStorm, said the council’s awards had recognised their successes, including the fact that they have been given more than £1m of music education funding until 2015, providing a strong foundation for the future. ‘I think the fact that SoundStorm is very much a modern music service, with a very small core team, fully embracing partnership working, impressed the panel,’ he said. ‘We have more than 35 delivery partners in our new hub, ranging from the locally based Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra to the Utterly Butterly Ukelele Project from Leicester. We have great relations with our local authorities and some fantastically supportive schools, teachers and music organisation and venues. The award reflected the not only the work of SoundStorm but also that of our partners.’

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