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Royal Conservatoire of Scotland students protest against fees

27 September 2011

Students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) have ended the first of series of 'wildcat occupations' in protest against the conservatoire's decision regarding fees for students from the rest of the UK (RUK). The conservatoire plans to charge annual fees of £9,000 to students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a total of £36,000 for a four-year degree course and £27,000 for a three-year course from 2012/13.

A spokeswoman for the protesters said: 'By facilitating fee increases for RUK students the RCS is setting a dangerous precedent in Scotland. Despite promises from the SNP Government that Scottish students will not pay fees, we believe that the huge disparity in fees between Scottish and RUK students will become intolerable and will inevitably result in fees for all students.

The spokeswoman continued: 'Whatever tokenistic measures are introduced, a financial market in education will always result in discrimination against those unable to afford fees, whatever the level. Education is a right, and must be free, as it was for generations.The Conservatoire's Student Union has abandoned its responsibilities by backing the decision by management.'

The decision is in line with fees charged by other UK conservatoires and RCS will continue to offer means-tested scholarships. Other higher education institutions in Scotland have announced a similar decision for RUK students, though some have capped fees at £27,000 for a four-year course.  Non-UK EU students and Scottish residents are able to apply for fee support from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland.

ABO urges end to music education 'uncertainty'

16 September 2011

The Association of British Orchestras (ABO) is set to address the three main party conferences with ‘a clear message to politicians to end the uncertainty over music education funding’. The plea will be made at the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative Party conferences, on 19 September, 25 September, and 3 October respectively, at fringe events with speakers including Darren Henley, managing director of Classic FM and author of the recent government-commissioned music education review; Ivan Lewis MP; Simon Hughes MP; and John Smith, general secretary of the Musicians’ Union.

The party conferences come ahead of the government’s National Plan for Music Education, which is scheduled for publication in October. Currently in its final stages of drafting, the plan is expected to translate a number of the recommendations contained within the Henley review into policy, following a largely positive response to it from the government. However, music education funding beyond April 2012, when the current funding expires, remains uncertain. Sources at the Department for Education have suggested that the current level of funding – £82.5m annually – will be extended until the plan is put into action in September 2012, but are yet to confirm this. Neither has an indication been given of what funding will be available beyond September 2012.

The ABO will argue that the plan must provide a firm funding platform to put music at the heart of young people’s learning, and that music is essential to the creative economy and to the future jobs of 1,000s of young people across the UK. Its fringe event at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference will look at higher education and the music industry, and at the Labour Party Conference it will focus on cultural education, employment and growth, looking at music education provision from primary school through to higher and further education. At the Conservative Party Conference the fringe event debate will be chaired by the Incorporated Society of Musicians’ chief executive Deborah Annetts, and will centre on questions over music’s place on the national curriculum, the intrinsic value of music in today’s society and the very purpose of music education.

Mark Pemberton, director of the ABO, said: ‘The place of arts and creativity in our economy is increasingly important, and music education gives children and young people routes into employment and many of the skills they need to survive in the jobs market place. The present and previous governments have recognised the importance of providing music education opportunities for all young people. We now want to see a solid foundation for the future which will enable the UK to plan for excellence and access in the years ahead.’

Live Music Bill slashes red tape

14 September 2011

The Live Music Bill has successfully pushed forward plans to cut the 'pointless bureaucracy' surrounding live music and public entertainment. The regulations affect activities including school concerts, plays or even discos as well as live music in pubs, public parks and street performances.

The plans for a 'wholesale deregulation of entertainment licensing in the UK' have been welcomed. Tourism minister John Penrose said: 'Deregulation will help new talent emerge and promote economic growth. Pointless bureaucracy and licence fees imposed on community groups trying to put on simple amateur productions and fundraising events sap energy and deaden people's desire to get involved.'

Penrose continued: 'Before we press ahead, it's important to make sure that the principles of public safety, prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm are safeguarded. Our starting point is a simple one: if there's no good reason for any of the rules and restrictions in this important area, our presumption should be to scrap them.'

All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education advances campaign to include creative subjects in EBacc

9 September 2011

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorpoated Society of Musicians (ISM), yesterday renewed her call to review the controversial English Baccalaureate (EBacc). ‘There is a clear sense from the whole of the music sector that the composition of the English Baccalaureate must be looked at again,’ she said.

Last month Music Teacher joined the ISM in a campaign to review the EBacc with the aim of including a sixth pillar of creative subjects. On 7 September, at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education for which the ISM provides secretariat support, there was a clear concern that the omission of music from the EBacc was an oversight that could threaten the UK’s position in the global music economy.

Annetts urged musicians, the music sector and the wider creative and cultural industries to join the ISM's continuing campaign to keep music in schools, saying: ‘Government must understand that the future of our economy rests with maintaining a strong music offer within our schools. Therefore government must immediately adopt the sixth pillar of the EBacc with music as a central part of that offer. We are now calling on our colleagues across the sectors to join our campaign to have music included in a sixth creative and cultural pillar of the EBacc.’

Mike Weatherley, Conservative MP for Hove and Portslade, and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education said: ‘[At the meeting] we heard about the world beating economic value of music to the UK economy and the contribution music education makes to this position; it is therefore puzzling in light of this that music and the wider creative and cultural subjects have not been included in the English Baccalaureate. I will be writing to the secretary of state asking him to look again at this decision and to seek a sixth pillar of options for pupils to study.’

Diana Johnson, Labour MP for Hull North and vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education said: ‘Music education in the UK is world class but the English Baccalaureate is diminishing opportunities for future musicians in our schools and undermining this excellent international reputation; the problems that the current policy is setting in store for the future are deeply concerning.’

Will Page, chief economist from PRS for Music, who spoke at the meeting, said: ‘Music is one of the few genuine export success stories the UK can claim. But it is worth highlighting the aging population of live music performers. In the most recent PRS for Music "Adding Up The UK Music Industry Report" we showed that of top grossing US tours of the decade by age of lead singer in 2011, almost 60 percent will be over the age of 50 in 2011. This has made many industry professionals ask who is going to invest in the heritage acts of the future.’

Anyone who wishes to support MT's and ISM's campaign to include creative subjects in the EBacc can download a template letter to their MP here: www.ism.org/news/article/ebacc_revision

Truro organist wins first Northern Ireland International Organ Competition

30 August 2011

Benjamin Comeau, 18, from Truro, won the senior class (post-Grade 8) of the Northern Ireland International Organ Competition (NIIOC), held in the cathedral city of Armagh on 22 August. His programme, played on the Walker organ of St Patrick’s Church of Ireland cathedral, included part of his own transcription of Stravinsky’s The Firebird, which made a big impression on the competition judges: Thierry Mechler (chair), professor of organ at the musikhochschule in Cologne; David Hill, former organist of St John’s College, Cambridge, and Winchester and Westminster Cathedrals; and Belfast City Organist Colm Carey. But they also praised Ben’s musical interpretation and the ‘profound musicianship’ which he demonstrated in his 20-minute performance, which also included Bach’s Trio Sonata No.4 in E minor BWY 528.

A former chorister of Truro Cathedral, Ben was one of the first 15 members of South West Music School and has just left Truro School, where he was taught the organ by the cathedral organist Christopher Gray. He is about to take up an organ scholarship at Girton College Cambridge. His NIIOC prize consists of £1,000 and hosted recitals in St Peter’s Cathedral, Belfast, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge.

Second place in the senior competition went to Benjamin Bloor, St George’s Chapel, Windsor and third place to Ghislaine Reece-Trapp, Guildford Cathedral. Richard Gowers of Eton College received a special mention from the Jury for his outstanding playing of the Toccata by his grandfather, Patrick Gowers.

The intermediate competition for Grades 6-8 was won by 12-year-old Donal McCann from Belfast, a pupil of Nigel McClintock. A chorister in the newly-formed choir of St Peter’s Cathedral, Donal took up the organ just three years ago and has recently achieved Grade 8 distinction in organ, piano and singing.

The junior competition for Grades 4-5 was won by Killian Farrell, 17, from Dublin, with Martina Smyth, 16, from Dublin highly commended. The senior competition attracted 15 entrants from conservatoires, cathedrals and schools around the UK. Competition chair Richard Yarr said that he was thrilled by the interest in the event, which came about as a response to demand from local organists who wanted to encourage, challenge and celebrate the talents of young performers in a competitive environment. ‘There are very few opportunities for young organists from Northern Ireland, and further afield, to show what they can do and the NIIOC fills that gap.’


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