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ISM chief rallies the troops in support of music education

3 March 2010

The music education sector needs to decide what constitutes a high-quality music education and what can be done to ensure that this remains available to children regardless of which politicians are in power after the forthcoming election, said Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), in a keynote speech at MusicLearningLive2010, held last month at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester.
Analysing the pledges of the three main parties with respect to education, Annetts noted that the current government’s proposals centre on literacy and numeracy, while there have been hints that the Conservatives may remove music education from the schools ministry and include it in the culture portfolio, leaving it vulnerable to being removed from the core curriculum. In the hurly-burly of political debate, she said, music education could easily be lost. ‘But it must not be lost. It is too important to be lost.’
Music education has had significant support since 1999 when the government introduced the Standards Fund for Music, which is ring-fenced funding, allocated to music education for local authorities to distribute each year, she said. ‘Without the leverage of the ring-fenced Music Standards Fund, it is likely that a significant part of the music education funding of £219 million, together with infrastructure, would be lost.’
In support of its case, the ISM commissioned a YouGov poll which proves, Annetts said, that it is not just music professionals who recognise the value of music education. It revealed that 91% of adults believe that every child should have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument in school, and more than three quarters of the public back the current level of funding for the Standards Fund.
‘And did you know that when you break this down the Standards Fund costs just 3p per person per week? Now that is good value. As a sector we need to argue strongly for the Standards Fund for Music to be maintained at least at its current level, if not increased, to 2015.
‘Not only do we have a music education system which is recognised as world-class, but we also have a general public which is hugely supportive of music education. We should recognise this fact and be very proud. Perhaps music educators have been hiding their lights under a bushel for too long. Perhaps now is the moment for us to speak up loudly and proclaim just how good music education really is in this country and how much support it.’
Annetts also stated that performing arts graduates are more likely to be employed than most other graduates. ‘No wonder then that it was the Creative Economy which was the only part of the economy which grew during the recession. We should be nurturing this sector and ensuring that we have the skills and the talents with which to continue to support and grow it.’
In MusicLearnngLive’s second keynote speech Paul Collard, chief executive of Creativity, Culture and Education, suggested that children’s services might be best placed in the future to engage with artists and arts organisations to provide cultural education; Artists including musicians have successfully made the case for the social value of the arts; children’s services recognise this and also recognise that they do not have the expertise to deliver arts activities. However on a less positive note Collard endorsed the concerns of the many conference delegates who deplored the short-termism of initiatives such as the Wider Opportunities instrumental teaching programme, which offers whole classes of primary school children the opportunity to learn one or more instruments for a year. Quoting one mother who had refused permission for her child to take part in the scheme on the grounds that it would inspire an enthusiasm that she could not afford to nurture by paying for lessons after the free provision ended, he reminded delegates that many families on the edge of deprivation were in similar situations. According to CCE’s research, such families also face many other hidden barriers to participation in the arts.

John Stephens receives ISM's Distinguished Musician Award

2 March 2010

The musicians' professional body the Incorporated Society of Musicians has given its Distinguished Musician Award to John Stephens OBE for his pioneering work in music education.
John Stephens is only the second music educator to receive the award, whose previous recipients have included Jacqueline du Pré, Pierre Boulez, Sir Simon Rattle, Dame Janet Baker and Sir Mark Elder. The award has been presented since 1976 and rewards an 'outstanding contribution to British musical life'.
John Stephens has been at the forefront of developments in music education for more than 50 years. Beginning as a teacher in Hampshire and Essex, he became music adviser in Shropshire and joined Her Majesty's Inspectorate in 1968. There he helped to develop the Schools Council Music Project directed by John Paynter at York University.
As staff inspector for music at the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA), Stephens led a large team of teachers and musicians and succeeded in opening up many of London's concert halls and opera houses to young audiences. He was instrumental in setting up the education programmes of the Royal Opera House and Wigmore Hall and in the 1990s he shaped the recommendations of the National Curriculum for Music and played a key part in establishing Youth Music. He was President of the Incorporated Society of Musicians in 2001-02 and in 1999 was honoured with the OBE for his services to music education.
ISM President Kenneth Ian Hÿtch said: 'John Stephens is not a household name and there will be thousands who are unaware of the debt of gratitude they owe to his determination to put music securely at the centre of education and make it accessible to all.
'It is timely, in this year in which the ISM is focusing strongly on education, that John should receive this important distinction from his fellow musicians and music educators whom he has served selflessly for so long.'
John Stephens said: 'I am deeply honoured by this award that I accept on behalf of all the music teachers I have worked with over a lifetime in music education. Music educators have always worked closely with their professional musician colleagues and this award marks the importance given to their work by the ISM that represents all sectors of music and music-making. It is a powerful partnership, and one that, in the present political climate of threatened cuts in public spending, politicians should not underestimate.'

Vocal Process offers Developing Voice workshop in London on 27 March

2 March 2010

Child and adolescent voice researcher Jenevora Williams will lead a one-day course for singing teachers and their pupils at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, on 27 March. 'The Developing Voice: 0-20 in 6 hours' covers  physical and vocal changes from the early years of childhood to 19 and beyond. Participants will discover which vocal techniques are appropriate at which stage of vocal change, and will be helped to understand the limitations of range, volume and timbre in developing voices and helping young singers stay vocally healthy. They will find out how to sing safely in different musical genres, enabling teachers to give their young performers more choices. The course includes sound file examples of different stages of change in boys and girls. Participants also receive a booklet of information written by Jenevora Williams.
Venue: RADA 18-22 Chenies Street London WC1E 7PA Time 10-5pm Price £107, Teacher & Student rate £157
More information from Vocal process: +44 (0)1544 267946, info@vocalprocess.co.uk, http://www.vocalprocess.co.uk

CBSO woos new audiences with new  'Tuned In' concert format

22 February 2010

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and its music director Andris Nelsons are set to launch a brand new concert format next month: Tuned In, an initiative to encourage more people than ever to enjoy classical music.

The new concerts, on 25 March and 29 April in Symphony Hall, Birmingham, will come with a live 'users' guide' to the music being played.  The aim is to offer an approachable introduction to live classical concerts for new audiences, as well as enhancing the enjoyment of regular concert-goers. Radio 3 presenter Stephen Johnson will take the stage, alongside orchestra and conductor, to share the background stories to the music being performed, and explain how these pieces work.  When he wants to demonstrate how the composer creates a particular sound, the audience will hear it happen live.

 'I hope with our new Tuned In concerts we can help even more people than ever to experience the same deep level of satisfaction that I enjoy so much with this wonderful music,' said Nelsons. The works involved are Stravinsky’s fairytale ballet The Firebird (25 March) and Shostakovich’s mighty Fourth Symphony (29 April). 'One is a journey into a fairytale world, and the other is the product of Soviet politics and the composer’s personal turmoil. All music for me is about everyday life and human beings, or else about taking us to other worlds, and I hope with these pieces we’ve chosen music that demonstrates this perfectly.'

The introductions to the music are very much aimed as a guide rather than gospel.  Johnson is adamant that his role in Tuned In is to help listeners find their own way to the heart of the music. And he makes one particular promise: these concerts will be a jargon-free zone. 'A lot of people are put off classical music by the technical language that surrounds it. With a live orchestra there to demonstrate, you don’t need technical language.  It’s just about helping people connect with the music.'

 Tickets for the CBSO's Tuned In concerts are £20 in all areas and can be booked by calling Symphony Hall Box Office on 0121 780 3333 or online at www.cbso.co.uk

Reading University announces three-day choral conducting course 14-16 April

22 February 2010

The University of Reading’s Institute of Education is running a three-day course in choral conducting on 14-16 April. Tutored by Catherine Beddison, Rebecca Berkley, and Manvinder Rattan, it is aimed at anyone who runs choral groups, whether in schools or in community settings, and includes practical sessions and workshops to ensure a high quality of engagement, widen the repertoire of music and explore sound using a variety of approaches.
There are three levels: Getting Started, Moving On and Advanced. Getting Started is aimed at those who are beginning or who want to brush up on their skills. Moving On is aimed at participants with some experience of conducting. Advanced will involve working with challenging repertoire, selected in advance from the list provided. During the course, participants will work with the team of presenters on a wide variety of activities, including the vocal warm up, choosing repertoire and learning how to build and shape choral sound.
The course is supported by Sing Up and Sing for Pleasure. It costs £195 for all three days inclusive of lunch and refreshments and the venue is the Institute of Education, Bulmershe campus, Reading RG6 1HY.
More information: Tel: 0118 378 8843 Email musiceducation@reading.ac.uk
www.singup.org www.singforpleasure.org.uk

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