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Berklee president sets out rationale for popular music education at ICMP conference

15 July 2010

London’s Institute of Contemporary Music (ICMP) held a two-day conference entitled The Place and Purpose of Popular Music in Higher Education on 8-9 July. The keynote speaker was Roger Brown, president of Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA, one of the world’s oldest popular music education institutions. Taking a devil’s advocate stance, Brown asked, ‘Is there a rationale for teaching contemporary [popular] music?’ He responded with five arguments for a strong rationale, the first of which was simply that ‘contemporary music is interesting.’ His second argument was that ‘music is the single best window for understanding who we are and how we think’, citing popular music in particular for its role in movements of social change.

Brown’s third argument was that a popular music education produces employable graduates. He stated that 55% of Berklee graduates derive their full income from music, which he asserted was a higher figure than for most conservatoires. His fourth point was what he called the ‘virtuosity argument’, saying, ‘if you have the discipline to practise anything for two hours a day you’ll become a virtuoso’. He went on to suggest that this kind of study nurtured transferable life skills. Lastly, he described the high creativity component of a popular music education, which, he argued, was not always so present in conservatoires.

The conference was attended by delegates from the UK and the USA and featured a range of workshop sessions as well as talks from speakers from across the industry. More information about the ICMP can be found online.


ACE tells funded organisations to prepare for 10% cuts in 2011

14 July 2010

Alan Davey, the Chief Executive of Arts Council England (ACE), has sent a letter to all its Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs) asking them to 'model prudently for a 10% reduction in funding for 2011/12'. Davey goes on to warn that the ACE has been asked by the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to prepare for budget cuts of 25% - 30% over four years.

Musical institutions make up 99 of around 850 RFOs, of which most are involved in music education in some way. The London Symphony Orchestra, for instance, which runs its LSO St Luke's education programme alongside its performance schedule, had been scheduled to receive £2,367,674 in 2010/11. This sum will have already been subject to an in year cut of 0.5%; a 10% cut for 2011/12 will mean losing in the region of £240,000. Cuts of 30%, assuming the ACE spreads cuts equally across all RFOs, would therefore equate to a reduction in ACE funding of around £750,000.

The Sage Gateshead, which aims to 'have a long-lasting impact on the life and regeneration of North East England' through a variety of education and outreach programmes, was originally scheduled to receive £3,796,039 in 2010/11; it would suffer a reduction in funding of over £1million were 30% cuts to be applied across the board.

In the letter, however, Davey acknowledges that the ACE 'would no longer be able to fund many organisations in the way [it has been] to date', and that cuts of up to 30% 'would mean significant change'.

ACE has published a toolkit to help RFOs to lobby effectively against large cuts. The figures are not 'set in stone', says Davey, and the ACE 'will argue that any cut needs to be managed intelligently, and in a way that protects the achievements of the last 15 years'.

View the full letter here.


ENO calls for amateur and young musicians to help compose film soundtrack

9 July 2010

On Sunday 25 July, English National Opera needs your help to create a soundtrack to the movie The Werewolf of London! Places are available for string players (for the werewolf music) and players of any acoustic instrument (for the fight music). The event is free but you must reserve a place; call 0871 472 0800. You cannot book online. Once you have registered you will be sent details of the day's events. The venue is Great Eastern Quay, Gallions Road, Royal Albert Docks, Albert Basin, London E16.

For those wanting just to watch, a screening and live performance will take place at the end of the day, at 5.45pm. Call the same number to book a place - and bring a cushion as there are no chairs.

National Children's Orchestra calling for applications

9 July 2010

The National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain (NCO) is inviting children aged seven to 13 from all over the UK to audition for a place in one of its five age-banded orchestras for 2011. Successful candidates will attend residential courses with tutors from national orchestras, specialist music schools and conservatoires. Each course culminates in a full orchestral performance, with the senior orchestras playing at venues such as Symphony Hall, Birmingham and Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.

Financial assistance is available for those unable to meet the cost of the residential courses. In 2009, 83 children received bursaries; this year, 80% of members are receiving help with fees, ranging from partial support to full funding.

To audition, young instrumentalists must submit an application form. For more information about the NCO, or to obtain an application form, visit www.nco.org.uk or call 01934 418855. Auditions will take place across the UK in October.


Clara Taylor, chief examiner of ABRSM, dies aged 61

6 July 2010

© Gary Rowsel

Clara Taylor, Chief Examiner of exam board ABRSM, has died at the age of 61. She had been due to retire from the post at the end of July.

During her time at ABRSM Taylor visited many countries to give seminars and workshops to music teachers, and was responsible for the administration of all ABRSM examiners both in the UK and in ABRSM's many outposts across the world.

In response to the news, Guy Perricone, Chief Executive of ABRSM, said: 'Everyone at ABRSM is greatly saddened to hear the news of Clara’s untimely death, and our thoughts are with her family at this time.

'Clara was a fine teacher who struck the perfect balance between true professionalism in terms of maintaining standards and being incredibly approachable and human.

'All examiners and staff were totally devoted to her, and there will not be one amongst us who will not miss her musical authority, company and warm humour.'

Taylor was appointed Chief Examiner to ABRSM in 1997, having been an examiner, moderator and trainer. She examined in every session each year. She was responsible for the selection, training and moderation of all ABRSM examiners, as well as their ongoing professional development, and led a series of seminars for the examining panels each year.

Taylor studied at the Royal Academy of Music and, on graduating, was immediately appointed to the professorial staff as a vocal coach. At that time she combined teaching with a performing career, accompanying many well-known recitalists in many parts of the world and appearing regularly at Wigmore Hall and the South Bank. She also performed and made a number of recordings with the Vanbrugh and Alberni quartets.

Her past students include Dame Felicity Lott and winners of the Kathleen Ferrier Prize, the Royal Over-Seas League and the Young Welsh Singer of the Year. Many of her former students are now well known in the profession.

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