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York University marks 30 years of gamelan teaching with symposium

15 March 2012

The University of York is to mark 30 years of teaching gamelan with an international symposium, The Gathering of the Gamelans. The event will culminate in the premiere of Wayang Lokananta (the Gamelan of the Gods), an all-night shadow puppet play, with traditional and new music performed by musicians from across Britain.

One of the organisers, Ginevra House, said: 'York was the first university in the UK to have a Javanese gamelan, and many of today’s top British performers had their first experience of playing Indonesian music here. To celebrate this anniversary, we wanted to bring the British – and indeed the international – gamelan community together, to share ideas and best practice, to learn together and, especially, to perform together.'

A gamelan is an ensemble of tuned bronze percussion and other instruments, typically from Indonesia. Wayang Lokananta was commissioned for this event, weaving together myth, legend and folktales about music from the island of Java with the modern story of gamelan in Britain. The play will bring together more than 100 British gamelan musicians from 15 ensembles across England, Scotland and Wales.

Wayang Lokananta takes place during a four-day symposium, running from 26-29 April, aimed at gamelan performers, composers, academics, teachers and the wider community of ethnomusicologists. Delegates will be joined by Bapak Aloysius Suwardi, a composer, performer, instrument maker and academic from Java, who was a prominent figure in the rise of the Indonesian avant-garde movement in the 1980s.

Drake Music publishes nationwide SEND music consultation

15 March 2012

A nationwide consultation into problems faced by young people with disabilities who want to be involved in music education has shown that 'poor organisation and planning can be as significant a barrier to participating in music as the nature of a person’s disability'.

Drake Music, which carried out the study, works with disabled musicians of all ages, using technology to develop new resources and approaches. Their report, entitled Disabling Barriers to Formal Music Education, was commissioned before both the National Plan for Music Education and Ofsted's recent music report were published, but Drake Music says its findings are in line with both reports, which emphasise the need for equal opportunities for all pupils.

The study, say its authors, offers 'significant insight' into the experiences of the SEN/disabled young people and the musicians, teachers and music educators who work with them. Among the study's key findings are the facts that poor organisation and planning can be as significant a barrier to participating in music as the nature of a person’s disability, and that teachers need an improved range of skills in terms of making music accessible for SEN/disabled people.

The young people questioned also found it hard to access 'not only buildings and musical instruments but also the vital business of joining social networks and feeling part of a wider "musical crowd" that goes to gigs and performs for fun'. Teachers themselves said that 'a lack of time for planning and delivery is the biggest barrier to quality music provision for SEND pupils and students, and is more significant than needing money for equipment'. Some also felt that 'many people in education have low expectations of what SEND pupils and students can achieve in formal music education'. Teachers also said they needed more support in terms of training, using equipment and finding information on accessible music courses and resources.

Drake Music is now recommending that all institutions providing music education for SEND students - including schools, colleges, universities, hubs, exam boards and other music and arts organisations - must 'prioritise and regularly re-assess' using proper benchmarks. Key staff must be given enough time for planning and in timetabling, and 'students must be enabled to get to sessions, set up, participate meaningfully, pack away and get to their next engagement'. Formal musical pathways, including exams, should fit with a flexible, personalised approach to quality SEND provision and all spending on musical equipment should include a percentage of spending on training in 'how, why, when and with whom to use the equipment.'

As well as recommending a better use of technology and more comfortable rooms, the report advises that students also get  'opportunities to experience live music as a performer and audience member, both within institutions and outside in the wider world, in accessible music venues.' The full report can be found at

Yorkshire music and drama library saved from threat of closure

15 March 2012

Music groups in the north of England have won their campaign to save the Wakefield-based Yorkshire Libraries Information Music and Drama Service, which was at risk of closure because of financial problems. The collection consists of more than half a million pieces of music as well as 90,000 drama texts.

Hundreds of choirs, bands and orchestras, along with amateur dramatic groups, helped the consortium of councils which runs the service to find new homes for the collection. Music scores will go to Kirklees Council’s Library Service at Red Doles Lane, Huddersfield and will be managed by Fresh Horizons, a not-for-profit social enterprise, while the drama scripts move to Leeds Library.

Robin Osterley, chief executive of Making Music, the umbrella organisation for amateur music groups, says his organisation is 'delighted that the music collection at Wakefield library has been saved for the nation.

'We are grateful for the huge efforts of all concerned in retaining this incredibly important facility. As in most things, it shows that where there's a will there's a way, and we look forward to working with Fresh Horizons to promote the service to our members up and down the land.'

Councillor Andrew Pinnock from Kirklees Council, chairs the Council of Yorkshire Libraries and Information. He said he was 'delighted that these two very important collections have been found new homes. I am particularly pleased that local and national groups will be able to continue to use the music collection, which is an important resource.'

The YLI Music and Drama Service, based at Balne Lane in Wakefield, will close to the public on 31st March 2012. Final details of the new arrangements have not yet been confirmed. For more information, contact

Next BRIT thing winners crowned

6 March 2012

Nineteen-year-old Paul Shevlin, from Ballymena in Northern Ireland, has beaten off competition from a dozen other finalists to win this year’s Next BRIT Thing General Award in front of an audience of thousands at London's IndigO2. His style was described as 'piano pounding intensity and softly tinkling melancholia' and his prize includes a recording session at Abbey Road and a share of £10,000 worth of instruments from Roland UK. Second place in the General category went to E Whizz & Airbourne, and in third place was Laura Doggett.

The Classical award went to 16-year-old pianist Sarah Gardner from Yarm in North Yorkshire. She started learning the piano at seven and was awarded her DipABRSM at 13. She is now taught by David Murray at The Sage Gateshead. Her prize includes a performance at the Royal Albert Hall as part of Classic FM’s birthday celebrations. Second place went to 17-year-old singer Louisa Haggerty from Cholesbury in Buckinghamshire, and in third place was 14-year-old violinist Paul Botje from Finchley in north London.

The Floodliners won the PRS For Music Songwriting Award for their song Freeze. They win a recording session at Strongroom Studios.

The awards, for 11-19-year-olds, are backed by the UK music industry, The BRIT Awards and the government. Launched last summer, Next BRIT Thing looked for young musicians in any genre to share their performances, compete in online charts and perform live. The aim is to offer young people the opportunity to engage with the music industry, develop their music talent and enjoy the shared experience of being part of a national event.

The competition was organised by the BPI, with the support of the record industry and the sponsorship of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Education. It has brought together all elements of the industry including artists, labels, industry bodies including the Performing Rights Society and the Music Industries Association and sponsors, Peavey and Roland.

Music for Bedford Borough becomes the latest music service to issue redundancy notices

6 March 2012

Bedfordshire has joined Gloucestershire in planning to cut its peripatetic music staff in preparation for the new music hubs which will be implemented across the country in September. Music for Bedford Borough is proposing to reduce the service by approximately four full-time equivalent teaching posts. Teachers who haven’t been offered jobs in the new structure by the end of May will be made redundant at the end of August.

A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said they were 'fiercely committed to continuing to offer high-quality musical opportunities and resources to pupils' and that they had 'begun a formal consultation with our music service staff team with a view to restructuring the service so, despite funding constraints, we can ensure that affordable musical opportunities continue to be available to children and schools within the Borough.'
The Musicians’ Union has warned that this situation is being replicated across the country as the cuts both in the government grant and those from local authorities begin to bite.

'Consultations and the threat of redundancy have a negative effect on an already demotivated workforce and will have the effect of diminishing the musical experience of pupils. This is both against the aspirations of the Henley review and the National Music Plan,' said Diane Widdison, the MU's national organiser for teaching. 'The threat of redundancy in Gloucester represents concerns we have had on the new hub structure being implemented in England. The move away from employment to more hourly paid and self-employed teaching will ultimately undermine the workforce as the already limited career structure for instrumental teachers is further diminished.'

ABRSM is also worried by the redundancies. Commenting on the situation in Gloucestershire, a spokesman said: 'It is, in our view, absolutely vital that the experience and expertise of existing music staff is retained for the benefit of children.  We would welcome assurances that priority will be given to staff being made redundant by the current music service when the new hub is established.

'It is absolutely vital that the new hub is able to provide the ensemble training currently available via the LEA and in that respect continuity of teaching and direction is essential. ABRSM supports music learning for all children through a range of situations from individual, from small groups to larger ensemble training. We want to do all we can to inspire more people to participate in music and motivate them to progress and achieve.'

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