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Arts education debated in BBC panel show

2 March 2015

The importance of education in the battle against elitism in the arts was among the issues debated during the BBC’s Arts Question Time programme on Sunday.

Six panellists joined an audience of arts lovers and presenter Kirsty Wark (pictured) at the Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House, London, for the Question Time-style debate, which was broadcast on BBC Four.

To a question from an audience member about the danger of careers in the arts being available only to the privileged and wealthy, novelist Jeanette Winterson responded: ‘It starts with education, and it has to. We have to make kids in schools feel that art is for them.

‘Every child on this planet that ever was, across time, is born creative,’ added the author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. ‘They’ll paint a picture and stick it on the fridge; they’ll make a kingdom out of pots and pans; they’ll do a little dance; they’ll tell a story. That’s hard wired, it’s our creative DNA, and we knock it out of them. We say, that’s not for you, it’s elitist, it’s only for people with money. And it’s absolutely false.’

Wark made reference to a report published in February by the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value, which showed a marked decline in the number of children taking arts subjects at GCSE.

Artist Cornelia Parker said: ‘My daughter is 13 and starting to think a about her GCSEs at the Camden School for Girls. I did a lecture there and a lot of the students were saying, I’m not going to do A-level art because it’s going to bring our school down, it’s not going to be useful as an A-level.’ She added that she felt arts subjects were being ‘demoted’.

The other panellists were Rupert Goold, artistic director of the Almeida Theatre in London; Jamal Edwards, founder of youth culture channel SBTV; Charles Saumarez Smith, chief executive of the Royal Academy of Arts; and Yancey Strickler, co-founder of crowdfunding website Kickstarter.

More 'evidence' to support the benefits of music education

2 March 2015

A report on the benefits of music education has produced ‘compelling evidence’ that learning music can help children develop a wide range of other skills, according to its author.

The Power of Music: a Research Synthesis of the Impact of Actively Making Music on the Intellectual, Social and Personal Development of Children and Young People was produced by Susan Hallam for the Music Education Council (MEC) and published by the International Music Education Research Centre (iMerc). It brings together research evidence that has accrued over recent years, supporting the argument that every child and young person should have access to quality music making opportunities, and calls for schools to ensure that all pupils receive a thorough and broad-ranging music education.

Hallam said: ‘The research shows there is compelling evidence of the benefits of music education on a wide range of skills: listening skills, which support the development of language skills, awareness of phonics and enhanced literacy; spatial reasoning, which supports the development of some mathematical skills; and, where musical activities involve working in groups, a wide range of personal and social skills which also serve to enhance overall academic attainment even when measures of intelligence are taken into account.’

The benefits were shown to be greatest when musical activities started early and continued over a long period of time. It was also noted that the teaching of music had to be of high quality for the benefits to emerge.

Winners of Expo Fanfare competition revealed

19 February 2015

Daniel Hall
Daniel Hall

Garrett Norton
Garrett Norton

Garrett Norton and Daniel Hall are the winners of our inaugural Fanfare Composition Competition and their pieces will be performed at the Music Education Expo on 13 March.

Students in two categories were asked to submit a fanfare for up to eight instruments, comprising up to four B flat trumpets and up to four B flat tenor trombones. We received some really fantastic entries, and the judges had a tricky time picking our two winners. Daniel Hall was the winner in the 18 and under section. Hall, 18, impressed the judges with his ‘sophisticated approach to harmonic rhythm and musical gesture’. Garrett Norton, 13, won the 16 and under group. The judges said: ‘At just 13 years of age, Garrett Norton has produced a sparkling flourish that balances an intuitive simplicity with a satisfyingly rich texture.’

Premieres of both pieces will be given on the second day of the Music Education Expo, which takes place at Barbican Exhibition Hall 2. The performances will take place on the balcony at 12.15pm.

The fanfares will be performed by young musicians from Music for Youth, and they will play on plastic instruments provided by Korg.


BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers’ Competition

23 January 2015

The BBC has announced the opening of the BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers’ Competition. Now in its seventeenth year, this annual competition is a cornerstone of the BBC Proms’ ongoing Inspire Scheme, which offers a platform to young composers to develop their skills, share their ideas with like-minded composers and get their music heard. In 2014 Inspire worked with over 550 young musicians, commissioned nine new works and performed and broadcast the music of 17 young composers.  

The competition is open to students aged 12 to 18 years. Entries will be judged by a panel of music professionals, including composers Fraser Trainer, Judith Weir, and Anna Meredith. The winning pieces will be performed by professional musicians for the Proms Plus Inspire concert and will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3; the winners will then be commissioned by the BBC  for a further work.  

The deadline for entries is 21 May


Songs of Praise school choir of the year winners named

18 May 2015, Katy Wright

Junior category winners Ysgol Iau Llangennech
Junior category winners Ysgol Iau Llangennech

Llanelli's Ysgol Iau Llangennech and Hereford Cathedral School's Cantabile Girls’ Choir have been announced as the winners of the 2015 BBC Songs of Praise school choir of the year competition.

Ysgol Iau Llangennech won the junior school category, while Cantabile Girls’ Choir took the senior school title. The final, which took place at Nottingham’s Albert Hall, was broadcast on BBC One on 17 May.

Lewis Richards, conductor of Ysgol Iau Llangennech said: ‘The children give so much time and energy during rehearsals. I’m over the moon that they have something to show for their efforts and perseverance. The children were determined to perform their socks off in the final, and that’s exactly what they did!’

Cantabile had appeared in the finals of the competition before, and have also won the international Eisteddfod on two occasions. Music director Jo Williamson said: ‘Words cannot express how happy I am for the girls – I’m so proud of them and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.  They have worked so hard for this moment and gave everything they had – heart and soul!’

Dave Stanford, executive producer of Songs of Praise, said: ‘The judges faced a difficult decision for both categories because the standard of entries was so high. Cantabile Girls’ Choir achieved success after an outstanding performance and Ysgol Iau Llangennech were faultless. Many congratulations to both the schools. The Songs of Praise School Choir of the Year competition has been running since 2003 and we are always knocked out by the quality and enthusiasm of the school choirs which enter.’

A new judging panel for the 2015 competition included: JB Gill, from boy band JLS; vocal coach and opera singer Yvie Burnett from The Voice; and Tim Rhys-Evans, the founder of Welsh male voice choirs Only Men Aloud and Only Boys Aloud.

The other finalists were Queen’s Young Voices (Chester) and Lindley Junior School Choir (Huddersfield) for the junior category, and Twyford Church of England High School Choir (London) and Strathearn School Chamber Choir (Belfast) for the senior category.

The competition launched in 2003 and attracts hundreds of entries annually. Over 45,000 young singers have entered to date.


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