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Benedetti backs petition to save free music tuition in Edinburgh

29 January 2016

Nicola Benedetti has lent her support to a petition against the proposed budget cut of Edinburgh schools' music tuition service.

The violinist described the proposed 75% cut to the budget which funds Edinburgh's instrumental music tuition service and all of the city's schools orchestras and ensembles as 'heartbreaking'.

Proposed by the City of Edinburgh Council, the cuts are due to be introduced in 2017 and would save £1.7 million over four years.

The reduced budget would mean that young people up to the age of 18 might have to start paying for their weekly instrumental lessons.

The petition created by Abhinav Jayanty currently has more than 10,000 signatures. 

It reads: 'Many people who are currently benefiting from the music service, but also many people who have had many positive experiences in the past due to the music service would definitely agree that their music tuition, and participation of the various orchestras, ensembles and choirs have made a significant change to their lives. The mental health and neurological benefits that learning an instrument can have are further incentives to retaining a free music service.

'Fight against the loss of these amazing opportunities that the Edinburgh music service offers to the young, versatile musicians across Edinburgh who do definitely not want to lose the opportunity to learn and improve their musical skills. Of course, a few people will be able to afford paying for these services. But these budget cuts may or may not result in the job cuts of music instructors who make a living from expanding the musicality of young people in Edinburgh; the instructors who pour passion and enthusiasm into teaching these musicians.'

A spokeswoman for the council told the Herald Scotland that 'this proposal is not about putting a stop to these lessons, but exploring different ways of providing our music service. 

'This could include the concept of a social enterprise model, which would introduce charging but still ensure Edinburgh’s most vulnerable pupils continue to receive free music tuition.'

Say NO To The Proposed Budget Cut of Our Edinburgh Schools Music Tuition Service!

RNCM awarded £411,000 grant 

28 January 2016

The Royal Northern College of Music has been awarded a £411,000 grant to support exceptional young musicians from the Leverhulme Trust's Arts Scholarship programme.

The grant will aid talented musicians at junior, undergraduate and postgraduate levels for three years from September 2016.

It will also support the establishment of RNCM Engage Mentorships, which will provide training and placements within the RNCM’s outreach projects for outstanding undergraduates who show promise as music mentors.  

RNCM principal Linda Merrick said: 'The College prides itself on offering world-class tuition and performance opportunities to young musicians of all ages, and it is thanks to the support of organisations such as this that we are able to attract and nurture such incredible talent.'

The Leverhulme Trust has supported the RNCM for 30 years, and has funded scholarships for a number of its top students. These include cellist Mikhail Nemtsov, mezzo-soprano Helen Sherman, Heath Quartet, and current scholarship holder pianist Alexander Panfilov.

BBC Young Musician Jazz Award finalists announced

28 January 2016

The five musicians who will compete in the final round of BBC Young Musician Jazz Award have been announced.

They are sister and brother Alexandra and Tom Ridout (on trumpet, and saxophone and recorder respectively); saxophonist Tom Smith, who appeared in the final of the BBC Young Musician Jazz Award 2014; and pianists Noah Stoneman and Elliott Sansom.

In the final the five finalists will once again be accompanied by the Gwilym Simcock Trio, who will work with and mentor the finalists as they rehearse. 

Gwilym Simcock said: 'I'm really looking forward to working with the exciting young musicians who've made it to the final. Last time around it was an absolute pleasure to develop the music with the finalists - and every single one of them not only worked really hard during the mentoring process, but also played wonderfully on the night. I know this time around will be just as great and I can't wait to hear them all play!'

The final will take place on 12 March in the Dora Stoutzker Hall, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and will be broadcast on BBC Four.

The award, which launched in 2014, runs alongside the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition. The inaugural winner was saxophonist Alexander Bone, who is currently studying at the Royal Academy of Music.

BBC Young Musician category finalists announced

25 January 2016

The 25 BBC Young Musician category finalists have been announced.

They are:

  • Jackie Campbell (15) – piano
  • Tomoka Kan (17) – piano
  • Harvey Lin (13) – piano
  • Julian Trevelyan (17) – piano
  • Yuanfan Yang (19) – piano
  • Polly Bartlett (17) – recorder
  • Lucy Driver (17) – flute
  • Jess Gillam (17) – saxophone
  • Joanne Lee (15) – flute
  • Marie Sato (15) – flute
  • Matthew Brett (14)
  • Hristiyan Hristov (17)
  • Joe Parks (16)
  • Tom Pritchard (18)
  • Andrew Woolcock (16)
  • Sam Dye (16) – trombone
  • Zak Eastop (18) – trumpet
  • Ben Goldscheider (18) – french horn
  • Zoe Perkins (17) – trumpet
  • Gemma Riley (17) – trombone
  • Stephanie Childress (16) – violin
  • Sheku Kanneh-Mason (16) – cello
  • Charlie Lovell-Jones (16) – violin
  • Joe Pritchard (16) – cello
  • Louisa Staples (15) - violin
Category finals will take place 6-10 March at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and the semi-final on 13 March.

The final round of the competition will take place on 15 May at the Barbican, London, with Mark Wigglesworth conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

The competition will be broadcast 'extensively' on BBC Four with 'complementary programming' on Radio 3, said the BBC.

Describing the competition as 'the most exhilarating and inspirational musical experience of my life', BBC Young Musician 2014 Martin James Bartlett said: ‘Winning the title has launched my solo performing career and for that I am immensely grateful. I would like to wish every category finalist the best of luck for their upcoming performances!'

‘BBC Young Musician provides a platform like no other and it’s always exciting to see the breadth and level of talent of the young musicians who enter,' said Paul Bullock, editor of BBC Young Musician 2016. 'This year is no exception, and we’re hugely looking forward to supporting all our finalists over the coming months and watching their progress through the contest.'

Previous winners of the competition, which launched in 1978, include Nicola Benedetti, Benjamin Grosvenor, Alison Balsom and Thomas Adès.

Schools minister defends EBacc as consultation enters final week

22 January 2016, Alex Stevens

The schools minister, Nick Gibb, has defended plans to widen the scope of the controversial English Baccalaureate (EBacc), a consultation on which ends on 29 January. 

In an article for the Telegraph, Gibb wrote: ‘Pupils at English state schools enter, on average, nine GCSEs and equivalent qualifications, rising to more than 10 for more able pupils. As the EBacc covers seven GCSEs, this leaves ample room for other choices.

‘It is worth considering that opportunities to participate in the arts, unlike other subjects, can exist outside the formal school curriculum. Pupils appear in school plays, sing in choirs and play in orchestras even if they choose not to study a GCSE in music or drama.’

Critics of the plan disagree, with the Bacc for the Future campaign saying that the average number of GCSEs taken by pupils in England is in fact less than eight. If the plans were implemented, it says, ‘there would be little room left for pupils to study art, dance, design, drama, music or other creative industry-relevant subjects’. 

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, which has run the Bacc for the Future campaign, said of the plans: 'It makes no sense for the government to implement an educational strategy which is so prejudicial to the country’s economic success. We need to build on our thriving creative economy and therefore it is essential that the arts be given equal visibility in our schools.'

The EBacc has undergone significant change since it was initially brought in as a school performance measure. The current consultation was the first time that the government stated its aim that nine out of ten pupils would enter the EBacc. 

Many in music and cultural education, the creative industries and beyond worry that the policy could lead to non-EBacc subjects being squeezed out of schools’ plans. The extra-curricular music activities of the type described by Gibb are, in many cases, run by classroom teachers and therefore have a strong relationship with the status of academic music. 

The Cultural Learning Alliance has called the plans ‘needlessly bureaucratic’, saying that they will have a ‘significant detrimental impact on the teaching and learning of the arts in schools’, ‘widen the disadvantage gap’, ‘are not based on robust evidence’ and ‘will materially affect the UK economy, society and our international standing’. 

The CLA believes the EBacc reforms ‘should not be implemented’ at all, while Bacc for the Future states its aim that ‘creative subjects to be given equal value to other subjects at Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5’. 

Suggested responses to the consultation have been prepared by both Bacc for the Future and the Cultural Learning Alliance.

Open consultation: Implementing the English Baccalaureate

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