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BBC Concert Orchestra kicks off Ten Pieces concert series

13 May 2015

A previous BBC Concert Orchestra education project. © Pete Huggins

The BBC Concert Orchestra will give two free schools concerts at the Southbank Centre in London today as part of the BBC’s Ten Pieces initiative.

More than 4,000 primary schoolchildren from across London will attend the concerts, which are the first in a series being given by the BBC’s performing groups across the UK.

Ten Pieces is a year-long project led by BBC Learning and the BBC’s performing groups, with the aim of introducing primary school children to classical music.

More than 120,000 children attended screenings of the BBC’s Ten Pieces film in October 2014 and nearly half of all primary schools have signed up to the project.

Teachers have also been given resources to explore the music in their own lessons, inspiring pupils to create their own responses through compositions, dance, digital art or animation.

A special Prom at the Royal Albert Hall in July will showcase these creative responses.

Andrew Connolly, general manager of the BBC Concert Orchestra, said: ‘The scale and size of the project, with nearly half of all the UK’s primary schools signed up, is a great example of something that only the BBC could do.

‘We’re really looking forward to welcoming more than 4,000 children to these two concerts, to experience the powerful sound of a live orchestra.’

Performances will follow in Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, Salford, Whitehaven, Kings Lynn, Thurrock, Derby and Wales before the big BBC Proms performance in July.

Soprano Lisa Milne to teach at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

12 May 2015, Katy Wright

Lisa Milne gives a masterclass
Lisa Milne gives a masterclass

Lisa Milne will join the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) as a member of the teaching staff at the start of the next academic year. She will return to her alma mater as the latest addition to a department which includes soprano Jane Eaglen and tenor Iain Paton.

Milne was one of the first artists to join the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists scheme. As well as appearing in concert halls and on opera house stages across the world, she regularly performs in recital with Malcolm Martineau.

Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, RCS principal, said: 'Lisa is one of the world’s leading opera singers with an enormously distinguished international career. She is an inspirational performer and teacher and her passion for her art will motivate the next generation of opera singers from the RCS.'

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Friday Afternoons to launch new resources for 2015

11 May 2015, Katy Wright

Friday Afternoons performance at Snape Maltings, 22-11-13
Friday Afternoons performance at Snape Maltings, 22-11-13Tony Pick

The Friday Afternoons initiative will launch new resources for 2015 on 18 May, including a new song cycle commissioned from American composer Nico Muhly.

The project will culminate on 20 November with a live-streamed performance day at Snape Maltings. Participating groups can apply for grants of up to £2,000.

More than 70,000 children have participated in the award-winning Aldeburgh Music initiative, which was launched in November 2011 as part of the celebrations of Benjamin Britten's centenary. Schoolchildren from across the world were encouraged to learn Friday Afternoons, a set of twelve songs composed by the young Britten, and then upload their performance on 22 November 2013 (the composer's 100th birthday). Arts Council England recently awarded a grant of £200k to allow Aldeburgh Music to develop Friday Afternoons over the next 10 years.

Hedley Swain, South East area director of Arts Council England, said: 'Friday Afternoons was a wonderful success as part of the Britten Centenary and we are really pleased to be able to support its continuation with an Exceptional Award. The development of Friday Afternoons will put in place the support, training and high quality materials required to ensure more children and young people in England have the chance to become involved in and enjoy singing.'

Aldeburgh Music's other outreach projects include Aldeburgh Sings, a three-year programme aimed at ethnic minority groups and those at risk of social inclusion, and another three-year project working within criminal justice settings. The projects have received funding of £174,811 from Youth Music and £135,000 from the Monument Trust respectively.

Friday Afternoons

Make music compulsory like maths and English, says Nicola Benedetti

11 May 2015

© BBC/Simon Fowler

Children should be forced to learn about classical music in the same way they have lessons in maths, science, history or English, according to violinist Nicola Benedetti.

In an interview with Scotland on Sunday, the 27-year-old said: ‘Children should be exposed to anything that has the sophistication and breadth of unbelievable content that classical music does, just as I think they should be exposed to the greatest books ever written.

‘You’re not just developing concentration and focus in order to try to understand the music. You are also getting something that has life lessons, has beauty, has uplift and joy and sorrow and tragedy – all the things that you will have to deal with in your life at some point.’

Benedetti also criticised parents who allow their children to play video games rather than introducing them to the arts.

‘It actually really upsets me when people say: “Kids hate listening to a symphony, why would we do that to them?”

‘Needing the child’s approval for what they do in school is just such an alien concept when you’re talking about maths, science, history or English.

‘But suddenly, when you bring music into the mix, it’s: “Oh no, we can’t show them anything that they don’t instantly love because that would be like forcing children into something that they don’t want to do.” It just bemuses me.’

Benedetti, who won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 2004, is involved in education initiatives including Sistema Scotland’s Big Noise project.

Conservatives free to implement education policy

8 May 2015

10 Downing Street: David Cameron's Conservatives should be able to legislate without support from other parties
10 Downing Street: David Cameron's Conservatives should be able to legislate without support from other partiespcruciatti / Shutterstock.com

The Conservative party, led by prime minister David Cameron, has secured an outright parliamentary majority following the 7 May general election. 

The result leaves the party free to move forward with its manifesto proposals, which include a commitment to ‘require secondary school pupils to take GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and history or geography’. 

Ofsted would be ‘unable to award its highest ratings to schools that refuse to teach these core subjects’, and the policy will open a new line of pressure on school leadership teams to prioritise these subjects.  

In a pre-election interview, David Cameron identified ‘a bit of a muddle’ over the importance of music education. ‘Sometimes people look at the core of the curriculum and they want everything to be in it,’ he said.

‘I’m a great believer that at the heart of a good education you’ve got to get the basics right. And so we’ve been quite tough saying the basics have got to be the reading, the writing, the numeracy.’


The introduction of the Progress 8 and Attainment 8 performance measures, planned to be published alongside performance tables from 2016, is also now expected. Under the system, which will measure pupils’ progression at secondary level, musical achievements might not count towards a pupil’s score if not studied alongside English Baccalaureate subjects.

Away from education policy, the Conservatives’ fiscal plans include continued reductions in public spending. Local authorities expect further real-terms budget cuts, and the impact of these is likely to be felt disproportionately on services which local authorities are not legally obliged to provide, for example in supporting music education hubs. Many councils across the UK have already made significant reductions in their support for local music education.


In his acceptance speech, Cameron hailed a country ‘with unrivalled skills and creativeness, a country with such good humour and such great compassion. And I’m convinced that if we draw on all of this, then we can take these islands, with their proud history, and build an even prouder future’.

Downing Street has as yet made no announcements on ministerial positions, but incumbent education secretary Nicky Morgan, school reform minister Nick Gibb, culture secretary Sajid Javid and culture minister Ed Vaizey have all been re-elected. The Liberal Democrats’ schools minister, David Laws, has lost his Yeovil seat.



Andrea Jenkyns, the Conservative MP who ousted former Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls from his seat in Morley and Outwood, is an amateur soprano and has previously worked as a music tutor, ‘teaching in three secondary schools’ according to her biography.

Darren Henley, chief executive of Arts Council England, said: ‘We’re confident that in the coming weeks we’ll be working with a team in government that understands the value that arts and culture can bring. In the last parliament we saw arts and culture get a more favourable grant in aid settlement than many for 2015/16. We’ve also seen an £18m increase in the money going to music education hubs.

’Arts and culture make a tremendous contribution to England’s way of life. Now we will focus on making the important arguments – from health and well-being, education, and the economy – as well, of course, the intrinsic value of great art, great artists and great arts organisations, museums and libraries. We will ensure that all the key decision-makers fully understand the vital role that public investment plays in our cultural ecology.’


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