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EXPO: Meet The Speaker

22 January 2016

Lucinda Mackworth-Young is an author and extremely busy international lecturer, consultant and workshop presenter, who describes herself as ‘always a teacher at heart’. She graduated from Trinity College, London (where she had a joint first study of piano and clarinet) before gaining a PGCE and, later, a master’s degree in the psychology of education from the Institute of Education. She is well known for her insightful professional development workshop presentations to teachers, and for her work as director of her EPTA UK Piano Teachers’ Course. Her book Tuning In: Practical Psychology for Musicians came out in 2001 and Piano by Ear was published by Faber in July of this year.

Lucinda Mackworth-Young’s Piano by Ear gives pianists of all ages and stages a practical guide to playing by ear, accompanying songs and improvising, and she describes it herself as ‘the book I wish I’d had when I was learning the piano’. After a long time thinking that someone needed to write a book about the musical skills which all pianists need – a publication that never came – she decided to set about writing it herself.

She describes it as ‘criminal’ that parents can spend so much money on piano education and then, when their children stop lessons, they are unable to play the piano without music: they have incomplete practical piano skills and she identifies a situation which may sound like an extreme case: ‘The “usual exams” can result in people passing Grade 8 with distinction, but being unable to play Happy Birthday or play anything spontaneously at a social event.’ I can certainly identify with this myself, as I clearly remember being at a family birthday party and someone saying ‘there’s a piano over there’ – and being embarrassed that all I could offer was half of Fur Elise and bits of my Grade 5 pieces. Piano by Ear is aimed at classical musicians and piano teachers like me: tied to the notes by wanting to be able to play by ear, one note, hand and chord at a time.


Mackworth-Young gradually taught herself these skills and then tried them out and refined them on others. She discovered that energy flows – and music-making becomes more relaxed and spontaneous – when the notes are relegated to a less important role and, instead, improvisation takes place. She has worked out a way to explain and teach this painlessly to classically based teachers and pianists.

She has tested the ideas and steps in Piano by Ear on her own piano pupils (mainly adults) and the EPTA Piano Course teachers, and has found that the ideas also work well with younger pupils. She describes to me the delight of using the ideas in group sessions: simple things such as improving on the black keys can be relaxing, enjoyable and hugely useful, she says.

She believes that Piano by Ear fills the gap between exam boards’ aural tests and the musicianship skills needed to accomplish them; and also that sound coming before name and before symbol is the most practical way to develop these skills. She is passionate that there should be no divide between those who play by ear and those who play using notation – simply because all should be able to play by ear.

Among many examples, she describes one adult pupil who, through the steps in the book, had discovered the joy of descending chords as a basis for improvisation. He was learning to describe them in a way that was far beyond his Grade 5 theory knowledge – and he had developed a ‘practical appreciation of musical elements’.

Finally, she expresses the hope that Piano by Ear will help teachers, classically trained pianists and everyone else to truly be able to play the piano. To achieve this and continue her work she is not resting on her laurels, and workshops and presentations are being planned around the world: one of which, of course, will be the Expo.

Lucind Mackworth-Young will present a session on learning to play, improvise and accompany songs by ear on day two of the Music Education Expo, which runs on 25 and 26 February at Olympia Central, London: two days of free-to-attend, high quality CPD.

 Book your free ticket at


Saffron Hall announces first opera commission

19 January 2016

Saffron Hall's first opera commission, The Glass Knight, will premiere on 9 March 2016.

The production will feature 300 school children, with students from Saffron Walden County High School, RA Butler Academy, Newport Primary School, Great Chesterford C of E Primary Academy, St Thomas More Catholic Primary School, Katherine Semar Junior School, St Mary's C of E Primary School and Radwinter C of E Primary School.

The opera will be produced in partnership with Saffron Walden County High School, featuring 104 students aged 11-18 in performing roles and 80 students in backstage and production roles including marketing, technical, stage management and costume-making.

190 students from seven local primary schools will also be involved with the project, as well as two professional singers and a 20-piece orchestra comprising professionals and schoolchildren.

The work, with music by Philip Sunderland and a libretto by Gareth Prior, is based on a local legend about a mysterious glass knight who saved Saffron Walden from a basilisk.

'More than any previous commission, this production, made possible by the strong partnership between Saffron Hall and Saffron Walden County High School, places students, teachers and local stories centre stage,' said Angela Dixon, chief executive of Saffron Hall. 'The process of making and rehearsing this opera alongside professionals is as important as the four performances themselves and we hope that the experience will reverberate through the participating schools long afterwards.'

The Glass Knight will take place at 7pm from 9-11 March, with a matinee performance on 12 March. Tickets cost from £8-15, and are half price for under-18s.

Saffron Hall

Applications open for the Rhinegold Charity Fund

18 January 2016

Charities operating within the music sector are invited to submit their applications for the Rhinegold Charity Fund 2016/17.

The successful charity will receive £10,000 to spend on advertising across Rhinegold's portfolio of classical music publications, websites and services.

They will also receive account management support on aspects of marketing and design from Rhinegold.

The scheme supports the work of charities that might not have the resources necessary to support a large advertising campaign on their own, giving them the opportunity to promote their cause to a large international readership.

Since its launch in 2013, the number of applications to the fund has doubled annually. The 2015 fund was awarded to two charities: Young Classical Artists Trust and Live Music Now.

Charities wishing to apply should complete the online form by 29 February, with the selected charity to be announced in March.

Rhinegold Charity Fund

Applications open for Sound and Music Summer School

15 January 2016

Composers aged 14-18 are invited to apply for the Sound and Music Summer School.

The residential course provides the opportunity for 75 young composers to explore and develop their musical ideas, collaborate with other composers and musicians, and try new areas of musical creation. They will receive tutoring from professional musicians and composers throughout the week, which culminates in two preview performances.

This year's summer school takes place from 31 July-6 August at the Purcell School.

The course costs £450, which includes tutoring, accommodation, food and activities. Bursaries and scholarship support is available.

Applications should be submitted by noon on 31 March.

Sound and Music Summer School

Proms 2016 to include Ten Pieces II concerts

15 January 2016

Two Ten Pieces II Proms are the first concerts to be confirmed for the 2016 BBC Proms season.

The BBC Philharmonic, conducted by Alpesh Chauhan, will perform the ten pieces in the Royal Albert Hall on 23 and 24 July.

The concerts will also showcase secondary school students' creative responses to the pieces, including composition, dance, digital art and performance poetry.

Schools can upload their students' responses via the Ten Pieces website, with responses received by 24 March considered for the Proms.

Describing the project as 'inspiring', Chauhan said: 'We’re really excited to be taking the Ten Pieces to the world-renowned Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, and to see how students have been responding to this exciting music.'

Ten Pieces II follows in the footsteps of Ten Pieces, an initiative for primary school children launched in 2014 which has worked with more than half of the UK's primary schools.

The Ten Pieces for secondary schools are: 
J. S. Bach, orch. Stokowski - Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565
Bernstein - 'Mambo' from Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
Bizet - 'Habanera' and 'Toreador Song' from Carmen Suite No. 2
Anna Clyne - Night Ferry
Haydn - Trumpet Concerto (third movement)
Gabriel Prokofiev - Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra (fifth movement)
Shostakovich - Symphony No. 10 (second movement)
Vaughan Williams - The Lark Ascending
Verdi - 'Dies Irae' and ‘Tuba Mirum’ from Requiem
Wagner - 'Ride of the Valkyries' from Die Walküre

The full BBC Proms season will be released in April.

BBC Ten Pieces

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