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A brand new young mixed-ability orchestra

1 December 2014

As part of the Berliner Philharmoniker’s The London Residency 2015, Southbank Centre and Barbican Guildhall in collaboration with the London Symphony Orchestra will join forces for an education project that brings together a brand new young mixed-ability (Grade 3 and above) orchestra, the Young Orchestra for London. The project culminates in two landmark performances by the Young Orchestra for London – one on the Barbican Concert Hall Stage (12 Feb) and one on Southbank Centre's Clore Ballroom (15 Feb), both led by Sir Simon Rattle.
 
Following an open recruitment day at Southbank Centre, online application to the orchestra is now open and will close at noon on Friday 5 December. All applicants will be required to attend a selection workshop in December and by the end of the year 100 young people aged 11 – 21 from across the 33 boroughs in London will have been selected to take part.
 
From 11 January 2015 the Young Orchestra for London gets together for a series of repertoire rehearsals and workshops, where the young players can learn about general musicianship skills and the repertoire that is being performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker during the residency. Sessions are creatively overseen by Rachel Leach and full orchestral rehearsals will be led by conductors Ben Gernon and Duncan Ward with musicians from the London Symphony Orchestra and London Philharmonic Orchestra supporting some of the sessions. Sectionals will take place with the support from members of the Berliner Philharmoniker, who will also be available for online Q&A sessions with the young musicians. 
 
In February 2015 the project culminates in two performances at the Barbican and Southbank Centre which will see the Young Orchestra for London conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. The programmes include Sibelius Finlandia and a movement from Malcolm Arnold's Little Suite No.2, plus a newly commissioned piece entitled Zero at the Bone for a ‘Giant Orchestra’ by composer Stephen Montague which is specifically designed for Southbank Centre’s annual Imagine Children's Festival. This piece will involve youngsters outside the Young Orchestra for London joining in, too, and will also feature parts for non-instrumental players.   
 
Further information on how to apply for the Young Orchestra for London as well as an online application form can be found on both the Barbican’s and Southbank Centre’s websites: 
http://www.barbican.org.uk/youngorchestraforlondon/
http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/festivals-series/classical-season-201415/young-orchestra-for-london
 

NYOW players in concert with  professionals

28 November 2014

Members of BBC National Orchestra of Wales and National Youth Orchestra of Wales performed side-by-side in Cardiff this October, in a Halloween Spooktacular, a family concert which was part of the two orchestras’ continuing relationship.  


The concert took place at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, and highlights were broadcast on BBC Radio Wales. In addition to the festivities on stage there were opportunities for children to try a musical instrument, with demonstrations given by students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.  

The relationship between the two orchestras is just one component of the extensive Partnerships and Learning programme produced by BBC NOW, whose musicians were recently seen on cinema screens across the UK by more than 100,000 primary school children, in BBC Music’s Ten Pieces film.  The concert formed the climax to an intensive three-day project in which the young players of NYOW sat alongside professional musicians from BBC NOW, with musicians mentoring the students and offering advice. 

The concert programme was designed not only to appeal to a family audience, but also to stretch the young NYOW players, who only had two full days of rehearsals before the concerts. 

National Youth Orchestra of Wales, the world’s first national youth orchestra, has produced many talented players during its 65-year history. Many members of BBC NOW are alumni of NYOW, and the project’s conductor, Grant Llewellyn, played cello in the National Youth Orchestra of Wales before turning to conducting.  

Matthew Jones, the manager of National Youth Orchestra of Wales, explained what the collaboration meant to the students: ‘These 'Side-by-Side' collaborations are always a fantastic opportunity for senior members of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales to sit beside and learn from their professional counterparts at the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’. 

International Sistema Teachers’ Conference Report

26 November 2014

The first International Sistema Teachers’ Conference, hosted by Sistema Scotland provided a unique immersive experience shaped by teachers for teachers. Musicians from Sistema Scotland connected with colleagues from Sistema Sweden, Superar Austria, Sistema Italia, Sing Out with Strings (Ireland) and In Harmony Liverpool (England) to devise the programme.   


Music Education Council chair, Dick Hallam, writes: 
Over 150 musicians and music educators from across the world descended on Stirling for an uplifting four days of workshops and presentations, sharing inspirations and challenges. There was a generosity of spirit that those who have worked with the Venezuelans will have met before, with a refreshing honesty about what was not working so well alongside the many successes in building orchestras and communities, and unlocking the potential of every child.   

The conference was built around four key themes: Understanding and Connecting with Children; Building an Inclusive Curriculum; Reflecting on Ourselves; and Gathering Knowledge and Feedback.   Being a social programme, achieved through musical excellence, it was no surprise to find enlightening sessions dealing with children from birth to adulthood, with a strong input from experts in early years and dealing with transitions and the social and psychological implications of working with young people who have not had a secure and stable environment’.   

Sistema Scotland’s programme was placed firmly in the context of Creative Scotland, and Dick Hallam (Sistema England and Chair MEC) led a consultation session on Sistema Europe and beyond: staying connected.  Delegates returned to their communities refreshed and re-inspired to continue their work, with many planning to return to Scotland for the ISME World Conference in July 2016.

Education study favours traditional teaching styles

25 November 2014

Schools need to put more effort into evaluating what makes effective teaching, and ensure that discredited practices are rooted out from classrooms, according to a new study published by the Sutton Trust and Durham University. 


Professor Robert Coe of Durham University, one of the authors, said assessing effective teaching was difficult, because exactly how pupils learn remains a mysterious subject. ‘It is surprisingly difficult for anyone watching a teacher to judge how effectively students are learning. We all think we can do it, but the research evidence shows that we can’t. Anyone who wants to judge the quality of teaching needs to be very cautious’.  

 The study suggests that some schools and teachers continue to use methods that cause little or no improvement in student progress, relying on anecdotal evidence to support the promotion of ‘discovery learning’, which encourages children to uncover ideas for themselves, or ‘learning styles,’, a technique which claims children can be divided into those who learn best through sight, sound or movement. 

 According to the researchers, more traditional styles that reward effort, use class time efficiently and insist on clear rules to manage pupil behaviour, are more likely to succeed. The report rejects the use of streaming or setting, where pupils are grouped by ability within classes or year-groups. Grouping by ability can result in teachers ‘going too fast with the high-ability groups and too slow with the low,’ cancelling the advantage of tailoring lessons to the different sets of pupils. 

 The researchers suggest that teachers with a command of their subject, allied with high-quality instruction techniques, such as effective questioning and assessment, are the most likely to impart the best learning to their pupils.

Boris Johnson launches music pledges

24 November 2014

   In his latest communication to the education sector, Johnson says:   “Music isn’t a ‘nice-to-have’, it’s an essential part of every child’s education. From the ages of 5 to 14, all children are entitled to play instruments, compose and listen to music in school, every week. The fact that the National Curriculum guarantees children ten years of unbroken musical learning in our schools is something to be enormously proud of. The language of music, with its subtlety, depth and fascinating notation, is as rich as any spoken language on the planet. To reach the level of physical mastery that playing an instrument demands is as mind-boggling as the achievements of Pelé or the Williams sisters. And for a team of people to unite in making music – communicating with confidence, emotion and artistry to others – is one of the most powerful forms of community I can imagine.”  

He considers it to be the job of headteachers, with the help of music education hubs, to ensure that every child, not just those that can pay for tuition, has the opportunity and encouragement to progress in music through to GCSE level and beyond.   London’s schools are estimated to spend £600m on class music teaching each year. Music hubs spend a further £33m on instrumental teaching, music centres, ensembles and support for schools.

Over the next 18 months, the Mayor’s Music Fund and City Hall are investing £1.8m in students and teachers. Across the music industry many more millions are being spent on our young musicians.   He goes on to say: ”We invest so much because music is important for our economy. London needs creative people and music is one of our most successful exports. The creative industries generate £21bn for London’s economy each year and hardly any music graduates are out of work. But music also has a bigger purpose, personally and socially. It’s unique in challenging human beings to draw upon a huge range of intellectual skills and use them, in that moment, to turn the mundane into the beautiful - to create emotion.   It’s time to get serious about music, so I’ve made five pledges to help London’s schools. And I’m asking headteachers, as well as music hubs, parents and the music industry to join me by making their own pledges.”  

Pledges for teachers include:  
•    Go to specialist music CPD events every year
•    Go to the Music Education Expo (March 2015 at the Barbican)
•    Take students to hear a live music performance  

Visit www.london.gov.uk/musicpledge find out more and to take part.


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