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Spotlight on Vocal Ensemble at The Guardian Charity Awards

22 October 2013

Vocal ensemble Ex Cathedra has been shortlisted for The Guardian Charity Awards 2013. For a number of years the ensemble has been running several successful education projects and training initiatives, with the aim of bringing singing into the heart of the community. 

Ex Cathedra's 'Singing Playgrounds' is a first-access singing project that has already reached over 100,000 children in 450 schools in the UK, as well as schools in New Zealand and Thailand. The ensemble has also been running a 'Singing Medicine' project for almost 10 years, where members of the group deliver weekly singing sessions at three children's hospitals in the UK.

Winners of The Guardian Charity Awards will be announced on Tuesday 3 December 2013.

New Principal for RCS

16 October 2013

Jeffrey Sharkey has just been appointed as the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s next principal. He will succeed John Wallace on his retirement in September 2014.

Pianist, composer and educator Jeffrey Sharkey has been the director of the Peabody Institute at the John Hopkins University in Baltimore since 2006. Previous appointments include dean of the Cleveland Institute of Music, director of music at the Purcell School and head of composition and academic music at Wells Cathedral School. Mr Sharkey is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, Yale University and the University of Cambridge.

Commenting on his appointment, Mr Sharkey said: ‘I have long admired the work and achievements of the Royal Conservatoire under the outstanding and creative leadership of John Wallace. I am excited to take forward the Royal Conservatoire’s innovative curriculum that prepares students across all disciplines for the rapidly changing arts world. The Royal Conservatoire has much to offer the country and the wider world, and I am delighted to be part of its exciting future.’

Competition that makes schools' wishes come true...

15 October 2013

Insurers Zurich Municipal have launched a nationwide competition for school students. 'The School We'd Like' is designed to encourage students and teachers to work together to come up with inspiring ideas to improve their school - with the winners offered funding to turn those ideas into reality.

Schools across Great Britain are invited to submit entries into one of the three available categories: primary schools, secondary schools, and special schools. £5,000 will be awarded to the winning school from each group. Any kind of suggestions are welcome, as long as they will have a positive impact on school life - for example, outdoor classrooms, multi-faith rooms, or internet cafes.

The winners of last year's inaugural competition have already implemented their students' ideas. Horniman Primary in London have reduced their school's energy bills by buying bicycles that generate electricity; Ifield Foundation Special School from Kent have converted wasteland into a workshop and wildlife area; and Salendine Nook High School in Huddersfield have revamped a run-down walkway into a graffiti mural.

'Teachers and pupils have some fantastic ideas about how to make their schools a better place in which to work and learn,' says Paul Tombs, head of education at Zurich Municipal. 'However, not all schools have sufficient funds to make the kinds of changes they would like. We also want to ensure that pupils themselves benefit from entering the awards, learning important skills like project management and collaborative working.'

The closing date for entries is 29 November 2013. Regional semi-finals will be held in Birmingham during January and February 2014, with finalists presenting to a panel of judges in March. For more details, including resource packs and school posters, visit the competition's website

Friday Afternoons with Britten

11 October 2013

The eagerly-awaited celebration for Benjamin Britten’s centenary is set to exceed expectations later this month. On Friday 22 November schools and music groups from every corner of the UK, as well as from Australia, Turkey, Singapore and the USA, will mark the composer’s centenary by performing his song cycle Friday Afternoons.

Aldeburgh Music is organising the project, which started as an East Anglian initiative and has since spread to many different countries across nine different time zones. ‘It’s remarkable that a project born in Britten’s home town of Aldeburgh, with its population of 2,500, now looks set to inspire over 100,000 children across the world,’ said chief executive of Aldeburgh Music Jonathan Reekie.

On Friday 22 November performances will begin in Melbourne, Australia at 03:00 GMT, running through to 22:00 GMT in Santa Monica, California. The day’s activities will be showcased online, with performances streamed live from across the globe.

Britten’s Friday Afternoons song cycle was composed for Clive House School in Prestatyn, where Britten’s brother was headmaster. The music is accessible, easy to sing, and lots of fun to perform. Any school anywhere can take part, and free online resources can be downloaded from the project’s website. Arrangements, scores and teaching aids are available for both primary and secondary groups, as well as Braille and signed versions.

KX Collective Calls All Young Musicians!

9 October 2013

The KX Collective is a contemporary music ensemble for 13-18 year olds from all musical backgrounds which is supported by the London Sinfonietta. During school half term holidays the group gets together to write a piece and perform music, under the guidance of Fraser Trainer and Paul Griffiths. All the music is written in an improvisatory style, without any notation.

This year the KX Collective will be returning to the Southbank Centre, performing at February's Secondary Schools Concert and the Nucleo Weekend in June. 

The first meeting of this season will run from Monday 28 October - Thursday 31 October at Highbury Grove School, with a final performance at The Forge on Friday 1 November. Any young people interested in taking part should email together@londonsinfonietta.org.uk. More details can be found on the London Sinfonietta website.

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