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More 'evidence' to support the benefits of music education

2 March 2015

A report on the benefits of music education has produced ‘compelling evidence’ that learning music can help children develop a wide range of other skills, according to its author.

The Power of Music: a Research Synthesis of the Impact of Actively Making Music on the Intellectual, Social and Personal Development of Children and Young People was produced by Susan Hallam for the Music Education Council (MEC) and published by the International Music Education Research Centre (iMerc). It brings together research evidence that has accrued over recent years, supporting the argument that every child and young person should have access to quality music making opportunities, and calls for schools to ensure that all pupils receive a thorough and broad-ranging music education.

Hallam said: ‘The research shows there is compelling evidence of the benefits of music education on a wide range of skills: listening skills, which support the development of language skills, awareness of phonics and enhanced literacy; spatial reasoning, which supports the development of some mathematical skills; and, where musical activities involve working in groups, a wide range of personal and social skills which also serve to enhance overall academic attainment even when measures of intelligence are taken into account.’

The benefits were shown to be greatest when musical activities started early and continued over a long period of time. It was also noted that the teaching of music had to be of high quality for the benefits to emerge.

Winners of Expo Fanfare competition revealed

19 February 2015

Daniel Hall
Daniel Hall

Garrett Norton
Garrett Norton

Garrett Norton and Daniel Hall are the winners of our inaugural Fanfare Composition Competition and their pieces will be performed at the Music Education Expo on 13 March.

Students in two categories were asked to submit a fanfare for up to eight instruments, comprising up to four B flat trumpets and up to four B flat tenor trombones. We received some really fantastic entries, and the judges had a tricky time picking our two winners. Daniel Hall was the winner in the 18 and under section. Hall, 18, impressed the judges with his ‘sophisticated approach to harmonic rhythm and musical gesture’. Garrett Norton, 13, won the 16 and under group. The judges said: ‘At just 13 years of age, Garrett Norton has produced a sparkling flourish that balances an intuitive simplicity with a satisfyingly rich texture.’

Premieres of both pieces will be given on the second day of the Music Education Expo, which takes place at Barbican Exhibition Hall 2. The performances will take place on the balcony at 12.15pm.

The fanfares will be performed by young musicians from Music for Youth, and they will play on plastic instruments provided by Korg.


BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers’ Competition

23 January 2015

The BBC has announced the opening of the BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers’ Competition. Now in its seventeenth year, this annual competition is a cornerstone of the BBC Proms’ ongoing Inspire Scheme, which offers a platform to young composers to develop their skills, share their ideas with like-minded composers and get their music heard. In 2014 Inspire worked with over 550 young musicians, commissioned nine new works and performed and broadcast the music of 17 young composers.  

The competition is open to students aged 12 to 18 years. Entries will be judged by a panel of music professionals, including composers Fraser Trainer, Judith Weir, and Anna Meredith. The winning pieces will be performed by professional musicians for the Proms Plus Inspire concert and will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3; the winners will then be commissioned by the BBC  for a further work.  

The deadline for entries is 21 May


Lesley-Ann Smith joins Kent Music as Head of Teaching and Learning 

29 January 2015

Music teacher and double bass player Lesley-Ann Smith has joined Kent Music as its new Head of Teaching and Learning, leading a network of more than 150 instrumental and vocal tutors working with up to 12,000 people a year across Kent and Medway. 

Originally from Prestwick in Ayrshire, Lesley-Ann graduated with a Bachelor of Music Degree and Post Graduate Diploma in Music Performance from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2007. She has played as a freelance double bassist with professional orchestras across Scotland, including the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Scottish Opera. Her early career was spent working as an instrumental instructor with multiple Instrumental Music Services and as a community musician for Artlink Central. 

As Education & Projects Officer at Enterprise Music Scotland, Lesley-Ann designed and managed their first music education conference, Music Education Matters, in 2014. There she designed and administered over 90 music education workshops annually across Scotland as well as chamber music projects and training events. She was most recently Team Leader Music Development at West Dunbartonshire Council where she managed the Instrumental Music Service. 

Peter Bolton, Chief Executive of Kent Music, said: “Lesley-Ann is a talented musician with wide experience of organising music tuition at all levels and I am delighted to welcome her to Kent as our new Head of Teaching and Learning.” 

Government publishes new GCSE, AS and A Level subject content

28 January 2015, Thomas Lydon

The Department for Education has published details of the subject content for the GCSEs, AS Levels and A Levels in music to be taught from autumn 2016. It is anticipated that exam boards will soon publish their own specifications, based on these guidelines.

The headline here is that the much-criticised compulsory 1700 to 1900 area of study at all levels has been widened to the more conventional stylistic boundaries of 1650 and 1910, largely due to the efforts of the ISM's Protect Music Education campaign. The other specification at all levels has also been re-framed, now stating that one other area of study ‘must not be drawn from the Western Classical Tradition’. Otherwise, there are no huge surprises here, with the final content guidelines being based  largely on the consultation documents published last July.

Some of the more proscriptive language around the demands on the composition element at all levels has been dropped (no longer must students be able to show that they have achieved their work through one or more of a set list of ‘means’, including experimenting, developing, or critical refinement).

At GCSE, the ‘musical elements’ have been updated to include sequences (listed at A Level in the consultation) chord progressions and simple modulations.

At AS and A Level, we're pleased to report that the ISM’s sub-campaign to save the gerund has been successful, and the terms ‘performance and composition’ from the consultation documents have been re-phrased as ‘performing and composing’, presumably in response to the ISM’s stated preference for stressing the ‘musical processes’ rather than the ‘end products of study’. Elsewhere, in the ‘musical elements’ section, all reference to identifying sonorities of different instrumental groupings has been removed, and there is some genuinely interesting new wording in the 'musical context' section. Lastly of note, in the ‘appraise’ section, the requirement to be able to make critical judgement about your own work has been removed.

The GCSE content can be found here

The AS and A Level content can be found here

If you want to play a game of 'spot the difference', here are the consultations documents for GCSE and AS/A Level.


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