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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 find out more and to take part.

Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra celebrates 70thanniversary

21 November 2014

Possibly the UK’s oldest youth orchestra, Wimbledon-based Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra turns 70 this year. The orchestra’s 70th Anniversary Concert will be held at the Royal College of Music on Sunday December 14th, with cellist Richard Harwood joining the orchestra to perform the Dvorak Cello Concerto.   Founded by Edward Gough in 1944, Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra is the longest established youth orchestra in Surrey and London, if not in the UK. It aims to provide an orchestral environment which is challenging, fun, friendly and supportive, in which young musicians of all backgrounds can develop their skills and nurture a lifelong love of music.  

Stoneleigh has over 100 members aged 9 to 18, drawn from more than 60 schools in London and Surrey. The orchestra rehearses weekly in Wimbledon in term time, each term culminating in a concert at a major London venue such as Cadogan Hall, St John’s Smith Square, the Royal Academy of Music or the Royal College of Music. There is also an annual European summer tour.  

Robert Hodge, Stoneleigh's Musical Director. Says "Stoneleigh is a very special orchestra. The sense of belonging, friendship and dedication to the music from the players is astonishing. Working with these young musicians is truly inspirational. We look forward in our celebratory 70th year to fantastic repertoire, venues, soloists and the exciting prospect of a summer tour to Malta.”

Chetham’s showcase launches ‘classical musicians of the future’

20 November 2014

  Student soloists from across Chetham’s School of Music perform special concerts that profile the next generation of classical musicians. Each student performs a 20 – minute recital within this full-length concert.

Performers include flautist Jack Reddick, who has played with the Whitgift Chamber Orchestra alongside the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and was accepted into the National Youth Orchestra, performing at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall each year since 2012. At Chetham’s, he has had many performance opportunities, both solo and in groups. He has also been principal flute and piccolo in the renowned Chetham's Symphony Orchestra.

French Horn player Emma Bain was Principal Horn in the National Children’s Orchestra and is now a member of the National Youth Orchestra. She has also performed as a soloist as part of Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra. Recent engagements include a performance with the Commonwealth Festival Orchestra and numerous solo and ensemble performances and workshops in Sri Lanka as part of “The Commonwealth Resounds” project.

Eudald Buch began to play the piano at the age of ten. He has taken part in important festivals such as the International Holland Music Sessions in Bergen. He has obtained several prizes both in chamber music and piano in competitions in Girona and Barcelona. He has also played in a live ‘In Tune‘ special programme for Richard Strauss’s 150th anniversary on BBC Radio 3.

Violinist David Shaw has given recitals throughout the UK, Italy, Germany and Hungary. In 2009 David was the youngest musician ever to have reached the final of Texaco Young Musician of Wales, playing alongside the Cardiff Symphony Orchestra. As a result of this, David was invited to perform in ‘One Thousand Christmas Voices’ in Llangollen, which was televised on S4C.
The Concert takes place in The Carole Nash Hall, Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester on Thursday 27 Nov, 7.30pm


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