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Education study favours traditional teaching styles

19 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.

NCEM joins large scale European cooperation project

17 November 2014

The National Centre for Early Music in York (NCEM) is one of eight major partner organisations from the European Community involved in a successful bid for the 2014 Creative Europe Culture Programme.  Led by Ambronay Festival (France), the project, ‘EEEmerging European Ensembles’, has been awarded a grant of 1,971,375 euros as a ‘large scale co-operation project’. The funding, which will be shared among the partners over four years, will enable the NCEM to enhance its support of young emerging early music ensembles by hosting six residencies at the NCEM in York between 2015-2018. This will support the biennial York Early Music International Young Artists Competition, which draws in competitors from across the European Community and beyond, and provides performance opportunities across the UK.

By selecting and training the best emerging ensembles in Europe, the EEEmerging European Ensembles project aims to increase equality in the options open to young ensembles, to provide them with excellent working conditions and a network of places for training, along with specific support and guidance for their projects, and to help them negotiate the realities of the early music market in Europe. Ensembles will receive support over a 1-3 year period.

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BBC Radio 3 chief: I won’t be ‘dumbing down’ station

14 November 2014

Alan Davey says Radio 3 will not become more like Classic FM in order to address a shrinking audience and that it will still offer a ‘complex culture’.

In the latest figures from industry body Rajar in July, the classical music station saw its audience shrink by 120,000 year on year to 1.88 million, falling behind digital-only Radio 6 Music for the first time.

Alan Davey, currently chief executive of Arts Council England, takes over as controller in January. He rejected suggestions that the solution was to follow the more popular Classic FM by concentrating on more accessible music. Mr Davey told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘It’s one quarter’s listening figures we are talking about. We don’t yet have a trend’. He said he will continue to offer ‘complex culture’, such as operas by avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, but will seek to provide audiences with the context that will help them to understand it.

‘I will be addressing it by doing what Radio 3 does best, offering complex culture, arts and ideas within the reach of lots of people. That’s what the original Third Programme did beautifully, but what the original Third Programme didn’t do was offer people context ... a way of approaching the complex culture that’s offered ... If you do complex culture properly, it makes sense to people.’

Vivienne Price 1931 - 2014

13 November 2014

Vivienne Price, who has died aged 83, founded the National Children’s Orchestras, a group that has provided valuable musical opportunities to generations of children. Among its alumni are the conductors Robin Ticciati and Daniel Harding, the cellist Guy Johnston and the violinist Nicola Benedetti.

In an interview with Ivan Hewett from The Daily Telegraph in 2010, Vivienne explained her reasons for doing so:

“I’d always wondered, why do we have a national youth orchestra but nothing for the younger ones...I imagined someone would do something about it one day, but no one did, so I thought, well, I’d better have a go.”

A loan of £60 from a relative was used to produce thousands of NCO leaflets, which were distributed around the country, and the first one-week course was held in Eastbourne, ending with a concert in the Winter Gardens. “We played the Radetzky March,” she recalled, “and I still remember the first rehearsal. It was absolutely awful.”

In the early days the NCO was run from Vivienne’s sitting room and tutors were brought in from orchestras and music colleges. The first concert was a sell-out, and Vivienne was inundated with applications from children wanting to join.

After suffering ill health in the late 1990s, Vivienne passed the baton to Roger Clarkson, who is now the NCO’s Principal Director of Music. She subsequently recovered and was able to maintain close links with the NCO, including conducting the Training Orchestra this summer.

Sir Harrison Birtwistle to work with students from Birmingham Conservatoire.

12 November 2014

 Sir Harrison Birtwistle, widely acknowledged as one of Britain’s greatest living composers, is to work with young composers and musicians from Birmingham Conservatoire. Sir Harrison will hold a public masterclass with composition students on Friday 28 November and will give talks about his work;  selections from his work will be performed alongside work of the Conservatoire’s postgraduate composers. T

he event coincides with Sir Harrison’s 80th birthday and also offers audiences the chance to hear his much talked about Panic that caused a furore at Last Night of The Proms in 1995. Joe Cutler, head of composition at Birmingham Conservatoire, said: ‘We’re hugely excited about welcoming Sir Harrison Birtwistle to Birmingham Conservatoire and delighted that he will be working with so many performers and composers during his visit. ‘Harrison Birtwistle is a composer of immense international stature ... he has pursued a path of unwavering artistic commitment in developing a truly original, daring and unique compositional voice.  It’s wonderful that our students, the next generation of performers and composers, will benefit from his vast insight and wisdom’.

Sir Harrison’s visit to Birmingham Conservatoire, part of Birmingham City University, forms part of a weekend festival, ‘Birtwistle in Birmingham’. The festival builds on the Conservatoire’s retrospectives of Pierre Boulez, Louis Andriessen, Heiner Goebbels and Robert Ashley in recent years.

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