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El Sistema - a new publication polarises the music education community

17 December 2014

A storm of words has erupted following the publication of ‘El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela's Youth’ (OUP). Geoff Baker, a Reader in the music department at Royal Holloway, University of London, wrote the book following extensive travel and research in Venezuela.  


The reaction to this book has deeply polarised the music education community and there have been heated discussions on many blogs and websites both supporting and rejecting Baker’s findings.  A central thesis of the book is that El Sistema has become an institution serving the middle classes, rather than those less fortunate. In an opinion piece, published in the Guardian he begins:  “Far from the shining example of how classical music can change vulnerable young lives many claim it to be, Venezuela’s El Sistema fails the country’s most deprived children”  

There are also allegations of sexual abuse which have been picked up by pianist Ian Pace in his blog "Geoff Baker on El Sistema: sexual and other abuse in an authoritarian, hierarchical, archaic music culture"  

The author does point out that these allegations only refer to the situation he perceives in Venezuela and do not necessarily imply criticism of Sistema inspired initiatives in other countries. 

Baker is organising a conference for those who want to find out more and engage in the debate. The event, El Sistema and the Alternatives: Social Action through Music in Critical Perspective, will take place in the Senate House, University of London on 24 April 2015.              

Darren Henley appointed as chief executive of Arts Council England

16 December 2014

Darren Henley, managing director of Classic FM and the godfather of the National Plan for Music Education has been appointed chief executive of Arts Council England, replacing Alan Davey, who leaves after seven years in post.
Henley, who has chaired the Music Manifesto and is much in demand as a patron and board member, commented: 'Public investment has ensured the vitality and creativity of England’s cultural life. Arts Council England and the artists, performers and institutions we invest in contribute to who we are as a nation. I’m privileged to have the opportunity to lead this important organisation and support the extraordinary creativity and innovation that exists across the country in arts organisations, museums, galleries and libraries. 
'Alan Davey leaves quite a legacy. He made sure that the Arts Council enabled great work to happen. I want to build on that by working with our national chair and the chairs of our Area Councils to champion the importance of art and culture in so many aspects of our lives – personal, social and economic. Of course we must be responsive and adapt to the world around us, but the foundation stone is laid in terms of the Arts Council’s ten-year strategy. I look forward to working with the Arts Council teams around the country, particularly Althea Efunshile who is acting as chief Executive until I arrive. Together, all of us at Arts Council England will continue to strive towards achieving great art and culture for everyone, no matter who they are or where they are in England.'

Spitalfields Music Chief Executive Abigail Pogson joins Sage Gateshead as Managing Director

16 December 2014

After seven years as Chief Executive of Spitalfields Music Abigail Pogson has been appointed as Managing Director of Sage Gateshead. She will leave Spitalfields Music in May 2015 and the trustees will start recruitment for her successor in the New Year. 


Abigail Pogson commented:“It has been a privilege to lead Spitalfields Music for the past seven years and a joy to work with such brilliant partners, artists, educators, donors, team and trustees in the service of our audiences and participants. It was always going to be something pretty special to tempt me away from East London and Sage Gateshead is very special indeed. Its founding mission is very close to my heart. So I’m greatly looking forward to this next phase of my working life. And I’ll take to it my Spitalfields Music memories of a hugely inspiring organisation in such an incredible part of London. I am delighted that my last festival will be Spitalfields Music’s first ever festival made entirely by young people – our Takeover Spring Festival in March 2015.”

Sir Alan Moses, Chair of Spitalfields Music said:“Although sad news for me personally and for Spitalfields Music generally it is a well-deserved triumph for Abigail. The enormous energy and strength which she has devoted with such spectacular results for us will be of great service to the Sage. They will be as fortunate as we have been.”

This announcement comes on the penultimate day of Spitalfields Music's Winter Festival 2014 which has seen record audiences numbers. Over the past five years, festival ticket sales have increased by 35% and local first time attenders have been encouraged to attend through a free ticket scheme funded by regular buyers.During Abigail Pogson’s tenure as Chief Executive the charity has expanded its groundbreaking Learning & Participation programme. A recognised innovator within the arts sector it has won five national awards and, as well as serving East London, is in demand around the UK and in Europe. 

In 2014-15 Spitalfields Music toured its flagship project Musical Rumpus (a series of multi-sensory operas for 0-2½ year olds) across the UK and internationally, and has recently developed Sound Explorers - interactive, narrative based music concerts for  5-7 year olds. In March 2015 the organisation will present its first public Takeover Spring Festival in which pupils from Tower Hamlets’ primary schools curate and produce their own in-school music festival.

Southbank Centre’s Imagine Children’s Festival 

15 December 2014

Southbank Centre’s Imagine Children’s Festival returns for two weeks over half term with a wide-ranging programme to stimulate creativity. Over half of the 2015 programme will be free of charge, offering all families and schools access to literature, music, theatre, poetry, dance, interactive installations and workshops. 


Highlights include: 

·         A presentation by Russell Brand and Chris Riddell, about their children’s book The Pied Piper of Hamelin  ·         The London premiere of Brundibár, a renowned children's opera by Hans Krása, performed by Mahogany Opera Group  
·         A free family concert, with the Young Orchestra for London, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle  
·         A rare concert featuring the 12 Cellists of the Berliner Philharmoniker  
·         Southbank Sinfonia with Music and the Deaf offering a truly immersive and tactile experience for both hearing and deaf children 
·         Back by popular demand, The Big Sleepover on the iconic Royal Festival Hall stage  
·         Interactive performance pieces  
·         A new early years soft play village and a programme for babies and under-threes 
·          Readings and events with award-winning children’s authors and illustrators  
·         A new Southbank Centre commission by Hip Hop spoken word artist Maxwell Golden  
·         Immersive opera, theatre and site-wide installations to celebrate Alice In Wonderland’s 150th anniversary 

Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre, said:We believe that by giving young people the chance to shape the culture they grow up with, and share their ideas with their friends, schools and families, their creativity will be given a platform that can influence all of us’.  

Guardian Children’s Books will be giving children the chance to interview authors, upload podcasts and guest edit the site, extending the reach of the festival beyond London and Southbank Centre. http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site  

For ticket or price information contact: Southbank Centre Ticket Office – www.southbankcentre.co.uk

Southbank Centre, Monday 9 – Sunday 22 February 2015
www.southbankcentre.co.uk/imagine 

RNCM sets up bursary in memory of Jane Anthony

12 December 2014

Jane Anthony, Founder Director of Leeds Lieder+ died on Thursday 8 November 2014 after a short illness.  Jane was born and brought up in Headingley, Leeds. She left to study singing at the Royal Academy of Music, London and the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester (RNCM) before returning home to Leeds to sing and teach. 


For many years she was a busy and successful professional soprano, appearing in opera, oratorio and recitals, and  frequently as a member of the chorus of Opera North. Jane was also a senior lecturer at Leeds College of Music, where she was a gifted and much-loved singing teacher, coach and opera director. Jane founded Leeds Lieder+ in 2004, and saw the biennial festival enjoy its fifth successful year in 2013. 

David Hoult, chairman of Leeds Lieder+ said: ‘Jane will be sorely missed for her energy and drive which brought the idea of a Lieder Festival in Leeds to fruition, and has seen it blossom into a major event in the musical life of the city and beyond ... Our thoughts are with her family and friends to whom we offer sincere condolences’. Jane was also artistic director and founder of Young Opera Venture (YOV). She firmly believed that everyone has the right to experience great art and that the effect can be inspirational and life changing. YOV supports young singers and makes opera accessible to audiences across the north of England. 

Dame Felicity Lott, honorary patron of Young Opera Venture and closely associated with Leeds Lieder Festival, remembers Jane as ‘an inspirational lady, full of ideas about how to communicate her love of music and her enthusiasm for song and opera’. The founding principles of Jane’s work with both Leeds Lieder+ and YOV remain at the heart of everything both companies strive to achieve. Their continued success will be Jane’s legacy. 

A bursary has been set up in Jane’s name to assist a young singer in his/her course at the RNCM.  


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