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New board for graded music exams launched

23 November 2011

A Berkshire music teacher has launched MTB Exams, a new exam board with the aim of making instrumental and vocal exams less stressful.

'MTB Exams is a music teachers' board providing an exciting new way to take instrumental exams from MTB Levels 1 to 8,' says chief examiner Mark Kesel, who has taught the trumpet for more than 30 years. Describing the new system as 'an imaginative new resource for instrumental teachers,' Kesel believes that MTB exams will 'by making some simple but fundamental changes to traditional methods, reduce stress levels for pupils and teachers and offer complete flexibility over exam dates.

'The main difference between the new board and ABRSM and Trinity Guildhall is that pupils are examined by their own teachers. The performance is recorded and a certain number are moderated, 'and assessed in the same way that GCSE performance is examined,' says Kesel. 'We are aiming to complement rather than rival the traditional boards,' added Kessel, who has been a member of the quintet Chaconne Brass since it was founded 26 years ago.

'Music should be enjoyable but at the moment there are sometimes some very stressed pupils as well as stressed teachers. This system also has the benefit that the pupil can do the exam when he or she is ready rather than waiting for an exam date.

'The syllabus, which has been set by specialist teachers, is broadly in line with ABRSM standards. Pupils do not need to have passed Grade 5 theory to move on to Grade 6. Kesel adds, 'When a pupil spends months preparing music for an exam it is a pity if they find playing to a visiting examiner makes them nervous and they do not play to the best of their ability. The idea of playing to your teacher is an attempt to allow them to show what they can do. I would argue therefore that it is more representative of their standard and not less. Also, it seems a pity that the person best placed to assess their performance - the teacher - is excluded from the process. We’ve had a very positive response. We are very new but we hope to attract a lot of entrants.'

www.mtbexams.com

Classic FM 2011 Music Teachers of the Year announced

18 November 2011

Six of the country’s top music teachers have been honoured in the 13th Annual Classic FM Music Teacher of the Year Awards, presented at the Music for Youth Schools Prom Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. The awards recognise and reward teachers 'who have made a real difference to the musical life of young people'.

Classic FM’s managing director Darren Henley said, 'There can be a tendency for music teachers to be the unsung heros of the music world, yet without them, many young people would not have music introduced into their childhoods in a structured way.

'Music has the power to touch our lives in a far more complex way than many subjects that we study at school and gives us life skills far beyond what we learn in the classroom.'
 
Primary School Music Teacher of the Year was Kathryn Smith of Silkstone Common Junior and Infant School, Barnsley, South Yorkshire. The Secondary School Music Teacher of the Year Award went to Sheila Cornall of Wycombe High School, Buckinghamshire.

This year’s Peripatetic/Private Music Teacher of the Year Award was Fran Sixsmith of Warrington Schools’ Arts and Culture Service. Sheila Oglethorpe, a teacher who has specialised in teaching music to dyslexic pupils was presented with the Special Education Needs Music Teacher of the Year Award.

John Hall of Norton Knatchbull School, Kent took the Lifetime Achievement Award. A special award was given by the judges to Matthew Hunt of Kingstone High School, Herefordshire as New Music Teacher of the Year. They described him as a ‘whirling dervish’ and ‘inspirational’.

The winning teachers' schools will each receive musical equipment and instruments from Yamaha and software from Avid.

Derry’s schoolchildren to get free instruments and lessons

14 November 2011

Up to 9,000 children in Derry in Northern Ireland are to receive free music instruments and lessons in a new initiative that organisers claim is the first project of its kind anywhere in the world, and 'could change the way music is taught in the curriculum'.

The Children’s Music Promise will be launched as part of year-long celebrations when Derry becomes the UK’s first City of Culture in 2013. It will operate in 15 newly created, localised 'projects' and be delivered by the multimedia, youth arts-focused Nerve Centre in partnership with the Ulster Orchestra, the Western Education and Library Board, and Neighbourhood Partnership Boards.

Part of a raft of participatory schemes currently in development in a wider programme of events with estimated costs of £20m, the programme aims to ensure participation by all of the city’s schoolchildren aged 13 and younger.

Garbhan Downey, director of marketing and communications for the City of Culture Company overseeing the celebrations, said the scheme was already attracting international interest 'as a model of excellence on how to teach children music. Creative and cultural provision for children and young people has been declared a 'top priority' for Derry’s tenure as City of Culture, and has also seen it shortlisted for designation as a UNICEF Child Friendly City.

The Children’s Music Promise will be one of the largest individual projects mounted in the city during 2013 and is expected to also include opportunities for the young musicians to perform in public.

MICHAEL QUINN

Southbank Centre's head of music leaves to take two roles with El Sistema

8 November 2011

Marshall Marcus, head of music at London’s Southbank Centre, is to leave the role in order to take up two new appointments which link the venue with El Sistema, the Venezuelan social initiative which has brought orchestral music to thousands of disadvantaged children.

'I feel privileged to be able to carry forward my commitment and enthusiasm for Venezuela’s revolutionary El Sistema, while at the same time retaining a close connection with Southbank Centre.' said Marcus. 'I have enjoyed five spectacular years at Southbank Centre and am honoured by the invitation to establish an orchestra in Venezuela alongside the project to further cement ties between Southbank Centre and Venezuela.'

The two positions are special project advisor for Southbank Centre’s El Sistema project, and director of the Simón Bolívar Music Foundation’s Venezuelan Baroque Music Programme. Marcus, who will remain based at the Southbank, has spent much of the autumn in Venezuela as a guest of El Sistema. He has had a longstanding relationship with the organisation since its establishment in the 1970s, and believes the project will allow him to focus his work on the international development of El Sistema. The project, said a spokesman at the Southbank, will see Marcus working on the development of a business plan which supports a wide range of music partnerships nationally and internationally, advising the Centre for Social Action Through Music in Caracas, and facilitating staffing exchanges between the two organisations.

Still no sign of National Plan for Music as Gove booed at Schools Prom

8 November 2011

The National Plan for Music Education, which will set out government policy for music education in England from September 2012, is still yet to be published by the Department for Education.

There had been rumours of a planned announcement by education secretary Michael Gove at last night's Music for Youth Schools Prom (7 November). However, with the report unpublished and Gove greeted on to the stage by booing from the audience, the minister remained silent on the matter.

The national plan will outline government policy on music education based on the recommendations of Darren Henley's review of the sector published earlier this year, and is expected to focus on encouraging music services, LEAs and regional performance groups to work together in what Henley called 'regional music education hubs'.

The plan will be implemented from September 2012 and with the report still unpublished it is unclear how music education bodies will have the necessary time to prepare for any new way of working. Moreover, the level of funding for music education activity is still unknown. Richard Hallam, national music education grant director, had initially said the plan was expected 'no later than the end of September'.

Gove was last night welcomed onto the stage by Schools Prom host Margherita Taylor to present two awards for the Classic FM Music Teacher of the Year. As members of the audience booed, Taylor was forced into crowd control:

'Now now, we're all friends on this stage tonight,' said Taylor. 'Especially when there could be exciting news on the way soon hopefully for music education programmes in our schools, so we look forward to hearing more about that.'

With all eyes on Mr Gove, the education secretary made no mention of the National Plan and moved on to presenting the awards. 'Thank you so much,' he said, 'it's been an amazing night for music education and I've been privileged to be in the audience.'

Gove presented the awards to Kathryn Smith of Silkstone Common Junior and Infant School (Primary School Music Teacher of the Year) and Sheila Cornall of Wycombe High School (Secondary School Music Teacher of the Year). Peripatetic, SEN, new teacher and lifetime achievement awards will be presented on 8 and 9 November.

ALEX STEVENS


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