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Donaldson report ‘a positive step’ for music education in Wales

14 July 2015

Graham Donaldson’s recent review of education in Wales could help put music and the arts back at the centre of the curriculum, according to one leading music education practitioner.

Successful Futures, commissioned by the Welsh Government to consider new assessment and curriculum arrangements, was published in February this year and approved by the education minister this month.

The report recommended a more skills-based approach to learning, as opposed to segregated lessons in specific subject areas.

Rachel Kilby, who was head of the music service in Rhondda Cynon Taf until dramatic cuts were confirmed earlier this year and is now a freelance music educationalist, told Music Teacher: ‘It is a positive step that the recommendations have been accepted.

‘The report talks about teaching on a theme or project basis, with teachers working across boundaries and the focus on skills rather than subjects. This could mean the music services have a more defined role and better links with schools.’

Kilby also managed the music service in Caerphilly in the two years to January 2014 and was the representative for Wales on the Music Education Council until her role at Rhondda came to an end.

Although she welcomed the recommendations in the report, Kilby also stressed that adequate resources would need to be allocated to make them work in practice.

‘There will be some radical change involved when it comes to teacher development,’ she said. ‘Teachers will have to teach across many areas, rather than specific subjects.

‘But it could be quite exciting as long as the appropriate training and long-term investment are put in place.’

Royal College of Music research shows live music is good for you

10 July 2015

A study by the Royal College of Music has produced new evidence of the positive psychological effects of attending live music performances.

The research by the college’s Centre for Performance Science showed that audience members in a live choral concert experienced decreases in levels of stress hormones cortisol and cortisone.
A group of volunteers – 15 singers and 49 audience members – were monitored during a concert of music by Eric Whitacre at Union Chapel in March 2015. They submitted saliva samples, wore ECG monitors and completed a questionnaire.

The experiment was then repeated during a concert at the Cheltenham Festival on 7 July.

The results of both studies will be discussed during a talk at the Cheltenham Festival this weekend called ‘Is Singing Good for You’.

Aaron Williamon, professor of performance science at Royal College of Music, said: ‘This is the first time participation in a cultural event has been shown to have significant psychobiological effects, and the implications are hugely exciting, particularly when taking into account previous research by the Centre for Performance Science which links reduction in stress hormone activity with increases in immune function.

‘This preliminary study provides several new avenues of further investigation of how making and experiencing music can impact on health and wellbeing.’

The Royal College of Music’s Centre for Performance Science was founded in 2000 and focuses on applied research aimed primarily at benefiting music performance students.

Music education named explicitly in scope of Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

9 July 2015

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) opened on 9 July with a call to institutions to ‘take the initiative to self-report instances of institutional failure, rather than waiting for us to come and see you’. 

The inquiry, led by New Zealand judge Lowell Goddard, will investigate ‘whether public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales’. 

It is expected to be at work for several years and has a broad remit to consider the extent of past failures in child protection; how these failures have been addressed and any further necessary actions; and to identify actions necessary to prevent abuse in future.

Instances of historic abuse in music education will be covered by the inquiry, with ‘specialist education (such as music tuition)’ being mentioned explicitly in its terms of reference. The inquiry will also cover private and state-funded boarding and day schools; churches and other religious organisations; political parties; and state institutions such as prisons, hospitals and government departments.

The inquiry is inviting contact ‘from anyone who was sexually abused as a child in an institutional setting like a care home, a school, or a religious, voluntary or state organisation’, including those who reported their abuse as a child but whose report was not properly acted upon. ‘You can tell us as much, or as little, as you want about your experience,’ it says.

Estimates suggest that one child in every 20 in the United Kingdom has been sexually abused, says the inquiry. It will work in liaison with similar inquiries taking place in Australia, Jersey, Northern Ireland and Scotland, as well as with Operation Hydrant, a national police investigation into more than 1,400 investigations of non-recent sexual abuse of children.


Steve Reich's Clapping Music app launched

9 July 2015, Katy Wright

A new smartphone app –  available to download free on iTunes from today –  challenges users to learn and play an iconic piece of minimalist music while contributing to academic research.

Steve Reich’s Clapping Music is based on the 1972 work for two performers. The four-minute piece is built from a single rhythmic pattern, with one performer varying the pattern, shifting it by one beat every 12 repetitions.

The app allows iOS device owners to take the part of the second performer, tapping their device screen in time with coloured discs which light up to indicate the shifting beat patterns. If users fall behind or their level of accuracy drops, they have to start again.

It is more than just a game, though – anonymous user data will be analysed by researchers from Queen Mary University of London to explore the factors involved in learning rhythm. The institution wants to explore whether digital gaming technology can teach specific rhythmic skills, and whether this could attract a wider audience.

There are also educational in-app videos explaining the compositional technique behind Clapping Music and Electric Counterpoint (part of the current GCSE Music syllabus), and a video of Steve Reich talking about the works.

Players who make it to the app’s hardest level are in with a chance to perform Clapping Music on stage with the London Sinfonietta. A selection of those who submit high scores to the ensemble by 30 July will be chosen for a masterclass on 1 August, with one winner going on to perform in the Clore Ballroom at 6pm.

Clapping Music app

BBC 10 Pieces event at Hampton Court Palace

9 July 2015, Katy Wright

On 7 July 2015, 300 Year 4 and 5 pupils from nine schools across London joined forces for a project based on Handel’s Zadok the Priest

The event culminated in an event at Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace with a choir comprising nine members of Genesis Sixteen, nine members of The Sixteen, and choristers of the Chapel Royal, conducted by Eamonn Dougan and Robbie Jacobs (Genesis Sixteen conducting scholar).

The pupils, from Tower Hamlets and Croydon, visited Handel House before writing lyrics and music for a song dedicated to Princess Charlotte. Paul Mealor made a video advising the children on how to write music for a royal occasion, while the Duchess of Cambridge sent a message to wish them well.

Photography by Richard Champness, with the gracious permission of HM the Queen 

BBC 10 Pieces

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