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Awards for Young Musicians launches chamber music programme

23 October 2012

Awards for Young Musicians (AYM), the charity which gives financial help to teenage performers, has launched a series of orchestral chamber music programmes in collaboration with the English Chamber Orchestra. Supported by funding from the Elias Fawcett Trust, these are the first formal ensemble opportunities for recipients of Awards for Young Musicians funding.

Musicians from the English Chamber Orchestra (ECO)'s Close Encounters education and outreach team will coach and rehearse four ensembles. Each will then perform in a special Prelude concert before one of the ECO’s own evening concerts. The first of these will take place at London's Cadogan Hall on 2 December.

'This project gives the young musicians the opportunity to rehearse and perform in the same way that a professional chamber ensemble might do,' said AYM’s Beverley Mason. 'It combines concentrated rehearsal time, personal practice and a lot of fun in the process.'

Each of the four projects will feature a different instrumental combination. The first, a string ensemble entitled With Strings Attached, has begun its rehearsal sessions at the Royal College of Music. In the coming months three more groups will be created: Ensemble Classique in spring 2013, Celebrations of Diversity in summer 2013 and Le Swing in autumn 2013.

Donations to support the work of Awards for Young Musicians can be made at a-y-m.org.uk

Hubs showing some 'shameful' employment practice, says MU

22 October 2012

Diane Widdison, the Musicians' Union's national organiser for teaching, has said that some 'shameful' employment practice is going on in England's new music education hubs.

The remarks were made at the opening of the union's third biennial teachers' conference. Widdison said that there were 'pockets of good practice' in the hubs, but that many were showing a 'real desire to erode teachers' terms and conditions'. She added that the MU plans to recruit a network of union representatives in all the hubs in order to ensure that teachers are supported and their concerns are heard.

The MU teachers' conference took place in Cambridge, with an opening address given by Paul Harris, the well-known music educator and writer. Harris explored the theme of what makes a 'virtuoso teacher' before answering questions from the floor, many of which concerned ways to handle pressure from employers and pupils' parents to put pupils in for inappropriate exams. Other sessions were led by Lincoln Abbotts, ABRSM's director of teacher support; Christopher Gray, programme leader of Aberdeen University's music and communities degree course; and Richard Crozier, former head of professional development with ABRSM.


PRS for Music launches new scholarship scheme

22 October 2012

PRS for Music and the popular music college BIMM Brighton have launched a new scholarship scheme to help the development of songwriters and music business entrepreneurs.
The Springboard Scholarships, which go towards the funding of courses at BIMM Brighton, are designed to improve employment opportunities within the music industry and to equip students with the skills to develop their careers. The first recipients began their courses at this term.

Mark Lawrence, director of membership and rights with PRS for Music, said: 'We are delighted to collaborate on this unique scholarship arrangement with BIMM. Challenging economic times often give rise to exciting ideas, entrepreneurs and creators. We are licensing forward thinking start-ups like Mixcloud and supporting hard-working songwriters like Adele, but we also recognise the need to do more work with grass roots and emerging songwriters and composers. I am genuinely excited by this scheme. These students are going to be the future faces of the industry.'

BIMM Brighton student Kate Walsh was the first unsigned artist to have an album reach No 1 in the iTunes chart. She said her time at BIMM 'was priceless, learning from professional songwriters who know what they're talking about and bouncing ideas off other students was an invaluable experience that I'll never be able to recreate. BIMM tells you how the industry really is and prepares you for a real future doing something you love!'

Vaseema Hamilton, principal of BIMM Groups, said he was very proud of the scheme. 'Our aim is to ensure equality of opportunity for young people, to raise aspirations and educational attainment, improve employment prospects and offer young musicians and entrepreneurs the opportunity to develop under the guidance of BIMM’s highly experienced tutors and use this unique opportunity as a springboard into employment.'

Applications are now open for entry in October 2013. Each scholarship is for £1,000 towards course fees. Minimum entry requirements are four GCSEs at C or above.


ISM launches cross-sector 'Bacc for the Future' campaign

15 October 2012, Rhian Morgan

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) is calling on the government to include music and other creative and cultural subjects in the new English Baccalaureate (EBacc), which is set to replace GCSEs from 2017.

As the ISM launched its cross-sector campaign, entitled Bacc for the Future, it said 'a sixth pillar of creative subjects', including music and design and technology, must be part of the new qualification.
The ISM wants the Education Select Committee to hold an inquiry into the lack of creative subjects in the EBacc, and a petition has been set up at www.baccforthefuture.com. The new qualification requires pupils to have achieved a certificate in five subject areas: maths, English, sciences, languages and humanities (the latter currently defined as history or geography).

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the ISM, said: 'What we need is GCSE reform that is fit for our economy, and the current proposals are not. We need to work together to ensure that we do not forget the lessons of the Olympics or the economic centrality of the creative industries.'

An ISM-commissioned YouGov poll has shown that the public overwhelmingly supports the aims of the campaign, with 88% saying music and other creative subjects are important to a child’s education. An earlier survey revealed that 60% of music teachers, from a survey of 500, believe that the EBacc league table has had a harmful impact on music education in schools. Figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications showed almost a 4% drop in GCSE music candidates between 2011 and 2012.

Many musicians have already expressed their concern at the likely impact of the EBacc on music. Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber said: 'The absence of creative subjects from the EBacc makes no sense at all. Creativity is vital to every child and it is also essential to our economy.'

The Schools Music Association says many musicians working with secondary schools are 'concerned that the latest government proposals will effectively mean the end of the teaching of creative subjects'. Dr James Garnett, past chair of the National Association of Music Educators, is also urging that the planned changes protect a rounded secondary school education which includes the practical study of music.

Ronan O'Hora, head of keyboard at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, said he thought it 'quite incomprehensible that under the proposed plans the teaching of music is likely to disappear from secondary schools at a time when its importance in aiding and developing lateral thinking and creative problem-solving is more widely recognised than ever'.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said the EBacc would still leave plenty of time for non-core subjects: 'We have put music on a much firmer footing than it has been - we have protected core music funding and a music module is being introduced for trainee primary school teachers.'

Choir of the Year grand finalists announced

10 October 2012, Clare Stevens

Lindley Junior School Choir from Huddersfield, Methodist College Girls’ Choir from Belfast and the senior choir of Ysgol Glanaethwy on Anglesey, North Wales are among the six choirs that will take part in the Grand Final of Choir of the Year 2012 on 28 October in the Royal Festival Hall, London. The remaining finalists are the Surrey Hills Chamber Choir, student jazz a cappella group the Oxford Gargoyles, and Les Sirènes, an all-female choir of students and recent graduates from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, conducted by 24-year-old Andrew Nunn.

Lindley Junior School, directed by Alison North, won the children’s category of the competition in the category finals held at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester on 6 October, beating Heath Mount School Bax Choir from Hertfordshire, current holders of the BBC Songs of Praise School Choir of the Year title; Four Oaks Cluster Choir, composed of singers in Years 5-8 from Sutton Coldfield and district; and the chamber choir of Rosendale Primary School in Dulwich, South London. The Methodist College girls were directed by Lynda Rolston and accompanied by another pupil of their co-ed school, 13-year-old Donal McCann. They beat the junior choir from Ysgol Glanaethwy, an ‘after hours’ performing arts school, and two other all-female groups, Rainbow Connection Youth Choir from Doncaster and Cor y Cwm from the Rhondda Valley, South Wales, to take the Youth Choir of the Year title.

The Oxford Gargoyles won the open category and Surrey Hills the adult choir category. Les Sirenes and Ysgol Glanaethwy Seniors went through to the final on ‘wild cards’, but any of the six finalists is now eligible to be crowned as the overall Choir of the Year 2012.


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