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Avril Dankworth dies aged 90

12 March 2013

Avril Dankworth, the innovative and inspirational music educator best known for founding the Avril Dankworth Children’s Music Camps – now the National Youth Music Camps – has died aged 90.

Sister to jazz musician John Dankworth, Avril was born in Southend-on-Sea in Essex in 1922 and educated at Walthamstow High School, Hockerill Teacher Training College, the Royal College of Music and Trinity College of Music. She worked first as a singer and accompanist before teaching in various London schools and colleges and travelling the world lecturing, training teachers and adjudicating. The author of several books, including the bestselling Make Music Fun, she also wrote a history of jazz and was instrumental in introducing the idiom into the school music curriculum.

In 1970, John Dankworth and his wife Cleo Laine bought the Old Rectory in Wavendon, Milton Keynes, with the idea of turning the stable block into a theatre. Avril saw the field at the back of the stables and realised she could fulfil her dream of setting up an annual music children’s music camp. From the start, her camps enabled anyone aged seven to 17 to spend a week under canvas and make music. There was no minimum entry grade, and all instruments and styles of music were welcome – an ethos continued today at the National Youth Music Camps, which still take place at Wavendon Stables.

In 1990 Avril was awarded an honorary doctorate for services to music education. ‘Avril enthusued generations of teachers and students with her fun approach to music education,’ said Sarah Watts, current director of the National Youth Music Camps. ‘The music camps she established have inspired thousands and often changed lives.’


New ABRSM chief executive Leslie East vows to improve infrastructure

7 March 2013

The new chief executive of ABRSM says he will continue the work of his predecessor in improving the organisation’s infrastructure, following last year’s 'major issues' with exams.

Leslie East, ABRSM’s former executive director of syllabus and publishing, was appointed as chief executive following the surprise resignation of Guy Perricone at the end of February. East was formerly director of music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and publishing director of Novello and Co. He has been at ABRSM since 1998.

He says his immediate concerns are to complete already planned investments in infrastructure systems to solve problems with exam correspondence and, working with Lincoln Abbotts, who has been promoted to the newly created post of director of strategic development, to 'look at the wider music education landscape, both in the UK and overseas.'

'ABRSM is about a lot more than exams,' he told MT. 'Over the next two months, we will be looking at, among other things, teacher support and working with the music services who are, of course, our life blood.'

East welcomed Abbotts's appointment to his new role, saying he had wide-ranging experience in music, education and broadcasting. He previously worked at the BBC and was chief executive for Music for Youth.

Staff, meanwhile, say they were 'surprised' by the resignation of Guy Perricone, who was unwell in the autumn but had since returned to work. He joined ABRSM after a career in banking and four years as director of London's Institute of Contemporary Arts.

Colette Bowe, chairman of ABRSM's governing body, said they were 'immensely grateful to Guy for all that he achieved with ABRSM during his leadership'. Perricone had been at ABRSM since 2009 and during his time there turnover increased from £36.5m to £43.6m and candidate numbers from 645,768 to 665,310.


Mayor of London's music fund appeals for more funding

13 February 2013, Rhian Morgan

Boris Johnson’s music education charity is appealing for more individual and corporate philanthropists to help fund its £1m-a-year scheme to increase musical opportunities for hundreds of children and young people in London.

The Mayor of London's Fund for Young Musicians, which was launched in May 2011, is now working with all 29 of the capital's music education hubs and their local schools and partners. It awards four-year music scholarships to primary-age children with musical potential whose families find it difficult to pay for tuition, in addition to a range of partnership projects.

New projects for 2013-14 include:

  • Barking & Dagenham Community Music Service and Havering Music School, working on composition and music production
  • Enfield Arts Support Service, working with Barnet Music Service, Haringey Music & Performing Arts Service and the world music organisation Musiko Musika to develop an Ethnic Contemporary Classical Orchestra across some of the boroughs’ most deprived areas
  • Greenwich Music Service, Lewisham Music Hub and the Bollywood Brass Band partnership will form cross-borough ensembles to address the shortfall in brass provision
  • Redbridge Music Service, Waltham Forest Music Service and the London Chamber Orchestra will be working to address the gap in providing progression routes for young woodwind players
  • Richmond Music Trust will work in partnership with Hounslow Music Service, the Royal Ballet School and the Philharmonia Orchestra in an integrated music and dance programme, designed to strengthen and develop existing Key Stage 2 and 3 provision and strengthen the links between these two art forms
  • Sutton Music Service will work with Hounslow Music Service, Zone One Brass and the Royal College of Music in the project Brass Tracks for advanced young players

The Fund's chief executive, Ginny Greenwood, said 'it is wonderful that thanks to the very generous support of many individual philanthropists and businesses, we are able to fund such musically diverse project across London. We are also proud to be championing sustainable cross-borough collaborations, which will enhance and strengthen long-term music provision.'


FMS and NAME merge to form Music Mark

11 February 2013

Two of the UK’s best-known music education organisations, the Federation of Music Services (FMS) and the National Association of Music Educators (NAME), are joining forces to create a single body to promote 'a joined-up approach across all sectors of music education'. The new organisation will be launched officially on 19 March and will be known as The UK Association for Music Education – Music Mark.

The FMS represents 165 local authority music services, helping them in their dealings with government, while NAME is a professional body representing all areas of music education. Music Mark plans to continue all this work while providing further opportunities for debate, learning and the sharing of best practice to 'improve standards and achieve high quality in music education'.

Virginia Haworth-Galt, chief executive of the FMS, will lead the new organisation, but details of precisely how the merge will work are yet to be disclosed. The FMS is currently run by a small team of paid staff, while NAME is run largely by volunteers with just one paid employee.

'We have created Music Mark in response to the substantial changes in the world of music education,' said Haworth-Galt. 'The two founder organisations have looked to reimagine and reinvent membership services in this radically changed context for music education. There are challenges for music educators across the UK, but we also recognise that there are new opportunities in the world of music education. Clearly membership benefits are important, but what we are driven by is a desire to work with partners to create a coherent and high-quality offer for all children and young people.'

'We are launching on 19 March, and following the launch event we are really looking forward to our first official outing at the forthcoming Music Education Expo,' she added. 'Then it is straight into an extremely busy few months with a music education symposium, a new publication and a major conference.'


Michael Brewer found guilty of sexual abuse

8 February 2013

Mike Brewer, co-founder and former artistic director of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, has been found guilty of sexual abuse at Manchester Crown Court
Mike Brewer, co-founder and former artistic director of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, has been found guilty of sexual abuse at Manchester Crown Court

Mike Brewer, former director of music at Chetham’s School of Music and a founder of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, has today been convicted of sexual abuse at Manchester Crown Court.

It has also emerged that the victim in question, Frances Andrade, is thought to have killed herself during the trial.

The jury found Brewer guilty of sexually abusing the victim in his office at Chetham’s while she was 14 and 15.

His ex-wife, Kay Brewer, 68, was also convicted of indecently assaulting the same victim when she was an adult at their then family home.

Mr Brewer carried out the offences at Chetham's and his Manchester home between 1978 and 1982.Brewer was cleared of one charge of indecently assaulting the victim at his home while she was a child. He was cleared on three further indecent assault charges and was found not guilty of raping Andrade when she was 18. His ex-wife, Hilary Kay Brewer, also 68, was found guilty of indecently assaulting Andrade when she was 18, but found not guilty of aiding and abetting rape.

During the trial it was revealed that Mr Brewer had been forced to resign from his post at Chetham's (leaving in 1994) after a separate incident in which the then headmaster, Peter Hullah, had disturbed Brewer and a pupil in Brewer's office 'when the choirmaster had the girl’s top off', reported the Daily Mail.

'Rev Hullah knocked on the office door when Brewer had the girl’s top off, but while she had time to dress and dash out before he walked in, he became suspicious and ordered an inquiry', said the paper on 30 January.

Pressed by the judge, Brewer admitted the incident had been 'swept under the carpet'. The reason for his resignation at the time was given as being on 'health grounds'.

A statement on the school's website from the current head teacher, Claire Moreland, said the revelations of the trial had 'shocked us to the core'.

'Mr Brewer has been found to have committed the most appalling acts which took place during his time at the school, and he breached the trust placed in him by the school, its staff and most importantly the students.  On behalf of the current school staff I wish to express my profound and sincere apology and regret. And most of all I wish to express the sorrow and sympathy we feel for the family of our former student who died under such tragic circumstances and had to endure so much.

'Having been the head of the school for the last 14 years I can say that during my time child welfare has been at the heart of the school. This has been endorsed by the Independent Schools Inspectorate. Furthermore, the child protection measures we have in place are robust and extensive and reflect the huge improvements in child protection across the education sector.'

In 1983 Mr Brewer became musical director of the National Youth Choir and in 1992 formed Laudibus, the National Youth Chamber Choir. He has also directed the World Youth Choir.
He was immediately suspended from the NYCGB when arrested in April 2012. A statement said: 'The NYCGB has, in the interests of our young members, been in close contact with the police and child protection officers since the allegations were first made. However, neither then nor during the trial have any questions been raised with the NYCGB by the police, or any other individual, which might have suggested that the issues raised at trial reflect Mike Brewer in his role as artistic director of NYCGB.

'All the events which were the subject of the trial occurred before 1994 while Mike was teaching at Chetham’s School. The National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, until the trial, were not aware of the reasons behind Mike Brewer’s resignation from Chetham’s School in 1994.

'Mike Brewer had been planning for retirement before his suspension following the allegations, and we confirm that Mike Brewer no longer has any involvement with NYCGB.' The organisation appointed Ben Parry as its director in August 2012.While we hope that Mike Brewer’s legacies for young singers – including vocal excellence, outstanding performance opportunities, and exploring a vast repertoire – will remain core to NYCGB’s work, we now move forward with our 30th anniversary year.'

Mr Brewer denied rape and eight counts of indecent assault. Kay Brewer denied one count of indecent assault and aiding and abetting rape.

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