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BBC Proms Composers Competition open for entries

17 January 2014

The sixteenth annual BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers’ Competition is open for entries.   

The competition, which is open to students aged 12 to 18, offers winners the opportunity to reach wide audiences, having their music performed by professional musicians and broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Winners also receive a BBC commission.   

Entries are judged by a panel of top composers including Judith Weir, Stuart MacRae and Fraser Trainer, who will be looking for music that is original, unique and inspiring. All entrants are invited to attend Inspire Days, a series of workshops during the BBC Proms 2014 season including workshops, talks, the Young Composers’ Concert at the Royal College of Music and an evening BBC Proms concert. The deadline for entries is 22 May.   

The scheme’s Inspire Composer Labs take place in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast, between February and May 2014. Composer Labs are free and offer young composers the opportunity to work alongside leading composers and professional orchestral musicians. Places can be booked via the Proms website.   

Teachers will also have the opportunity to participate in the scheme by taking part in an Inspire Teachers’ Lab in London on 28 February, run in partnership with the BBC Concert Orchestra and designed to help teachers broaden and explore their compositional teaching skills. For more information and to register interest, email

Institute of Education research links exposure to classical music with enhanced listening skills

13 January 2014

Opportunities to listen extensively to classical music in the early years of primary school are likely to lead to children appreciating a wider range of music in later years, according to a study by Sue Hallam of the Institute of Education (IOE).    

Professor Hallam carried out the research to evaluate the effectiveness of Apollo Music Projects, a music education programme which brings live classical music to children who might not otherwise experience it. The evaluation of the programme showed that children had a positive reaction and had not developed any prejudices against classical music.    

During the course of the project children listened to a range of music including Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Ravel, Shostakovich and Mendelssohn. Hallam’s research found that the process of listening to live classical repertoire enabled children to enhance their listening skills and develop other skills needed for careful listening, including concentration and self-discipline.     

Hallam said: ‘This music programme is unique in focusing on developing children's listening skills through guided exposure to classical music. There is no dumbing down in this programme. It recognises the ability of children to respond to sophisticated ideas and provides them with an opportunity to explore their feelings and use their imagination. Teachers also found an improvement in a range of the children's skills but particularly listening.’    

The programme was originally developed by Apollo Music Projects in partnership with Hackney Music Service. This is the tenth year that it has been delivered in primary schools in Hackney and Tower Hamlets and it is now expanding into neighbouring boroughs.     

Mary Igoe, head teacher of one of the schools involved, said: ‘Working with Apollo Music Projects brings a new dimension to our pupils' appreciation of music. For many of the children it is the first time they have experienced musicians playing classical music before their eyes. There is delight as the sound fills their own classroom and excitement when they attend a public concert. The skills of careful listening and differentiating musical sounds transfer to other areas of the curriculum and improve their ability to concentrate and attend to details.’ 

Big Big Sing launches in Glasgow

13 January 2014

Glasgow is working to put singing centre stage as part of the Commonwealth Games celebrations. Big Big Sing is an initiative of the Glasgow UNESCO City of Music, set to promote singing in the run up to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Events planned so far include Big Big Sing Days, the launch of the Big Big Commonwealth Songbook, and a Schools’ Songwriting Competition.


Events kick off with Big Big Sing Days in Scottish cities, starting with Dundee Caird Hall on 1 February. Further Big Big Sing Days will also take place in Glasgow on 9 February, Edinburgh on 16 February and Aberdeen on 8 March. These events welcome singers of all ages and abilities for a large variety of concerts and workshops. It is hoped that similar events will take place across the whole of the UK between February and June, though nothing was confirmed at time of going to press.   

The musical backbone of the programme is the Big Big Commonwealth Songbook, a series of online resources featuring music from around the Commonwealth. Two songs are on the website already - Corrina Hewat’s newly commissioned One Song and a traditional Samoan song, L’au Lupe. A further nine songs from will be added to the Songbook over the coming months. Songs come with sound files, lyrics and scores, all of which can be downloaded for free.    Big Big Sing is working to promote the songs to choirs throughout the Commonwealth, and they will be heard at singing events including the Big Big BIG Sing in Glasgow on 27 July. This event will bring together thousands of singers and special guests at a location in Glasgow for a mass singing performance.     

Schools have also been invited to participate in the Schools’ Songwriting Competition. Pupils may enter either individually or as a class, and the prize includes having a video of the song made and the chance to perform the song as part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme.  One winning entry will be picked from each of the two categories (Primary School and Secondary School).     

Director of Big Big Sing, Svend Brown said: ‘We firmly believe two things: one is that anyone can sing and the other is that the world is divided into those people who sing and those who do not… yet! Britain is truly blessed in having many amazing organisations and individuals that are passionate and committed about singing – and we want to take the opportunity of the Commonwealth Games year to work with them to champion and boost their work. Everything we do over the coming months we do with the hope that after 2014 many more people will sing regularly than did before, and we want to make it as attractive and easy a thing to do as possible.’        


Music For Youth announces launch of new resource

13 January 2014

Music For Youth (MFY) has launched a new composition resource aimed at supporting KS1-3 music teachers.


Developed by MFY, with sponsorship led by the National Union of Teachers and the Musicians’ Union, Infinity begins with ‘I’ is a new music composition project offering free resources for teachers of 6-12 year olds. The resource incorporates six weeks of creative work aimed at unearthing grass roots talent, and providing a platform for selected groups to perform at the MFY National Festival in Birmingham in July.


The teacher resource pack, written by Madeleine Casson, is available online. Video tutorials will be made available shortly. Teachers can also obtain advice and guidance by submitting work to MFY for review.


All participating schools are invited to bring pupils to the MFY National Festival for an 'Infinity' project day, involving workshop activity and involvement in the rest of the festival. Selected groups will perform their composition.


 Infinity begins with ‘I’ can also be adapted to be used more flexibly for workshops or ongoing creative projects in more informal settings.

Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers
, said: “The NUT believes music education is a vital part of children’s learning and is too often marginalised in the curriculum. Infinity begins with ‘I’ is a high-quality resource which will support teachers to encourage children to participate in music successfully.”

In Harmony Secures Funding for 2015-18

12 January 2014

Arts Council England has confirmed another three years of funding for In Harmony, the UK-based project inspired by El Sistema.

Although exact figures are still subject to negotiations with the government, ACE made a strong commitment to funding In Harmony during the period 2015-18.

ACE’s continuing confidence in the In Harmony programmes stems in part from the positive impact it has had on pupils’ academic attainment, behaviour and general wellbeing. An evaluation conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research, commissioned by ACE, concluded that In Harmony is ‘enhancing children’s social and emotional wellbeing and improving their attitudes to learning.’ Another independent evaluation, focused on the In Harmony Liverpool programme, highlighted ‘excellent musical progress, improved academic achievement in English and Maths, improved school attendance, and increased confidence, aspirations, teamwork, cooperation, resilience and enjoyment of school.’

Julian Lloyd Webber, chairman of Sistema England, said: ‘Sistema England is delighted that the council recognises the very positive impact the In Harmony programmes are having on its children and their communities. We believe that additional funding from 2015 should allow further expansion across England.’

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