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What is the value of higher education music?

4 December 2013

A roundtable discussion was recently held at the Royal Academy of Music in order to discuss the current status and value of music in higher education. A panel comprising senior figures from higher education, sixth form education and the arts industry met to share their ideas and opinions on the topic.

In some areas, the position of music in higher education looks promising: Ucas applications to study music rose by 3.5% in 2013. However this was not matched by the number of prospective higher education music applicants, with A-level music entries down by 7%. Those applying for higher education courses are under more financial strain than ever before, and consequently there is a great deal of pressure to opt for ‘facilitating subjects’ – those which will open up the widest possible range of careers for the student.

Participants in the roundtable discussion agreed unanimously that studying music at higher education level provides a superlative set of transferable skills, making a music graduate highly employable. However, many contributors were extremely uncomfortable at this way of looking at music education, feeling that too much focus is being laid on the economic value of studying music when the crucial factor is the education itself.

‘It's time for music departments to wake up and promote more clearly their value and benefits,’ said one contributor. ‘The value of higher education music itself has been clouded by the panic over school music. We don't sell music at higher education by saying it will make you more literate, or better at maths. It has an innate value.’

The panel also discussed issues surrounding access to music at higher education level. There was a general feeling of discomfort at the fact that higher education music places are largely taken up by graduates of specialist music schools or private schools. One speaker pointed a finger at the government for failing to promise funding for music hubs beyond 2015. Without government support it would be near-impossible for the majority of LEAs to find enough money to train students up to the standard needed to study music at higher education.

By way of conclusion, members of the panel were decisive about the need for higher education music departments to be more active in promoting the value of music in a public forum.

The Panel:

Harry White, music and education journalist, chair  
Prof Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, principal, Royal Academy of Music 
Norman Lebrecht, novelist and cultural commentator 
Gillian Moore, head of classical music, Southbank Centre 
Chris Walters, head of teacher development, Trinity College London 
Clive Williamson, pianist and professor of music, University of Surrey 
Helen Diffenthal, assistant principal, Farnborough Sixth Form College 
Lucinda Rumsey, senior admissions tutor, Mansfield College, University of Oxford 
Eleanor Gussman, head of LSO Discovery

MFY Regional Festival series: sign up this week!

4 December 2013

Music For Youth's Regional Festival series will be taking place across the UK between February and April 2014. Young musicians aged 21 and under have until 9 December to sign up.

The Regional Festival series is a wonderful opportunity for young music ensembles to perform for free, and receive feedback and advice from professional musicians on how to develop their performances further. Some groups will be selected to progress to other national events, such as the National Festival Birmingham and the Schools Prom.

Any group can take part in the MFY Regional Festival, which is sponsored by ABRSM and open to all musical styles and standards. Last year around 1,500 bands performed all over the country, featuring 40,000 young musicians. 

Judith Webster, chief executive of MFY, said: 'The Regional Festivals are accessible to everyone who simply loves getting together to play music: from those who are starting out learning an instrument right the way through to young people who are set on making a career out of music. Music presents a world of opportunities for enjoyment, discipline, having fun, learning new skills and that buzz of performing live. We urge everyone to apply by 9 December.'

If you have a music group of your own, or know a group who could take part, visit the MFY website to apply.

New research into music provision for deaf children

3 December 2013

A report has just been published on the musical opportunities available for young deaf children (under the age of five) in the Humber Region and York.

The research was conducted by Music4U, and funded by Youth Music's Musical Inclusion programme. Carried out over the last year, the project examined current levels of provision for young deaf children in the areas of York, East Riding of Yorkshire, Hull, North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire. The report also looked at emerging trends in music provision that are being developed in areas of technology and academia.

Douglas Lonie, research and evaluation manager for Youth Music, commented: 'This report is  an extremely valuable contribution to the evidence base demonstrating the importance of music-making for young children. The ability to express oneself musically is an important element of all children’s development and can help with stronger communication, language and motor skills throughout childhood. Children who are deaf deserve the same opportunities to develop in and through music as hearing children and we have an obligation to develop our understanding and practice in this area. This research provides a fantastic opportunity to do just that.'

The report is currently available for download from the Music4U website.

Introducing the UK's First Online Music Degree

2 December 2013

British company E-Mu has developed a new digital music degree that is being launched this week. This is the first qualification of its kind in Europe, and will allow music students the chance to study for a full Bachelor of Arts in Music (BA) from £3,500 a year.

E-Mus degrees can be completed over two-years on a full-time basis, or spread part-time over four years. The total cost of the two-year course is £9,000 - around one third of the cost of a location-based degree.

Run in conjunction with the University of Fulmouth, E-Mu degree students will receive one-to-one tuition online with experienced professional musicians from their chosen field. From September 2014 degrees will be available in guitar, song writing and music management, with further courses in bass, drums and vocals coming soon. 

The degrees have been developed by the founders of the Brighton Institute of Modern Music (BIMM) - Kevin Nixon, Sarah Clayman and Bruce Dickinson. 'If you look at today’s top talent, a huge number of them have found success following quality music education,' says Kevin Nixon. 'But the next generation of professional musicians are faced with academic choices they might not want, and prices they can’t pay. E-MU provides the alternative – an affordable degree gained through world class, online tuition. The future of music is digital and so is the future of music education.'

Interested applicants can find out more by visiting the E-Mu website.

Orchestra of the Swan wins grant from The People's Millions

29 November 2013, Toby Deller

The Orchestra of the Swan has been awarded £49,822 by the national grants programme The People’s Millions for its schools project Antony and Cleopatra – The Musical!

The programme, which is run by the Big Lottery Fund in partnership with ITV, distributes grants of up to £50,000 to community projects throughout the United Kingdom. The recipients are chosen by the general public by telephone vote from a regional shortlist drawn up by the organisers.

Antony and Cleopatra – The Musical! will involve children from Welcombe Hills school in Stratford-upon-Avon and Bray’s school in Birmingham, both special schools. Jane Edgerton, head teacher of Bray’s, said, ‘We are simply thrilled that Orchestra of the Swan has been successful in their bid to the People’s Millions. Our children are very special and Anthony and Cleopatra - The Musical! is a tremendous opportunity for our children to work with this wonderful orchestra.’

Beginning in early 2014, children will take part in workshops and rehearsals with the orchestra and professional singers, culminating in public performances towards the end of the year. The Stratford-based orchestra is collaborating with Coventry theatre company Talking Birds to create the project which will be written by Nick Walker with music by Derek Nisbet, and directed by Peter Cann. It will be the companies’ third schools collaboration together, following their earlier Homer-inspired productions Space Odyssey and Troy Story. 

David Curtis, artistic director of Orchestra of the Swan, said, ‘This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for us to work with wonderful children, their teachers and support staff. Through Central TV, Twitter, Facebook and other media, over 500,000 people now know about Antony and Cleopatra - The Musical! and we very much hope that our new friends will follow us and these children on our journey next year.’

While other music projects have been supported by The People’s Millions since it began in 2005, this is the first award made to an orchestra-run project. In all, it has made 523 awards worth over £27.8 million. Many of these have funded projects benefiting young and disadvantaged people, as well as performance, community building and regeneration work, sports facilities and leisure activities. The 2013 round of awards has a total budget of £3.8 million and will benefit 76 projects, four per ITV region. 

Details of the 2014 scheme will be announced in the new year, with the application period expected to open in the spring.

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