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York Baroque Strings Project: the highlights

9 December 2013

Young string players from York Arts Academy are preparing for a concert on 14 December where they will play alongside members of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) in the York Early Music Christmas Festival. This concert is the culmination of several workshops for young string players who have reached at least grade five standard, as part of the York Baroque Strings Project.

Funded by Youth Music, the project is a year-long collaboration between the OAE, National Centre for Early Music and the York Arts Academy. So far participants have benefited from a workshop for teachers, as well as two weekend workshops for young string players run by members of the OAE which focused on how to play baroque music in an exciting and stylistic way.

‘The project has been extraordinarily successful to date, and the group are visibly growing in confidence as well as musical expression,’ says Delma Tomlin, director of the NCEM. ‘The project has opened up a new sound world for these young musicians, which is all very exciting and exactly what we believe education is meant to be about!’

The final part of the project takes place on 29 March 2014. Violinist Rachel Podger will hold a masterclass for the young musicians who performed in the Christmas concert. They will receive specialist coaching on a baroque piece of their choice, before coming together as an orchestra to accompany a concerto performed by Rachel.

Online resources for string teachers will be made available as part of the project. Audio and video clips from members of the OAE will be compiled by the NCEM, covering techniques and aspects of performance style that are relevant to baroque music. These resources will be up on the NCEM website from May 2014.

One person, one day, six grade eight exams...

6 December 2013

Yesterday Russell Lock, a 23-year old peripatetic teacher from Sandwell in the West Midlands, took on the marathon task of sitting grade eight exams on six different instruments in one day, raising funds for Cancer Research UK in the process.

Mr Lock's repertoire for the day comprised 18 pieces, spread between the trumpet, tenor horn, euphonium, bass trombone, trombone and tuba. His fundraising was given a boost by Trinity College London who waived the exam fees, John Packer Music Instruments who loaned the instruments for the day, and Denis Wick who supplied all necessary mouthpieces and accessories. 

Russell said: 'I'm happy with how the charity event has gone thus far and I am already considering the next challenge being a Grade 8 on each family of instruments in a day.’

Donations to Cancer Research UK can be made by visiting Russell Lock's JustGiving page. 100% of funds raised will go to charity.

Farewell and congratulations to Jonathan Reekie

5 December 2013

Jonathan Reekie, the chief executive of Aldeburgh Music, is set to leave his position in spring 2014 to take up a job as director of Somerset House Trust.

Mr Reekie has been at Aldeburgh for sixteen years, during which time he has overseen the redevelopment of the concert hall at Snape Maltings and led the celebrations for Benjamin Britten's centenary.

Commenting on his plans, Mr Reekie said: 'I never imagined I would stay in Aldeburgh for such a long time. What has kept me there is the combination of the inspirational place, the richness of the Britten legacy and the wonderfully supportive trustees and staff. I shall always treasure the time I have spent there and look forward to taking much of what I have learnt, particularly in the area of nurturing talent, into my next challenge. I envy the person who will follow me in running such a special place, and feel extraordinarily lucky to be moving onto somewhere equally special.'

We wish Jonathan Reekie congratulations and all the very best of luck with his new position at Somerset House.

December crossword - CORRECT version

5 December 2013

Apologies to all those mystified by the crossword in the December issue of Music Teacher magazine - the wrong grid found its way in. Here is the correct version!

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

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