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Volunteers needed for pioneering hearing study

12 July 2012

Researchers in Nottingham are recruiting 2,000 volunteers for a large-scale study which aims to find out if loud music really does wreck your hearing.

Experts at the National Institute for Health Research at the University of Nottingham say that surprisingly little research has actually been done into how sustained exposure to loud music affects our hearing in the long term, and that the results which are available are far from conclusive.

The new research project is the first to explicitly examine the effect of long-term exposure to loud music. Volunteers will carry out the 20-minute test online via the unit’s internet research portal. An anonymous questionnaire first collects data on hearing status, other factors that may have caused hearing damage and — most importantly — a lifelong history of music exposure in different environments, including gigs, pubs, clubs and using personal music players.

The volunteers then take a hearing test on their home computer, which measures the ability to hear a set of numbers against a background noise. Used together, the two sets of information allow the team to investigate the true long-term risk of music-induced hearing loss.

The researchers are particularly looking to attract those who work in quiet environments, to rule out some alternative factors in hearing loss. They are looking for the support of large companies to promote the study to their staff. Volunteers should be aged between 30 and 65 — old enough to have been exposed to more loud music than the average teenager, but young enough to be unaffected by age-related hearing loss.

PhD student Robert Mackinnon, who is carrying out the study, said: 'While we are frequently cautioned about the risks of loud music in popular culture and mainstream media, at present the threat remains exactly that — a risk. There simply isn’t enough scientific evidence at present to convincingly confirm or dismiss the danger of music-induced hearing loss.

'The only way we can assess the risk is to specifically gather evidence from an older generation of music listeners who have not just had a few exposures to loud music, but have potentially spent a lifetime exposing themselves to it.

'The results of this study will not just be used to help answer the question of if music exposure is damaging, but how much it is damaging. This will allow us to begin to better define safe listening limits — prevention is better than cure.'

More information is available from Robert Mackinnon, in the National Institute for Health Research National Biomedical Research Unit in Hearing on 0115 823 2600, or at msxrm1@nottingham.ac.uk.

2012 Yamaha jazz scholars announced

6 July 2012

Six of the country’s top jazz students have been given scholarships at the annual Yamaha Awards. The scheme, which is jointly sponsored by Yamaha Music Europe GmbH (UK) in association with Jazzwise, Appjag, PPL and 606 Club, is designed to support young emerging jazz musicians by providing funding and marketing support through performance and recording opportunities.

They winners were given their awards at the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group’s Summer Jazz event at the House of Commons. Prizes went to:

•    Jonathan Davies, a drummer studying at Leeds College of Music
•    Pianist Matt Robinson, a student at the Royal Academy of Music
•    Chris Maddock, who studies alto saxophone at Birmingham Conservatoire
•    Huw Williams, a student from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
•    Tenor saxophone students Alec Harper from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Ben Mallinder from  Trinity Laban Conservatoire

The event, as well as showcasing the talents of the winners, also introduced them to other jazz players, the press, venue operators and record company executives. All six winners, who are about to leave college, received £1,000 to help them with their careers. They will also have the opportunity to feature alongside some of Yamaha’s established jazz artists on The Yamaha New Jazz Sessions 2012 promotional CD.

Yamaha managing director Mike Ketley commented, 'What better way to support the studies and showcase the talent of the UK’s finest upcoming young jazz musicians than through financial assistance, live performance and a recording opportunity that features them alongside major artists in the jazz world.'

ABRSM launches new piano and brass syllabuses

6 July 2012

ABRSM has launched new piano and brass syllabuses, which will take effect from 1 January 2013. The old syllabuses will remain valid for the first exam session of next year.
The piano syllabus comprises 158 newly selected pieces from a range of classical and contemporary composers. The syllabus will be supported by new piano exam pieces sheet music and recordings. Further support for piano teachers will be available in late 2012, through a series of seminars to introduce the new repertoire.

ABRSM says that highlights of the new piano syllabus include 'a colourful range of works from a diverse array of countries', including Chinese pieces at Grades 2 and 6, a piece by the Venezuelan composer Federico Ruiz at Grade 4 and a rare Chopin arrangement of a Polish song at Grade 3.

The brass syllabus will feature new pieces for Horn, E flat Horn, Baritone/Euphonium and Tuba. New publications and recordings will also be available, and there will be conference sessions on the pieces in the autumn term. The syllabus includes a range of more instrument-specific pieces than in the past. At the higher grades there is also a selection of pieces from the brass band repertoire, including works by Gordon Higginbottom, Robert and David Childs, and Steven Mead.


Music educator John Stephens becomes 130th honorary member of the Royal Philharmonic Society

6 July 2012

John Stephens, a pioneering figure in musical education, has been made an honorary member of the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS). He is the 130th person to receive the award since 1826. Previous recipients include Brahms, Stravinsky and George Benjamin.

'There is a great reservoir of latent musical talent in our schools, conservatoires and universities, and I have been privileged to see that develop over the last 60 years,' he said. 'That talent flourishes when music educators and professional musicians come together to support, nurture and inspire - but most of all to make music together.'

John Stephens played a key part in the development of the London Schools Symphony Orchestra, while also starting many educational programmes, including the first schools’ educational projects of the Royal Opera House (ROH) and the London Sinfonietta. At the ROH he served as music advisor, a post he also held at Wigmore Hall, the London Symphony Orchestra, Trinity College of Music and Youth Music. He received an OBE in 1999 for services to musical education.

The London Schools Symphony Orchestra performed at the awards ceremony at the Barbican, in a programme that included Jeff Moore’s River Journey, a piece commissioned by Stephens for the London Symphony Orchestra and nearby primary schools.

Rosemary Johnson, the RPS's executive director, praised Stephens's contribution to music: 'He brings to everything he does experience, astuteness, an incisive and clear mind, a respect for colleagues and, above all, a belief in the creative abilities of young people and in the power of music to enhance their lives.'

Stephens added: 'Musical talent is not prescribed by parental income or postcode; it is not confined by either gender or ethnic background; it is not restricted by musical genre or idiom. Quite straightforwardly, it is at the heart of every civilised community. Politicians and parents, teachers and musicians must all ensure that young people have the opportunity to develop their talent.'

BBC Inspire winning composers announced

5 July 2012

This year’s BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers’ Competition winners have been announced, with two teenage boys and a girl taking the top prizes.

Winners in the 12-16 category were Freddie Meyers from Surrey, who wrote Three Apparitions, and Alex Woolf from Cambridgeshire, who composed Mermish. Sarah Gait from Cumbria won the 17-18 category with Portrait of a Moor. All three win a BBC Proms performance, a broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and a BBC commission.

Now in its 14th year, the competition offers a platform for young composers, providing an opportunity to have their music played by professional musicians and broadcast on BBC Radio 3. This year’s panel of judges was chaired by Fraser Trainer and included Michael Emery, Stuart MacRae, Anna Meredith, Nico Muhly, Martin Suckling and Peter Wiegold. The winning works will be performed by the Aurora Orchestra at the Royal College of Music on 4 August, and an edited version will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 16 August.

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