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Yorkshire music and drama library saved from threat of closure

15 March 2012

Music groups in the north of England have won their campaign to save the Wakefield-based Yorkshire Libraries Information Music and Drama Service, which was at risk of closure because of financial problems. The collection consists of more than half a million pieces of music as well as 90,000 drama texts.

Hundreds of choirs, bands and orchestras, along with amateur dramatic groups, helped the consortium of councils which runs the service to find new homes for the collection. Music scores will go to Kirklees Council’s Library Service at Red Doles Lane, Huddersfield and will be managed by Fresh Horizons, a not-for-profit social enterprise, while the drama scripts move to Leeds Library.

Robin Osterley, chief executive of Making Music, the umbrella organisation for amateur music groups, says his organisation is 'delighted that the music collection at Wakefield library has been saved for the nation.

'We are grateful for the huge efforts of all concerned in retaining this incredibly important facility. As in most things, it shows that where there's a will there's a way, and we look forward to working with Fresh Horizons to promote the service to our members up and down the land.'

Councillor Andrew Pinnock from Kirklees Council, chairs the Council of Yorkshire Libraries and Information. He said he was 'delighted that these two very important collections have been found new homes. I am particularly pleased that local and national groups will be able to continue to use the music collection, which is an important resource.'

The YLI Music and Drama Service, based at Balne Lane in Wakefield, will close to the public on 31st March 2012. Final details of the new arrangements have not yet been confirmed. For more information, contact andrew.pinnock@kirklees.gov.uk

Next BRIT thing winners crowned

6 March 2012

Nineteen-year-old Paul Shevlin, from Ballymena in Northern Ireland, has beaten off competition from a dozen other finalists to win this year’s Next BRIT Thing General Award in front of an audience of thousands at London's IndigO2. His style was described as 'piano pounding intensity and softly tinkling melancholia' and his prize includes a recording session at Abbey Road and a share of £10,000 worth of instruments from Roland UK. Second place in the General category went to E Whizz & Airbourne, and in third place was Laura Doggett.

The Classical award went to 16-year-old pianist Sarah Gardner from Yarm in North Yorkshire. She started learning the piano at seven and was awarded her DipABRSM at 13. She is now taught by David Murray at The Sage Gateshead. Her prize includes a performance at the Royal Albert Hall as part of Classic FM’s birthday celebrations. Second place went to 17-year-old singer Louisa Haggerty from Cholesbury in Buckinghamshire, and in third place was 14-year-old violinist Paul Botje from Finchley in north London.

The Floodliners won the PRS For Music Songwriting Award for their song Freeze. They win a recording session at Strongroom Studios.

The awards, for 11-19-year-olds, are backed by the UK music industry, The BRIT Awards and the government. Launched last summer, Next BRIT Thing looked for young musicians in any genre to share their performances, compete in online charts and perform live. The aim is to offer young people the opportunity to engage with the music industry, develop their music talent and enjoy the shared experience of being part of a national event.

The competition was organised by the BPI, with the support of the record industry and the sponsorship of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Education. It has brought together all elements of the industry including artists, labels, industry bodies including the Performing Rights Society and the Music Industries Association and sponsors, Peavey and Roland.


Music for Bedford Borough becomes the latest music service to issue redundancy notices

6 March 2012

Bedfordshire has joined Gloucestershire in planning to cut its peripatetic music staff in preparation for the new music hubs which will be implemented across the country in September. Music for Bedford Borough is proposing to reduce the service by approximately four full-time equivalent teaching posts. Teachers who haven’t been offered jobs in the new structure by the end of May will be made redundant at the end of August.

A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said they were 'fiercely committed to continuing to offer high-quality musical opportunities and resources to pupils' and that they had 'begun a formal consultation with our music service staff team with a view to restructuring the service so, despite funding constraints, we can ensure that affordable musical opportunities continue to be available to children and schools within the Borough.'
The Musicians’ Union has warned that this situation is being replicated across the country as the cuts both in the government grant and those from local authorities begin to bite.

'Consultations and the threat of redundancy have a negative effect on an already demotivated workforce and will have the effect of diminishing the musical experience of pupils. This is both against the aspirations of the Henley review and the National Music Plan,' said Diane Widdison, the MU's national organiser for teaching. 'The threat of redundancy in Gloucester represents concerns we have had on the new hub structure being implemented in England. The move away from employment to more hourly paid and self-employed teaching will ultimately undermine the workforce as the already limited career structure for instrumental teachers is further diminished.'

ABRSM is also worried by the redundancies. Commenting on the situation in Gloucestershire, a spokesman said: 'It is, in our view, absolutely vital that the experience and expertise of existing music staff is retained for the benefit of children.  We would welcome assurances that priority will be given to staff being made redundant by the current music service when the new hub is established.

'It is absolutely vital that the new hub is able to provide the ensemble training currently available via the LEA and in that respect continuity of teaching and direction is essential. ABRSM supports music learning for all children through a range of situations from individual, from small groups to larger ensemble training. We want to do all we can to inspire more people to participate in music and motivate them to progress and achieve.'

'Learn to Play Day' to take place on 31 March

5 March 2012

Music for All, the charity for the UK musical instrument industry, has announced a National Learn to Play Day on 31 March offering free instrumental lessons at music shops around the country.

Over 60 music shops will participate nationwide, with drummer Ian Paice of Deep Purple making an appearance at Drumwright in Reading, and Whitesnake’s guitarist Doug Aldrich, drummer Brian Tichy and bassist Michael Devin appearing at Sheehan’s in Leicester.

Commenting on the day, Paice said: 'Being given the gift of being able to create music is an incredible thing and most people don’t allow themselves this pleasure. That's a shame. Try it, you could just make your life a whole lot more fun'.

Other events all over the country including a special piano extravaganza by Markson Piano's at Foyle's book store, Charing Cross Road, London.

National Learn to Play Day participants will be able to experience free lessons on a variety of musical instruments, find out about local music teachers, meet staff from the instrument manufacturers and take advantage of many special offers.

Visit www.learntoplayday.com for the latest news and venue details.

Music education organisations respond positively to Ofsted report

5 March 2012

Music education's various organisations have responded positively to Ofsted's latest music report, which many have perceived as critical of the standard of music education in England's schools.

The National Association of Music Teachers (NAME) said: 'NAME welcomes Ofsted's report on music education because it places music firmly at the heart of high quality music education.'

James Garnett, chair of NAME, said: 'This report has wide-ranging implications for the way that music is taught and for the training and development of music teachers. It empowers music teachers by stating unequivocally that music teaching must be musical. Music cannot be taught and assessed in the same way as English or maths if children and young people are to engage with music and make progress in music.

The Incorportated Society of Musicians (ISM), which was praised in the report for its advocacy work, issued the following statement from chief executive Deborah Annetts: 'This is a critical time for music education, with the implementation of a National Plan, and this clear signal from Ofsted of how music education needs to improve is welcome. All music educators and headteachers must work together to ensure that the use of technology in music is encouraged, and the striking inequalities in provision – particularly by gender – are tackled. The real message here is for headteachers and music educators to engage with the ISM and other bodies to ensure that their staff are able, and confident enough, to teach music to the highest standard.'

The Federation of Music Services (FMS) also welcomed the report, which it saw as stressing 'a need for better partnership working between music services and schools for more music-making in classrooms, better integration between outside initiatives such as whole-class teaching programmes and continuing class music, and for planning for pupils' musical progression.'

Maureen Hanke, chair of the FMS, added: 'The strength of successful hubs will be their ability to work together to embrace the recommendations of the report - especially making music musical, reducing the gender gap and challenging poor quality.'

Read the full story on the report here.

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