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Latest News

Pamela Cook Passes Away

12 July 2013

The choral and musical world was saddened to learn of the death of Pamela Cook in the early hours of this morning, after suffering a stroke last week.

Pamela was held in high regard as an international authority on vocal and choral techniques. Her successful teaching career included positions in universities and music conservatoires across the country, with many of her students currently holding soloist positions in prestigious British and European opera houses.

In 1968, Pamela founded girls’ choir Cantamus. Initially a by-product of her work as head of vocal studies at Birmingham Conservatoire, within three years Cantamus won its first major international prize. Today the choir is made up of 43 teenage girls and is known as one of the most dynamic young choirs in the country. Pamela remained director of the choir until her death.

Pamela’s inspiration was drawn from her pure love of the human voice. ‘It’s a constant source of joy and amazement to me that the human voice can be beautiful, warm, tender, dramatic, exciting, sensual and vibrant – and this possibility is available to everyone who sings,’ she said. ‘What a power-house the conductor has at her finger-tips!’

In 1984, Pamela was appointed MBE. Her work as a teacher and adjudicator took her all over the world, where she has sat on panels of international vocal competitions, delivered lectures in vocal physiology, and coached choirs. Her passion, energy and complete dedication will no doubt be missed – but her legacy lives on in the thousands of singers she inspired during her lifetime.

New National Curriculum: first look

8 July 2013, Alex Stevens

The Department for Education today released details of the proposed new national curriculum, expected to come into effect in September 2014, with music a statutory requirement up to Key Stage 3 (up to age 14).

The structure for music is subtly different from that proposed at the beginning of a consultation process launched in February, adding references to improvisation and music technology.

The consultation officially closes on 8 August but today’s document is a good representation of what teachers in maintained schools will be working to from 2014.

It says that the purpose of studying music is to ‘engage and inspire pupils to develop a love of music and their talent as musicians, and so increase their self-confidence, creativity and sense of achievement,’ so that pupils eventually develop ‘a critical engagement with music, allowing them to compose, and to listen with discrimination to the best in the musical canon’.

The work of great musicians has been added to that of ‘great composers’ as a central pillar of the programme, aiming to ensure that all pupils ‘perform, listen to, review and evaluate music across a range of historical periods, genres, styles and traditions’.

Pupils should ‘learn to sing and to use their voices, to create and compose music on their own and with others, have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, use technology appropriately and have the opportunity to progress to the next level of musical excellence’.

Musical creation is addressed, with improvisation now added to composition as a skill which should be taught at age 7 to 14 (KS2&KS3).

Pupils should be taught both staff and other types of notation in KS2 and KS3, raising the possibility that from 2021, all 14-year-olds could be music readers.

Michael Gove called it ‘a tougher, more rigorous national curriculum’ and placed children’s education in the context of a competitive global economy. ‘It will raise standards across the board and allow our children to compete in the global race,’ he said.

David Cameron said: ‘As a parent this is exactly the kind of thing I want my children to be learning. And as prime minister I know this revolution in education is critical for Britain’s prosperity in the decades to come.’

The outlined plans for music can be read here, from page 217.

Government confirms £272 million spend to 2015 on cultural education

8 July 2013

The Department for Education has formally set down the range of government-backed cultural education opportunities that are open to all young people in England. The document, named Cultural Education, has been compiled in response to Darren Henley’s review of cultural education, published in February last year, which called for young people to have greater access to a variety of cultural experiences. 

The headline statistic is that the government is spending £272 million to 2015 on cultural education. 

Culture minister Ed Vaizey said: 'I hope that this inspires schools and cultural organisations to work more closely together, to find new and exciting ways to engage children in cultural activities.'

The publication comes shortly after the Incorporated Society of Musicians called for the government to commit itself to dedicated funding beyond 2015. 

Amongst the initiatives listed are:

MUSIC EDUCATION HUBS - £171m was pledged to the 123 music education hubs across the country. These hubs offer all school-age children the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and perform as part of an ensemble.

IN HARMONY - The DofE is also committed to supporting the UK branch of El Sistema, which aims to use music as a tool for building communities and improving children's life chances.

NATIONAL YOUTH MUSIC ORGANISATIONS (NYMOs) - These national ensembles for the country's most talented young musicians are jointly funded by Arts Council England and the DofE.

THE MUSIC AND DANCE SCHEME - Over the next year the government will be providing £28.1m to subsidise specialist music and dance schools for exceptionally talented young artists. The scheme currently benefits 2,200 pupils in five music schools and four dance schools across the country.

The document can be viewed in full here.

Free Online Videos For Guitar Diploma Candidates

4 July 2013

The Registry of Guitar Tutors (RGT) is working on a series of free-to-view videos, which will provide support for diploma candidates and teachers. The first video in this series is now available to view online.

Each video is presented by the RGT's chief examiner, Merv Young. Once the 15-minute video is over, there is an option to chat with the presenter online. 

The initial video looks in detail at the rhythmic improvisation techniques required for the DipLCM Electric Guitar Performance Diploma. Future videos in the series will focus on other aspects of the exam, as well as exploring elements of the RGT teaching diplomas. 

RGT Director Tony Skinner says: 'These videos are a great way of developing the playing and teaching skills of both experienced guitar teachers and those who are new to teaching. They enable guitarists from any country to have direct access to helpful playing and teaching tips.'

In Harmony Lambeth strengthens ties with Southbank Centre

2 July 2013

The Southbank Centre has become a major partner with In Harmony Lambeth. Staff from Lambeth Council have joined Southbank Centre host elements of the initiative on site. The London branch of Sistema England, launched in 2009, is one of six national programmes and is jointly funded by Department for Education, Arts Council England and Southbank Centre. 

Inspired by El Sistema, In Harmony aims to ‘achieve musical excellence in an immersive environment to benefit the lives of children and the local community. This commitment to In Harmony Lambeth further strengthens Southbank Centre’s relationship with El Sistema.’ 

Southbank Centre will continue to host ensembles from Venezuela, including the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra, Simón Bolívar National Youth Choir of Venezuela and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, as well as In Harmony groups across the country and projects from around the world. 

The partnership will be enhanced in future years through Southbank Centre’s transformation of the Festival Wing. The new Glass Pavilion at the heart of the new Festival Wing will be built, partly to meet Southbank Centre’s future ambitions for the In Harmony programme The Glass Pavilion will provide much-needed additional space for future nucleo workshops, more access for children and young people to open rehearsals by professional orchestras and work with some of the best musicians from around the world, as well as more opportunities for thousands of young people to experience and perform classical music at Southbank Centre.

On the weekend of 28–30 June, the Southbank Centre turned into a 'nucleo', a Venezuelan-inspired music centre, with music-making opportunities for children, young people and adults from around the country. 

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