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Rockschool announces specialist syllabus for guitar, bass and drums

3 April 2012

Rockschool, Europe’s leading rock exam board, has launched a new syllabus for guitar, bass and drums, with bespoke pieces from specialist writers.  The syllabus features Grammy award-winning guitarist Larry Carlton and session percussionist Nir Z, whose credits include Genesis, Chris Cornell and John Mayer. 

A Rockschool spokesman says that producer Nick Davis, who has worked with Genesis, Deep Purple and Bjork, has helped achieve stylistic authenticity by using top session musicians: 'The overall final result is commercial quality recordings that deliver the best production values and tracks to learn and play along to'.

Musicians used on the tracks include drummers Noam Lederman and Jason Bowld, guitarists Charlie Griffiths and Stuart Ryan and bass players Henry Thomas and Dave Marks. Other contributors include guitarist Kit Morgan, of Curved Air, Peter Huntingdon, an occasional drummer with the Who, and sound designer and hip hop drum specialist Neel Dhorajiwala, as well as Colin Wollway and Deirdre Cartwright.

In preparation for the launch, Rockschool talked to students and teachers and used their comments as a guide to developing the syllabus, which 'represents an accumulation of more than 20 years’ experience in the design and delivery of graded examinations in popular music all around the world.'

There are a number of new features and refinements, including a revised marking scheme which should make it easier to understand, and help to improve quality and consistency.

The syllabus has been designed to recognise that performers often want to concentrate on a particular musical genre and thus allows a high degree of flexibility in musical choice. All the supporting test and exercises are designed to support a candidate’s musical skills, enabling them to approach the performance pieces with confidence, as well as providing many of the tools needed for improvisation.

'As students move through the grades, developing a greater sense of style and taste, a greater degree of choice and specialism is available - reflecting the realities of how pop musicians learn, perform and progress,' said the spokesman.


Music for Youth appoints Judith Webster as new chief executive

22 March 2012

Music for Youth has appointed Judith Webster as its new chief executive. She replaces Lincoln Abbotts, who is moving to ABRSM as teaching and learning development director. Webster currently leads Youth Music's national youth singing project, which is part of the Cultural Olympiad.

'Music for Youth is a hugely successful organisation, earning its place in the hearts of large numbers of teachers and young people all over the country,' she said. 'It will be a privilege to have the opportunity to build on recent developments and to be part of its continuing success.'

Webster has almost 20 years’ experience of working in music education. She ran the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s Community and Education Programme for a decade before becoming Head of Education Strategy for the London Sinfonietta and Interim Director of Programmes for Youth Music. More recently, she designed and led the Postgraduate Diploma course in Creative Leadership for the Royal College of Music. She also runs a music education consultancy practice.

David Hamid, chairman of Music for Youth, said he was delighted by the appointment. 'We ran a thorough recruitment process with some high calibre candidates. Judith has a huge amount of experience to draw on as she leads the organisation into its next phase of development.'


Chetham's officially opens new extension

22 March 2012

Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester has officially opened its £31m extension. The building houses two new concert halls and an outreach centre as well as practice and teaching rooms. Chets is the largest school in the Department for Education’s Music and Dance Scheme, with 290 students between the ages of eight and 18. 'We have seized the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire the land adjacent to our current site with the school’s developmental journey in mind,' said Claire Moreland, the head. 'Our new facilities will take Chetham’s and its music-making into a whole new era, unmatched in this age-group.'

The new site spans seven floors, at the heart of which is an atrium which can be used for performances. There are also two new performances spaces: a 400-seat concert hall and a 100-seat recital hall, as well as an outreach centre, which will allow the school to continue working with community groups, young musicians and people who use music as a form of therapy.

Stephen Threlfall, director of music, said everyone was extremely excited about the move. 'These facilities are long-awaited as we have existed for over 30 years in what was considered "temporary" accommodation. It presents new opportunities for how we deliver our music programme for our students and it will greatly enhance both our creative and community activities.'

The new building lies between the school’s original medieval site, which dates back to 1421, and Victoria railway station. A steel footbridge across the River Irk links the two buildings. The school hopes eventually to open a visitor attraction based around its nearby medieval buildings. The building has been designed by Roger Stephenson Architects and the project is funded by the Department for Education, the North West Regional Development Agency and the school itself.


York University marks 30 years of gamelan teaching with symposium

15 March 2012

The University of York is to mark 30 years of teaching gamelan with an international symposium, The Gathering of the Gamelans. The event will culminate in the premiere of Wayang Lokananta (the Gamelan of the Gods), an all-night shadow puppet play, with traditional and new music performed by musicians from across Britain.

One of the organisers, Ginevra House, said: 'York was the first university in the UK to have a Javanese gamelan, and many of today’s top British performers had their first experience of playing Indonesian music here. To celebrate this anniversary, we wanted to bring the British – and indeed the international – gamelan community together, to share ideas and best practice, to learn together and, especially, to perform together.'

A gamelan is an ensemble of tuned bronze percussion and other instruments, typically from Indonesia. Wayang Lokananta was commissioned for this event, weaving together myth, legend and folktales about music from the island of Java with the modern story of gamelan in Britain. The play will bring together more than 100 British gamelan musicians from 15 ensembles across England, Scotland and Wales.

Wayang Lokananta takes place during a four-day symposium, running from 26-29 April, aimed at gamelan performers, composers, academics, teachers and the wider community of ethnomusicologists. Delegates will be joined by Bapak Aloysius Suwardi, a composer, performer, instrument maker and academic from Java, who was a prominent figure in the rise of the Indonesian avant-garde movement in the 1980s.


Drake Music publishes nationwide SEND music consultation

15 March 2012

A nationwide consultation into problems faced by young people with disabilities who want to be involved in music education has shown that 'poor organisation and planning can be as significant a barrier to participating in music as the nature of a person’s disability'.

Drake Music, which carried out the study, works with disabled musicians of all ages, using technology to develop new resources and approaches. Their report, entitled Disabling Barriers to Formal Music Education, was commissioned before both the National Plan for Music Education and Ofsted's recent music report were published, but Drake Music says its findings are in line with both reports, which emphasise the need for equal opportunities for all pupils.

The study, say its authors, offers 'significant insight' into the experiences of the SEN/disabled young people and the musicians, teachers and music educators who work with them. Among the study's key findings are the facts that poor organisation and planning can be as significant a barrier to participating in music as the nature of a person’s disability, and that teachers need an improved range of skills in terms of making music accessible for SEN/disabled people.

The young people questioned also found it hard to access 'not only buildings and musical instruments but also the vital business of joining social networks and feeling part of a wider "musical crowd" that goes to gigs and performs for fun'. Teachers themselves said that 'a lack of time for planning and delivery is the biggest barrier to quality music provision for SEND pupils and students, and is more significant than needing money for equipment'. Some also felt that 'many people in education have low expectations of what SEND pupils and students can achieve in formal music education'. Teachers also said they needed more support in terms of training, using equipment and finding information on accessible music courses and resources.

Drake Music is now recommending that all institutions providing music education for SEND students - including schools, colleges, universities, hubs, exam boards and other music and arts organisations - must 'prioritise and regularly re-assess' using proper benchmarks. Key staff must be given enough time for planning and in timetabling, and 'students must be enabled to get to sessions, set up, participate meaningfully, pack away and get to their next engagement'. Formal musical pathways, including exams, should fit with a flexible, personalised approach to quality SEND provision and all spending on musical equipment should include a percentage of spending on training in 'how, why, when and with whom to use the equipment.'

As well as recommending a better use of technology and more comfortable rooms, the report advises that students also get  'opportunities to experience live music as a performer and audience member, both within institutions and outside in the wider world, in accessible music venues.' The full report can be found at www.drakemusic.org.

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