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EMERGE(NCY) PARTY

This month’s guest blog is from a new initiative called EMERGE(NCY) PARTY which launches at the beginning of May. The initiative is aimed at asking young people how the world could change for the better after the Covid-19 crisis. It gives young people a voice in the crisis, to protest, to share and to celebrate – an opportunity to imagine and explore a better future through art.

EMERGE(NCY) PARTY

The project is open to young people aged between 12 and 18, who are interested in making art/theatre/music/film, community organising, forms of protest or simply have something to say in the midst of the current crisis.

EMERGE(NCY) PARTY part 1 will take place over 15 weeks from the beginning of May to the beginning of August with weekly online Zoom sessions for participants. These sessions will take the form of discussion and making workshops, including a check-in about how participants are individually coping, a discussion around ideas for positive community action and a practical workshop on a particular art form leading to that week’s creative assignment.

Themes of these workshops will include:

Personal Storytelling, Creative Limitations, Interviewing Techniques, Portraiture, Art as a Form of Protest, and Community Art

Creative assignments will include:

Photography, soundscapes and field recordings, making and editing short films, writing, theatre making, song writing, painting and drawing

The participants will be offered a creative mentor in an area of the arts that interests them, in order to help guide their creative responses to the tasks.

The young artist’s responses to assignments will be hosted online, at WWW.EMERGENCYPARTY.ORG which will archive their collective journeys.

Part 2 of EMERGE(NCY) PARTY will move offline once social distancing policies are being relaxed. This will offer young people the opportunity to organise celebratory community gatherings where they will showcase or exhibit their creative journeys. These events will be a chance for the young people to bring their local communities together again after isolation, reflect on their experiences and share their ideas for positive local initiatives moving forwards. They may involve, for example, a shared meal, hosted talks, performed readings or songs.

Sixty-five young people are already participating all over the country from Aberdeen to Coventry to London and the project hopes to engage 60 more in the coming two weeks.

The project is FREE to sign up to. There is a suggested donation for those who can afford it. All donations will go towards the running of the project and all profits will be donated to YOUNGMiNDS: https://youngminds.org.uk/

The Team

The team behind EMERGE(NCY) PARTY are Bethany West and Barney McElholm (Assistant Directors, Shakespeare’s Globe 2019), Emma Stones (NZ Fringe & RA Lates) and Jude Shapiro (British Red Cross). The project was inspired by Rebecca Solnit’s impassioned challenge to the social meaning of disasters in her book, A Paradise Built in Hell, which explores the social meaning of disasters.

The current crisis has radically and abruptly flipped the world for young people. They are being asked to make sense of cancelled exams, to accept that their teachers’ opinions will determine their futures, to cope with being separated from peer groups at a time in life when this is so fundamental, to live in close proximity to family at an age when independence is so important. And this is all a mere backdrop to the terrifying global battle between life and death; where their parents’ fears for their livelihoods and vulnerable relatives might, understandably, take precedence over the teenager’s stresses and anxieties

Bethany West, Co-Director EMERGE(NCY) PARTY

For too long our society has been built around supporting the voices of an aging voting population; making multigenerational decisions on Europe, the climate crisis and state debt. Triple lock pension increases holding hands with the cancellation of free school dinners. Young people have either been excluded from political discourse or worse, vilified by our leaders. We are giving young people a voice. It will be a voice of intelligence, ingenuity and hope.

Barney McElholm, Co-Director EMERGE(NCY) PARTY

Government Bulldozes on with EBacc Despite Evidence

Last week, a notable eighteen months after the EBacc consultation closed, the Department for Education (DfE) finally published its response to the ISM’s Bacc for the Future campaign. And music industry and educational professionals have been scathing in their reaction.

A brief report titled trends in arts subjects in schools where English Baccalaureate entry has increased accompanies the DfE’s response, asserting that the EBacc has had no negative affect on arts take-up in schools.

The data used by the DfE in compiling this document is described by the ISM as

partial, out of date, and insufficiently rigorous in its analysis

The document, in which the government once again rebuffs claims that entries to arts subjects have fallen as a result of the EBacc, saying there is ‘no evidence’ that this is the case, contradicts both the rigorous research carried out by the University of Sussex earlier in 2017 and uptake figures and GCSE results published by Ofqual, the Joint Council for Qualifications and the DfE.

As predicted by the ISM throughout its campaign – a drive involving more than 200 organisations from across industry and education, head teachers and more than 100,000 individuals – data from both sources shows a substantial decline in arts uptake at GCSE level since the new EBacc was proposed in 2015.

In fact, despite the Government’s assertions to the contrary, Ofqual’s figures confirm a decline of 38,000 students, or 8% from 2016 to 2017, and the University of Sussex says that this year, 59.7% (393) of state schools it surveyed specifically stated that EBacc has had a negative impact on the provision and uptake of music, both within and beyond the curriculum.

A report published by the ISM in June showed that the number of pupils taking music at GCSE level dropped from 41,850 to 38,750 between 2016 and 2017. In June, the ISM also reported on a school that had decided to cut music lessons from its curriculum due to budget cuts.

The DfE schools census itself shows that the number of arts teachers has fallen by 16% since 2010, and the number of arts teaching hours has fallen by 17%. Schools are so squeezed by cuts to funding that music and other creative subjects are no longer a priority. Children are getting less access to arts in schools than they were in 2010, all contributing to a devastating impact on the uptake of creative subjects at GCSE.

The DfE report offers statements about the uptake of arts subjects but does not provide the underlying data. It gives no information on school make-up, size, geography, demographic, or number of arts subjects taken.

It states:

There is little correlation between the change in EBacc entry and the change in arts uptake in state-funded mainstream schools. The small correlation that exists suggests that schools where EBacc entry has increased tend to have also seen an increase in their arts uptake.

The Cultural Learning Alliance (CLA) suggests that this statement is based on data from the New Schools Network (NSN) report published in February 2017, which made the same claim, and disagrees with its analysis on the following basis:

  • NSN used GCSE entries from 2011 as a baseline, when the EBacc had already been introduced: CLA uses 2010
  • NSN excluded Design & Technology GCSE, and Independent School entries, which the CLA include in their figures

And the ISM says,

The data does not accurately reflect the new EBacc proposed in a consultation in November 2015. Since the new EBacc was launched, we have seen a consistent decline in the uptake of arts subjects (8% in 2016 and a further 8% in 2017) AND a decline in pupils taking ‘at least one arts subject’ for the first time since 2012.

However, the government’s consultation response, acknowledging the fact that preserving subjects such as the arts was the most-raised issue by the parents that responded to the consultation, goes on to suggest that there is a

small positive correlation

between school EBacc entries and arts entries, meaning schools that take on the EBacc also increase arts entries.

So who is telling the truth?

Writing for Schools Week, the ISM’s Chief Executive, Deborah Annetts says,

For a government that claims to care about economic growth, social mobility, diversity and the creative industries, the decision to press ahead with the EBacc policy is short-sighted and misconceived.

Throughout the Bacc for the Future campaign, the ISM has argued that the absence of creative subjects within the EBacc system will have a long-term, negative impact on the creative industries within the UK, but the government is still refusing to listen.

Creative Industries Chief Executive John Kampfner says,

The creative industries have been identified as one of five priority sectors in the governement’s industrial strategy in recognition of their economic contribution. However the Department for Education has not answered the sector’s concerns by continuing to sideline creative education in favour of academic subjects.

The Musician’s Union national organiser of education and training, Diane Widdison, agrees:

We are very disappointed that concrete evidence showing the EBacc is having a detrimental effect on the take-up of arts subjects within schools has been ignored by the government in its response to the consultation.

Our concern is that art subjects, such as music, are gradually disappearing from the curriculum and often are only offered as extra subjects with pupils being charged for their delivery.

This results in many pupils missing out of the opportunity to study arts subjects within school, and teachers of these subjects leaving the profession due to the lack of opportunity and recognition.

While Deborah Lawson, General Secretary of trade union, Voice, pulls no punches in describing the EBacc as,

narrow, restrictive and pointless

 What is the EBacc?

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is a school performance measure. It allows people to see how many pupils get a grade C or above in the core academic subjects at key stage 4 in any governement-funded school.

We introduced the EBacc measure in 2010. In June 2015, we announced our intention that all pupils who start year 7 in September 2015 take the EBacc subjects when they reach their GCSEs in 2020.

We ran a consultation on how to implement the EBacc from 3 November 2015 to 29 January 2016.

The EBacc is made up of: English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences,  a language”

 From the http://www.gov.uk EBacc policy document

[Image: Ofqual, via gov.uk]

While damage to creative subjects is significant, with the Cultural Learning Alliance reporting a 27% drop in arts entries since 2010, implementation of the EBacc is already compromised. Plans to have 90% of all pupils in England studying this combination of core academic subjects by 2020 have been abandoned. Instead, Education Secretary Justine Greening has announced, 75% of pupils will be expected to take up the EBacc by 2022, and the 90% target has been pushed back to 2025.

And while arguments rage over its long-term effect, the EBacc is seen as out of date by education experts. General secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton says,

It’s hard to see what purpose it serves any more.

It helps neither students, parents, teachers, nor school leaders. In our view, and in line with the chief inspector of schools, schools should provide a curriculum with an academically rigorous core for all, plus broader opportunities in the arts and sport.

What schools and colleges offer should be driven by the needs of their students and communities, not by centrally-set targets.

And according to Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the NUT teaching union,

Research carried out by Kings College London for the NUT showed that 74% of teachers believed that the EBacc has narrowed the key stage 4 curriculum offer in their school. Arts and technical subjects are often the losers.

Courtney’s message is bleak:

The government’s persistence with a measure which reduces students’ opportunities to take part in such subjects risks disengaging them from education altogether.

[Image: Tiffany Bailey]

 

If you would like to respond to the claims made in the DfE’s report, contact Henry at the ISM for a copy of the two-page rebuttal document which was sent internally to campaign supporters.

Or write to the Prime Minister using this link: http://www.baccforthefuture.com


If you’d like to know more about the Music Workshop Company…

Contact MWC today:

The Threat to EUYO – A European Tragedy

The musical community reacted with dismay and disbelief last month at the news that the European Union Youth Orchestra (EUYO) was to close in September 2016 following a loss of funding from the EU.

Immediately, huge numbers of supporters from across the globe joined the campaign to #SaveEUYO.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians expressed the feelings of music lovers and musicians, saying,

This news is devastating and we urge the Commissioner to reverse this decision and find ways to continue to support this ensemble. The European Union Youth Orchestra (EUYO) is a unique ensemble, bringing together the promising young musicians from 28 countries; it has produced some of the most celebrated top musicians of our generation. The fact that this ensemble cannot be recognised as the asset that it is, is nothing short of a tragedy.

The EUYO, originally called the European Community Youth Orchestra, has existed since 1976. Founded by Lionel and Joy Bryer, respectively the Chairman and Secretary General of the International Youth Foundation of Great Britain, the plan was to create an orchestra that would represent the European ideal of a community working together to achieve peace and social understanding.

After nearly 40 years successfully fulfilling this role, the announcement came that the orchestra was to close because of a policy change. The news was not the result of a targeted funding cut, but the result of a decision that there should be no cultural funding for individual organisations. The idea behind this policy, which actually involves a 7% increase in overall funding, was to encourage national organisations to become more ‘European’ and, in a move described by arts writers and musicians as “ignorant,” overlooked the pan-European nature of the EUYO.

[Image: Peter Adamik]

[Image: Peter Adamik]

As arts journalist and former arts correspondant for the Times, Simon Tait, explained in his column, Taitmail,

It is not because of some artistic judgement by the funding authorities; it isn’t that the orchestra has had a dip in form, or that audiences have stopped coming to hear it; there is no funding crisis that makes the EUYO an intolerable luxury. It is being killed because it doesn’t fit a new policy: it isn’t a national body seeking to become more European by forging partnerships with other national bodies in other European countries in the current imperative; it is an existing pan-European organisation, and they are no longer to be funded. The EUYO was the result of a European Parliament resolution of 1976 and until 2013 was supported as a cultural ambassador for the EU. It has players from all 28 member states and its quality is such that it has been conducted by Bernstein, Karajan, Barenboim and Rostropovich, and its music directors have even the likes of Abbado, Ashkenazy, Haitink and currently Petrenko. It has performed in all the great concert halls of the world in four continents, 43 countries and 177 cities, and its 3,000 alumni now populate the orchestras of the world.

In a time when politics is raw with arguments over Brexit and peace is regularly shattered by news of conflict, terrorist attacks, immigration and division amongst communities, the EUYO is a strong symbol of unity and the power of music. Bernard Haitink Conductor Laureate European Union Youth Orchestra says,

For 40 years the European Union Youth Orchestra has been the very definition of excellence and commitment, consistently proving the value of bringing together young people from diverse European cultures. At a moment of such challenge for Europe, it is simply unthinkable that this beacon could be destroyed by lack of support and nurturing from the EU. Simply unthinkable.

[Image: Peter Adamik]

[Image: Peter Adamik]

The orchestra also provides an essential professional development experience for young orchestral musicians. Direction from experienced, acclaimed conductors, who over the years have included Claudio Abado, Sir Colin Davis, Leonard Bernstein, Daniel Barenboim, Herbert von Karajan and Vladimir Ashkenazy, allows players to develop their knowledge of key repertoire, experience the joys and challenges of touring and develop a network of peers across the EU. Working with top musicians on a range of repertoire in top concert halls across the world is an important experience for those about to start their professional performing careers. As a result of this work, the World’s orchestras are full of EUYO alumni.

In order to provide this resource, the EUYO requires funding from a range of sources. The orchestra is active in raising funds through corporate partners, charitable trusts and foundations and individuals, but funding from the EU is vital to its future.

As of 31st May 2016, an official EU Commission press briefing included the announcement that President Juncker, EU Commission President, had ordered a group of three Commissioners to find funding for the EUYO. This led to an announcement on June 1st of proposals to enable the European Union to return to core funding the EUYO.

However, the future of the orchestra is still not assured until the precise details of these proposals are confirmed; a matter that requires urgency and speed if the EUYO is to be able to plan future concert tours. The musical community continues to call for the issue to be resolved and for the future of the EUYO to be secured.

We call upon the many professional orchestras, festivals and concert halls that have, for decades, been profiting from and enriched by the continuous work of youth orchestras like the EUYO to show their strongest support in this difficult situation. Cutting off the financial support for young musicians and those few truly non-profit organisations which strive to give them better chances in their future professional lives is a fatal signal and should not be taken as just another cultural policy decision. It means cutting of the very foundation of our cultural education and endangers the European cultural heritage we pretend to be so proud of – Alexander Meraviglia-Crivelli, Secretary General, Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra

To join the campaign to #SaveEUYO, visit http://www.euyo.eu/about/saveeuyo/

A Focus on Listening

In a recent interview by The Scotsman, world-renowned violinist, Nicola Benedetti, passionately criticised the suggestion that children should not be exposed to classical music.

580px-Nicky_BenedettiBenedetti is a great advocate of music education. In 2010, she became Sistema Scotland’s official musical ‘Big Sister’ for the Big Noise project, as well as creating The Benedetti Sessions, giving hundreds of aspiring young string players the opportunity to rehearse, undertake and observe masterclasses, culminating in a performance with the violinist.

She is an also an ambassador for the BBC 10 Pieces project, an initiative for schools led by BBC Learning and the BBC Performing Groups, focusing on classical music and creativity. The project centres on 20 pieces; 10 for primary and 10 for secondary school ages; covering the spectrum of western classical music from the Baroque period to contemporary works, with a heavy weighting towards 20th Century music.

Benedetti argued that since, if children were given the option either to play a video game or study mathematics, the majority would choose the video game, deciding against teaching them to listen to classical symphonies because they don’t seem interested or it is considered difficult is a nonsense. MWC’s Maria Thomas explains why this is a subject close to her own heart.

Should we be encouraging young people to listen to whole symphonies or even whole operas? Interestingly, neither the primary nor the secondary 10 Pieces include a full symphony, concerto or other complete large-scale work. Individual movements are included, but not full works. Perhaps the chosen pieces are meant as an introduction to classical music, allowing listeners to explore the rest of the works themselves, or maybe, as the proposed lesson plans suggest, the individual movements are designed as a starting point for inspiration for creativity, I don’t know.

Learning to concentrate on listening to a whole symphony or opera is not an easy task, particularly when the work is new to you. I often enjoy listening to works I have studied more than those that I am discovering for the first time. I am more familiar with the themes, the structure, the instrumentation and how the material is developed.

HHCMF14s-37I was lucky enough to have been brought up as a regular concert and opera-goer, being encouraged to learn about the pieces before attending performances and having the chance to listen to recordings before hearing the live performance. Even so, when I hear a new piece, I can imagine how daunting or incomprehensible the idea of listening to a symphony must be, particularly for someone who has not had that opportunity. With no one to make recommendations of what to listen to or explain things about the music such as what to listen out for and the context that the composer was working in, where do you start?

So maybe the single movement decision by the BBC makes sense. Research suggests that with increasing access to new technology, young people are not able to concentrate for long periods, and the popularity of the single movement performance has been popularised by the huge success of Classic FM. However, when I worked at the Royal Opera House one of my favourite memories is of hearing the rapturous applause and cheering following a schools performance of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman.

I believe it comes down to what we feel is important. Getting the young to listen to any classical music will open their ears to music, art and experiences that are new to them, and will develop other skills such as listening, analytical thinking and concentration.

Research has shown that listening to music can help the brain, but that research also highlighted that familiarity with the music was important.

Another question worth considering is where the responsibility should lie in getting young people to listen to classical music. Should it be done in the home, at school or both?

For parents who have not experience of classical music, the idea of introducing their children to a symphony orchestra concert or recital is completely alien. Trying to research music can be challenging; programme notes, both online and in concert programmes can vary from excellent to incomprehensible, or be aimed at the very knowledgeable.

In schools it is increasingly difficult to introduce classical music into the classroom. Many primary schools do not have music specialists and both primary and secondary schools have music specialists who do not have a Classical music background. It was widely researched as long ago as 1997 that many primary school teachers feel negatively towards introducing classical music in their teaching as they lack confidence in their own knowledge of the subject.

800px-Boxwood_PS_Music_room

I don’t have the answers. I’m just glad that the BBC 10 Pieces is making access to Classical Music easier for young people, and that other fantastic outreach projects by organisations such as the London Symphony Orchestra, Warwick University and the Sage are reaching out to their local communities and offering them the chance to explore Classical Music both with families and schools.

It was wonderful to share this enthusiasm for introducing young people to Classical Music and the wider arts at the brilliant Ahead For Culture conference, run by the ROHBridge Project, on 12th June at the Royal Opera House. The morning was hosted by Kirsty Wark who shared her early experiences of the Arts, and featured many inspiring speakers. Sir Anthony Seldon stressed the importance of introducing young people to the Arts in ways that help them to understand and engage with their experiences, Nii Sackey highlighted the fact that young people have their own answers about how they want to engage with the Arts, and Susan Coles gave a motivational call to action encouraging us all to push for the Arts to continue to be a key part of every young person’s education.

The afternoon sessions of workshops got everyone talking and sharing their experiences, before a fabulous performance by Next Generation Youth Theatre. The day was rounded off with an emotional reminder from Camila Batmanghelidhj CBE, founder of Kids Company, (who MWC are proud to work with) of some of the challenges today’s young people bring to their Arts experiences, and how experiences need to adapt to the needs of each young person.

It was a truly inspiring day and will lead to some exciting new projects and partnerships for MWC. Watch this space for more news!

The Music Workshop Company is in the process of developing resource packs for schools, designed to introduce and expand on many aspects of music. We would value your input. If there is a specific topic or aspect of music that you would like us to cover, or if we can make our resources more helpful in any way, please contact us via the website with your ideas and requests, or email info@music-workshop.co.uk.

We also run tailor-made inset workshops, integrating music into teacher training. Meeting with professional musicians who can explain music in an approachable way will give you exciting ideas to develop, and can be a great boost in confidence in the classroom. There is no great mystery to music. Just as you can teach a child to look at a beautiful painting and appreciate it without yourself being able to either paint it or explain how it was painted, it is possible to learn how to introduce children to music and the skills needed to listen to it.

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