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Creativity in Education

Earlier this month, the Durham Commission published its final report following a two-year review of Creativity in Education.  The Commission is a collaboration between Arts Council England and Durham University. It aims to identify ways in which creativity, and specifically creative thinking, can play a larger part in the lives of young people from birth to the age of 19, both within and beyond the current education system.

The Commission brought together a diverse group from Education and the Creative Industries to act as Commissioners, chaired by Sir Nicholas Serota, CH, Chair of Arts Council England.

It gathered a wide range of evidence from various sources including:

  • A survey of over 1,000 stakeholders from business, education and the arts
  • A survey of headteachers and governors across the country
  • Meetings with stakeholders
  • A review of previous reports and initiatives into creativity and education
  • One-to-one interviews with the Commissioners

This research has enabled the Commission to explore key questions about the relationship between creativity and education such as, “How can creativity be recognised?” “What are the challenges and opportunities when embedding creativity in schools, and in the workplace?” And, “Who should be responsible for promoting creativity across the country?”

Key Definitions

Key Recommendations

The Commission recommends that a national network of Creativity Collaboratives should be established to allow schools to collaborate in establishing and sustaining the circumstances and environment required for nurturing creativity in the classroom, across the curriculum

1: Establishing Creativity Collaboratives

A key recommendation is that a three-year pilot of nine Creativity Collaboratives should be established in each of the DfE regions with funding from a consortium including DfE, Arts Council and educational trusts, with a view to exploring additional funding from partnerships between DfE, industry and commerce

2: Barriers to teaching for creativity

The Commission recommends that Government, Ofqual and the awarding bodies work together to consider the role of examinations and how scholarship and craftmanship are recognised and rewarded in assessment frameworks.

3: Recognising the value of creativity

The Commission identified that schools who have successfully established and sustained conditions where creativity is nurtured should be championed and encouraged. The Commission suggests that success should be recognised in the Ofsted inspection process and that Ofsted should share good practice case studies of teaching for creativity in a range of subjects and across phases.

The Commission also suggest that Ofsted should also continue to refine the inspection framework to further decrease incentives to ‘teach to the mark’ and that there is more clarity that the inspection process is looking for “teaching for scholarship and craftsmanship, not merely exam-passing.”

Throughout our research, the words most frequently associated with the exercise of creativity were imagination, freedom, expression, collaboration, and problem solving. The research findings also highlighted the importance of curiosity, perseverance and resilience.

4 & 5: Evaluating the impact of creativity

The Commission highlights the benefits to schools of taking part in PISA 2021 evaluation of creating thinking, and recommends that the DfE should support English schools’ participation in this in order to influence and shape future use of the framework.

The Commission also recommends a role for Higher Education institutions, in conjunction with the DfE, to work with the Creativity Collaboratives to “develop research-informed practice to evaluate creativity, looking at how creativity and creative thinking can be identified across disciplines, and how its impact can be measured.”

There need be no conflict between knowledge and creativity in our education system. Indeed, the opposite is the case – creativity is founded on deep understanding. Every meaningful creative breakthrough in human history has been made by people with deep expertise, immersing themselves in the practices and problems of the field and finding new ways to see, act or behave.

6: Digital technologies, creativity and education

The Commission stresses that the English education system should support young people to engage creatively and critically with the digital technology that is now a substantial part of their everyday lives. Suggestions including additional funding from the DfE for training for school teachers in digital literacy and digital creativity, with time and resource committed to it. The Commission also suggests NESTA play a key role, by managing a pilot programme working with a mix of education, business and the cultural sector to explore how digital education in schools can help develop the creative digital skills most in demand by employers.

7: Creativity and the arts in schools

The Commission states its belief that “Arts and culture should be an essential part of the education of every child.” Its recommendations to achieve this include a funded National Plan for Cultural Education to be established by the DfE which will ensure all children access cultural opportunities in school alongside the new Plans for Music Education and Sport.

The Commission also suggests that the DfE should require schools to offer a full national curriculum at all key stages, but in particular at KS3 until the end of year 9 which would include the arts as a substantive part of the curriculum, not as an add-on.

Another recommendation is that the Artsmark scheme awarded by Arts Council England should be reviewed by ACE to make sure the value of creativity, arts and culture in schools is recognised. This should be achieved through ACE working with the DfE to evaluate the current provision of professional development opportunities for teachers in arts subjects and for the cultural workforce and freelancers who work with schools.

8: Creative beginnings: pre-school and the early years curriculum

The Commission identifies the importance of the purpose and place of creativity and teaching for creativity being recognised and encouraged in the early years (0-4). Recommendations include integrating creativity into the Early Learning Goals within the Early Years Foundation Stage by the DfE while establishing and funding effective training and CPD for the pre-school workforce. The Commission suggest reviewing the current Continuing Professional Development opportunities, qualifications and entry routes to the sector by 2021.

The Commission also identifies other key partners in Early Years creativity and suggests that the BBC, other media and broadcasting organisations alongside the DfE, should further develop quality early years content that encourages young children’s creativity alongside literacy and language development.

9: Creative opportunities out of school hours

The Commission also states its belief that in-school opportunities to develop creativity should be complemented by a range of opportunities to take part in creative activities outside of school hours. They recommend that Arts Council England work in partnership with youth sector organisations and social services to align and build on existing out of school provision to be creative in the arts, sciences and humanities. Routes identified include Saturday Clubs, Music Education Hubs, existing Arts Council programmes which support out of school hours activity, and the National Citizens Service.

10: Beyond school: creative opportunities and experiences in the world of work

The Commission identifies that young people need to be better prepared for the changing world of work particularly requiring the creative capacities that employers are looking for and which will enable them to be “resilient and adaptable, to pursue portfolio careers and engage in lifelong learning.” The Commission highlights that qualification frameworks should appreciate the value of creativity for the current and future workforce.

It suggests a review of the existing opportunities for developing creativity as a key capacity in emerging T level qualifications and existing Apprenticeship Standards by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

Full report available at 

https://www.dur.ac.uk/resources/creativitycommission/DurhamReport.pdf

‘State of the Nation’ Music – the APPG Speaks Out

As part of MWC’s wider engagement in music education, Artistic Director Maria Thomas attended two key music education events this month, the meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education and the 2019 ROH Bridge’s annual conference, The Thriving Child.

In this blog, Maria shares her thoughts about the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Music Education. We’ll take a look at the findings of the ROH Bridge Conference at the end of July.


“The APPG for Music Education meeting took place on Wednesday 19th June at the Palace of Westminster. The event was Chaired by Diana Johnson, MP for Kingston upon Hull North and Chair and Registered Contact of the APPG. In attendance were a wide range of people engaged with music education, from MPs to Music Hub heads, Conservatoire heads, music organisations, and small charities that support young people.

The first speaker was Ian C. Lucas, MP for Wrexham and member of the DCMS Select Committee. Mr Lucas talked about his experiences of music education in Wrexham and his concerns following the loss of the council run music service. He demonstrated how music is being used to bring people into the town centre through festivals such as Singing Streets. With reference to the work of his wife, who is a music teacher and very engaged with the local music community, he lamented that although it benefits schools, students and the community to put on school shows, Ofsted gives no credit for this work.

Lucas went on to discuss recent reports on Live Music including research from Arts Council England and Youth Music, and Participation in Culture and Sport, published by the DCMS Select Committee. He said that while it is clear all these reports give the same message concerning the value of music education, that message is not getting through to Government. 

When the discussion was opened up to the floor, Kevin Brennan, MP for Cardiff West, said that schools should not be awarded ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted unless they have a strong music offer.  Tracy Brabin, MP for Batley and Spen stressed that music should not be just about Head Teachers and Heads of Music.

Discussion about Music Hubs flagged up the fact that funding will be ending in 2020 and at present Hubs have no information about future funding. This naturally makes planning impossible and results in a workforce who have an uncertain future.

Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, explained that the focus on linking sports to health benefits has enhanced the delivery of sport. She suggested that stronger links should be made when it comes to the positive effect of music on mental health. She stressed her concern that music and the Arts are becoming only available to the elite. A suggestion was made that funding for music be ringing-fenced, as funding for sport has been, with a focus on schools working with their local music hubs. MPs agreed to explore this as an option.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the ISM, admitted that there is pressure on finances, but said that music in schools is also being squeezed by time pressures with the focus on SATs and other exams.

One Music Hub raised the point that Music Hubs are tasked with working with every school in their area, but schools are not pressured to work with their local Music Hub. It was also highlighted that some schools that join an Academy chain are told they cannot use their local music hub and must instead use suppliers identified by the Academy chain.

The second panel member, Zena Creed, Director of Communications and External Relations for The Russell Group, updated the attendees on recent developments at the Russell Group Universities, including the changes to their subject choice guidance and the decision to scrap facilitating subjects. She highlighted that the previous approach by Russel Group Universities of highlighting ‘facilitating subjects’ at A-Level had led to confusion and potentially impacted negatively on the number of young people taking Arts A-Levels. Their new website has more specific guidance and is now actively promoting Music and other Arts A-Levels.

The third speaker was Dr Alison Daubney, Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Sussex and author of the recent Music Education: State of the Nation report. She underlined the lack of KS2 and Year 9 music in some schools, and the decline in the number of young people taking GCSE and A-Level music – leading to Music becoming the fastest disappearing A-Level subject. She mentioned that some geographical areas have no A-Level music applications and that the strongest number of applications come from private schools: In essence, there is no equitable access to A-Level music across the country. 

Dr Daubney also discussed the lack of Ofsted reports exploring music, pointing out that where music is discussed, it is sometimes only mentioned in one sentence in the report! She emphasised her concerns that Music Hubs are being expected to be ‘all-things-to-all-people’, delivering early years through to A-Level.

It was mentioned that the system of bell curve marking severely impacted the number of students getting high grades due to the small number of applicants which may encourage high achieving students to select other subjects at A-Level.

Two key concerns for many in the room were the fact that Academies do not have to follow the National Curriculum and the impact of the EBacc, something the ISM have been actively campaigning against. The worry is that with no requirement to teach music in Academies and no focus on the Arts in the EBacc, many schools will choose to omit music from the classroom altogether.”

Are you a teacher or music educator? We’d love to hear your response to these points and your ideas for the future of music education. Let us know in the comments or find us on Facebook.

Arts Council, England’s ‘Shaping the next 10 years’ report – An overview

From October 2018 to January 2019, Arts Council, England (ACE) held an open consultation across the country designed to listen to perspectives from across the sector and beyond. The aim of the study was to understand the challenges and opportunities, generate new ideas, and problem-solve together. The results of this report will inform the development of ACE strategy for the next ten years.

The consultation sought the views of a wide range of stakeholders. Arts organisations, museums and libraries of all scales as well as funders and policy makers, local authorities and children, young people and their parents and carers, were all involved in voicing their ambitions and concerns.

To engage with as wide a range of participants as possible, ACE ran an online platform. It also held a series of 37 workshops: 20 external sessions with 1,248 participants and 17 sessions for 197 Arts Council staff. Additional sessions focused on the views of children and young people up to the age of 25.

The consultation explored “the case for change”.

Six key areas were identified across the arts and culture sector:

Image taken from Arts Council Document

Image taken from Arts Council Document

The Findings 

The online research findings demonstrated that over 70% of participants agreed that 5 out of the 6 areas listed in the image above are key issues. 95% of respondents agreed with the statements, “There are still widespread socio-economic and geographic variances in levels of engagement with publicly funded culture,” and, “Across the population there are significant differences in how ‘arts and culture’ are defined, understood and valued.”

53% of participants also felt that, “Many cultural organisations are retreating from innovation, risk-taking and sustained talent development.”

The report comments:

Some respondents felt that artists and cultural organisations are committed to both innovation and talent development but, in the face of financial pressure and high levels of accountability, they need support in taking the sorts of risks that are essential to innovation. Conversely, some responses centred on the sector being bolder than many other industries and that historically the most significant and innovative art has happened during times of flux and uncertainty.

ACE ‘Shaping the Next 10 Years’ Report

In undertaking the study, ACE aimed to hear feedback on its proposed priorities.

The top three priorities that emerged, as identified by participants, are:

  • The creative and cultural lives of all children and young people are recognised and nurtured (3rd)
  • A nation that  supports and celebrates culture and creativity of every kind (2nd)
  • People from every background benefit from public investment in culture (1st)
Image taken from Arts Council Document

Image taken from Arts Council Document

What is culture? What is creativity?

As is often the case when there is discussion about art, culture and creativity, the consultation threw up questions about what is meant by these terms. 

The report states:

There was some support for as broad a definition as possible, encompassing activities that are, or will be, relevant and accessible to everyone. It was recognised that continued flexibility will be necessary to meet the requirements of a population with changing and evolving interests.

One workshop participant commented:

The Arts Council should broaden its definition of what arts and culture are – it should be fluid rather than fixed, and we should listen [to]  what people think… rather than telling them.

Priority – People from every background benefit from public investment in culture

In discussion of the priority, “People from every background benefit from public investment in culture,” many participants agreed the importance of cultural organisations working together and with local communities to create and develop cultural experiences that involve a far wider range of people.

A key theme in discussion about this priority was equality of opportunity relating to provision of equal access for all the population to arts and culture. This included the importance of children having equal opportunities to experience art and culture, particularly through schools.

Other points identified here include:

  • Local, community or place-based activity
  • Levels of funding and investment
  • How culture is defined
  • The role of diversity or diverse perspectives in ensuring this outcome is met
  • The impact that arts and culture can have in areas such as health and wellbeing
  • How communications can be maximised to engage with the public and create a greater sense of relevance/ownership
  • The importance of data and research in helping to understand the issues within the sector, and in monitoring progress

Priority – A nation that supports and celebrates culture and creativity of every kind

In discussion of the priority, “A nation that supports and celebrates culture and creativity of every kind,” the workshops raised the concept of ‘everyday culture’ and covered discussion of both professional and amateur culture encompassing all communities, lifestyles, ages and levels of experience and quality. Key challenges were the equality of opportunity and advocacy.

There should be national pride in the existence of great art, funded by public money, reaching those for whom it makes a difference. We all have hundreds of stories of great art inspiring children to speak for the first time, reconnecting elderly people with their communities, bringing happiness to newly arrived migrant families who feel isolated, creating a place for care leavers to develop a talent – publicly funded art shouldn’t always require a social outcome, but its value is not being properly advocated and I think the public are more sympathetic to this than politicians might think…

Quote from online participant

Other challenges identified included:

  • The role that specific investment programmes could have within this outcome
  • How data and evidence can be used to demonstrate the impact of the arts and culture
  • The importance of embedding cultural creative education within schools
  • That the ambition for high-quality work and excellence in the arts and culture should not be lost

Some respondents also noted the importance of creating new partnerships and collaborating with communities and existing local organisations.

Priority – The creative and cultural lives of all children and young people are recognised and nurtured

Perhaps, most importantly for those involved in arts education, the priority, “The creative and cultural lives of all children and young people are recognised and nurtured,” discussed the challenges of school curriculum including the impact of the EBacc and the focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) rather than STEAM.

The report states that the sessions with children and young people showed that respondents feel “strongly that there should be more opportunities and space for children and young people to realise their creative potential through better access to expertise, resources and inspirational activities for all.”

Creative education is the future – what role can ACE play in this? [The] curriculum [is] not fit for purpose to equip creative thinkers for the future.

Quote from online participant

Other areas discussed in relation to this priority include:

  • Listening to children and young people
  • The importance of highlighting to young people the viability of a career in the arts and cultural sector
  • The question of where young adults come under this outcome
  • The need to demonstrate the benefits of the arts and culture (whether to children and young people or parents)
  • The importance of partnerships in supporting a strong cultural offer
  • The development work that could be required to equip educators to teach creatively
  • The role of local authorities and Government within any work in this area

Schools need to be engaged more with local cultural providers, for example: museums should host regular sessions with schools so that cultural institutions are embedded within the children’s minds from a young age.

Quote from online respondent

To read the report in full visit Arts Council, England’s website.

Featured image attributed to Tiffany Bailey (source wikicommons images)


The Music Workshop Company is run by a dedicated team who are passionate about music education and like to keep abreast of issues current in the music industry. If you want to share a project with us as part of our monthly guest blog, get in touch today.

Alternately, if you would like to know more about engaging your students in our accessible, inclusive workshops, email or call us for a chat on 0844 583 8131!

Music Workshop Company, https://www.music-workshop.co.uk


Survey Returns Bleak Picture of Music Education in Schools

A recent University of Sussex survey of 500 schools in England shows a worrying picture for music in schools. The findings, released at the beginning of October, show that staffing levels in music departments have fallen in nearly 36% of schools, with 70% of surviving music specialists required to teach outside their subject to fill gaps.

The report, by Senior Teaching Fellow in Education (Education), Duncan Mackrill, also highlighted a 10% fall in the number of students taking a GCSE music course since 2016, fewer schools providing GCSE music as an option, and only some schools offering the subject out of school hours. Of the schools surveyed, 18% do not offer GCSE music at all.

[Image: Tiffany Bailey via Wikimedia Commons]

The picture is worse for A-level music. The report reveals that the number of schools offering A-level music has fallen by more than 15% in the past two years, while the number of schools teaching music technology has dropped by 32%.

Younger students are also being impacted. Only 47.5% of schools say music is compulsory for 13 to 14-year-olds and many schools only teaching music as part of an “enrichment day” once a year.

[Image: Wordbuilder via Wikimedia Commons]

Nearly 60% of the schools that completed the survey say the promotion of the EBacc and focus on academic subjects by the government was having a negative impact on music provision in their establishment.

In an interview in The Guardian, the report’s author, Duncan Mackrill, says:

Music’s place in the secondary curriculum continues to be precariously balanced or disappearing in a significant number of schools. Without a change to require a balanced curriculum in all schools, we are in danger of music education becoming, in many cases, the preserve of those who can pay.

And music provision is potentially under further threat in the coming months as the Government announced earlier this year that it will not fund the pay rise for centrally employed teachers, the majority of whom are music specialists. This means that any pay rise offered to teachers employed directly by the council, such as instrumental teachers, will need to be funded by local authorities.

The (Local Government Association) LGA estimates that this would cost councils £5.5m, an extremely large amount for local authorities that are already struggling financially. In its report on the LGA website it states:

If councils, which face a £3.9 billion funding black hole in 2019/20, are left to pick up the cost then some would have little choice but to reduce CET services such as music tuition.

There are around 5,000 centrally employed teachers who provide a range of services including those who teach children and those who play key roles in supporting education professionals. It is believed that at least half of these are teaching music. It’s also pertinent that many of the local authority music teaching schemes often waive or lower fees so children of low-income families can take part.

In an interview in the Independent Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, says:

The UK has a proud history of musical excellence and many of the most well-known artists in the world over time would have benefited from music lessons. For many young people, it is a vital part of their education and future life opportunities, but this could be at risk unless the government commits to fully funding the pay increase for all classroom teachers, including music teachers.

Ever since the introduction of the EBacc, high profile musicians have spoken out against the threat to music in schools. Also talking to the Independent, singer Ed Sheeran says,

If you keep cutting the funding for arts you’re going to be damaging one of Britain’s best and most lucrative exports.

Sheeran’s comments underline the fact that as well as being of significant value for individual children on a personal and educational level, music is a thriving industry in the UK. His remarks are backed up by a ukmusic.org report which shows continual growth in the UK music industry. Between 2016 and 2017 the industry generated £2.5bn in export revenue and saw a 6% increase in total gross value.

There are concerns about class privilege too, and the widening of the opportunities gap between rich and poor. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told the Independent:

The last thing that we need is any more pressure on the provision of music in schools … Local authorities clearly cannot afford additional costs on strained budgets and this will inevitably mean cuts. We are in danger of music becoming the preserve of only those families who can afford private tuition.

The Independent also spoke to the General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union, Horace Trubridge, who attributes his own career to the free music provision he enjoyed as a child.

It seems to me that we are now entering into an era in our profession when only a very narrow social stream of young people will make up the musicians of tomorrow. How will the tradition of fantastic bands and artists rising up from the housing estates and low-to-no income families continue?

Bands like Madness, Pulp, Manic Street Preachers and so many others with great stories and real, honest social messages to sing about. How will the UK’s wonderful orchestras fulfil the demands of the funding bodies to increase diversity within their ranks, when the very people that they want to attract are denied access to music education.

With the Government seemingly turning a blind eye to the destruction of music education in the UK, what is the future for aspiring young musicians and for the music industry? In a political climate where there is already a threatened skills gap forming, isn’t it time for those in power to face the music?


The Music Workshop Company would love to hear from you. If you’re interested in asking us about any aspect of music education, would like to feature in our guest blog or to book one of our interactive workshops, contact us today!

Higher Education: What’s Right for You?

Although the deadline for applying to conservatoires and music colleges has passed, the closing date for university applications through UCAS (UCAS.com) is the 15th January 2018.

This gives plenty of time for potential applicants to consider whether they want to study at university, and if so, which university and which course best suits them.

Alex Baxter, Programme Leader Music Technology Programmes at the University of Hertfordshire advises:

The best degree courses expose their students to the huge range of connected areas which make up music technology as a whole – including those that students may not know even exist when they start their course.  Industry accredited degrees highlight that the broader industry sees the course content as being relevant to current industry practice, and this also offers excellent opportunities for industry input, and live projects where students’ developing techniques can be applied.  Universities which foster collaboration opportunities between courses (ie music technology students working with film & TV and animation students) offer that great extra dimension, as does the opportunity to study abroad or take a work placement.

UCAS offer 1,763 courses with ‘music’ in the title. These range from BMus(Hons) and BA(Hons) in Music to courses in Music Production, Songwriting, Music Performance, Community Music, Music Psychology, Music Technology, Music Composition, Music Business, Musical Theatre, Commercial Music, Digital Music, Popular Music, Sound Design, Composition for Film & Games and Music Industry Management…

That’s before looking at Joint Honours Programmes: Music and another subject.

[Image: Emily]

 

Supporters of universities suggest that benefits for students include the opportunity to study an area of interest, meeting people with both similar and different interests, making connections with fellow students, lecturers and industry, and improving job prospects.

With current fees in the UK at £9,250 per year for many degree courses, plus the additional costs of study (text books, resources, accommodation, travel etc.), it’s important to consider whether university study is for you.

There is a big difference between studying for A-Levels or BTEC and studying at university. Although universities offer a range of support services, particularly for those with learning needs, university studies are much more focussed on individual study and research. This requires self-discipline and focus.

Choosing the right university for you is also important. Different universities have different specialisms and contacts within particular Industries or Sectors. For example, if you are considering studying Music Business or Music Industry Management, you may want to study in or close to London to take advantage of the opportunities in London for internships and attending Industry events.

Universities also have different ‘feels’. Attending open days where you can meet staff and current students and check out the facilities can help you get a good feel for each institution.

[Image: Ольга Жданова]

The teaching staff are also a key element of your university experience, so research the teaching team. See what research they have been involved in, what their position in the industry is and how active they are outside the university. Also find out about industry speakers and alumni. Developing your network while still at university is crucial to developing a career on graduation.

When selecting a university, key questions to ask yourself include:

  • Do you want to live at home or move away?
  • If you want to move away, does the university have halls and suitable accommodation nearby?
  • If studying music, what aspect of music do you want to study? What might you want to do as a job?
  • Do you want an academic programme or a more vocational one?
  • Do you want to study with particular tutors/lecturers?

Key questions to ask the University include:

  • How much contact time do you get on the course? What wider support is available?
  • What experience do you get on the course? For example performing opportunities, recording, managing live projects?
  • What opportunities does the course give for Studying Abroad or a Work Placement as part of the degree?
  • Does the course focus on a specific discipline or does it give you a wide overview of your chosen area?
  • How involved in the programme are named tutors?
  • How many students are in each cohort / class?
  • What jobs do recent graduates get? Where are alumni working 3 – 5 years after graduation?

[Image: Danchuter]

The key to finding the right path for you is in looking at the most important aspects of study thoroughly. The most important decisions centre around whether or not to go to university, which course to study and where to study. It’s vital to take time to visit any universities you’re considering, and to seek advice from family, friends and people in your preferred industry.

The author of this blog, MWC’s Maria Thomas, is a Senior Lecturer on the Music Industry Management course at the University of Hertfordshire. 


If you would like to speak to the Music Workshop Company about anything in this blog, or to book a workshop, contact us today:

Is Music Reading Outdated?

A recent article in the Guardian by Charlotte C Gill has raised some interesting questions around problems in music education, and caused a fair amount of controversy too.

In her March 27 column, Gill expresses concern over the problems in class music – uptake in music at A-Level and GCSE has dropped by 9% since the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) in 2010, an issue, which we’ve previously covered under the ISM’s Bacc for the Future campaign.

The ISM has been supporting the inclusion of creative subjects in schools after researchers claimed that pressure on students to take subjects included in the EBacc meant that music was being squeezed out. According to a Sussex University study, nearly two thirds of 650 state schoolteachers surveyed said the EBacc meant fewer students were taking GCSE music.

[Image: Tiffany Bailey]

However, Gill asserts that she believes the best way to encourage more children to engage in music is to teach the subject in a ‘less academic’ way. Speaking from her own childhood experience, she says that the problem lies with the focus on notation:

This is a cryptic, tricky language – rather like Latin – that can only be read by a small number of people, most of whom have benefited from private education. Children who do not have the resources, or ability, to comprehend it, are written off. Even when they are capable performers.

This is the statement that has raised hackles – and unlike the other points in her article, Gill produces no statistics to back it up. Gill’s own experience of difficulty with music reading, and the fact she struggled to have her love of music recognised are clear, but do they speak for every other state school child, and can one person’s undeniably frustrating experience ever validate the undermining of an entire subject?

It’s undeniable that elitism and imbalance exist. Just 7% of the UK population attended private school. But Gill’s statement that music is only for the “white and the wealthy” does not add up. If her question is aimed at preferential provision in private schools, according to the Independent Schools Council (ISC), 29% of its pupils are from a minority background – far higher than the 14% of BAME citizens in British society as a whole.

[Image: Frank R Snyder]

Meanwhile, children from a white background have been found to make significantly less progress in school than their BAME counterparts (Centre Forum). And according the World Literacy Foundation’s 2012 report, 20% of adults in the UK struggle with basic reading and writing, indicating deeper problems in the education system that no amount of soft-soaping will solve.

Gill makes no new points with her comments. Offsted’s 2011 report on music education devoted large sections to the importance of practical music making and performance, with Sistema Scotland reporting that 93% of participants were happier as a result of their involvement in the scheme.

But Ofsted’s report showed out of 300 music lessons observed, only 30 were deemed above average. A tiny 7% of schools in a survey of 90 qualified as ‘outstanding’ providers of effective music education, while 61% were deemed satisfactory or inadequate.

Given that of these 90 schools, 66% were considered to be providing an effective education overall, this figure underlines the desperate situation into which music education has fallen. The weakest year group was found to be Key Stage 3 (years 7 to 9), “A direct consequence of weak teaching and poor curriculum provision.”

The report opposes Gill’s claims that music is seen as too academic, stating that many students see academic music as a soft option. Only those children who have been exposed to culture from a young age, and who have developed proficiency as performers tend to be encouraged to take music at GCSE and A-level. The divide between those deemed suitable to take music is set almost as soon as a child joins the school.

This would seem to imply that in order for a child to progress in music at GCSE and A-level, more provision is needed in primary schools, and that children with parents who are interested in music are at an advantage.

In May 2015, world famous concert violinist and music education supporter Nicola Benedetti argued that:

…needing the child’s approval for what they do in school is just such an alien concept when you’re talking about maths, science, history or English…but suddenly, when you bring music into the mix, it’s: ‘Oh no, we can’t show them anything that they don’t instantly love because that would be like forcing children into something that they don’t want to do.’

Benedetti’s comments underline the tendency, exemplified by Gill’s remarks, to feel that because music is profoundly personal and accesses the emotions, it does not warrant ‘restrictive’ academic study.

Gill’s comments have engendered an angry response from musicologist Ian Pace, who says her claim that music can only be read by a small number of people,

…flies in the face of countless initiatives over two centuries making musical literacy available to those of many backgrounds.

He continues:

As with written language, musical notation enables effective and accurate communication, as well as critical access to huge amounts of knowledge. In many musical fields, those without it will be at a deep disadvantage and dependent upon others.

Pace goes on to say that he agrees that “aural and other skills are equally important as those in notation,” but puts her comments about illiteracy down to “romanticisation,” warning that Gill’s position “could serve to make literate musical education even more exclusive through being marginalised in state schools yet further.”

Another article, also from the Guardian in 2015, actually highlights the fact that instrumental music tuition in the UK is more often than not excellent, but that children and parents are not always made aware of what provision is available to them. Author Sarah Derbyshire states:

We need to focus less on the ‘best’ way to learn and more on the fundamentals of engaging children and young people in excellent music of all kinds – in all settings. The starting point is to define clearly the building blocks of musical learning, which are, to my mind: singing; reading music; access to instrumental tuition (both formal and informal); digital technology; attending live performance; creative involvement in composition; improvisation and performance of their own work.

To look at the genuine problems of music reading, a blog from dyslexia experts Brightstar Learning explains that learning notation may be more difficult for dyslexic students.

Reading music may be more difficult than reading text. For one thing, the written language of music contains signs that are multifunctional, for instance, the line. Lines in music can be vertical or horizontal; they may be long or short: straight or curved; mean something on their own; or need to be combined with other symbols to make sense. There’s no doubt that someone who has a problem with visual discrimination is going to have trouble reading music.

But the blog offers a range of imaginative solutions, concluding simply that:

The main factor in teaching the dyslexic student seems to be pacing the lessons so that the student doesn’t go into overload. It will take the dyslexic student a bit longer to process the information in lessons.

As explained by USA teaching business, Musika, learning to read music is one of the hardest things a beginning instrumentalist will do, but no instrument is mastered overnight, and music reading flows in stages alongside technique. Various programmes have been devised, such as the Colourstrings Method and Suzuki Method, which have structured and specific ways of integrating music reading and musicianship into instrument learning in an holistic way, and every beginner tutor book carries careful instruction in notation.

[Image: Grunpfnul]

Looking at these facts as a whole, notation is not the main issue locking children out of genuine engagement in music education. The separate issue of sight reading which is lumped in to Gill’s complaint about the inaccessibility of notation is a red herring.

Success in sight reading is predominantly a mater of concerted practice: Since when a player is sight-reading the muscles are required to react instantly to what the eye sees, and the eye to read several beats ahead of what the hands are playing, the more the player practises this specific skill, the better and easier sight-reading will become. If sight-reading is only approached in a handful of lessons leading up to a grade exam, the child is likely to endure an embarrassing experience causing them to echo Gill’s sentiment, “I can’t sight-read.”

Gill’s article ends with the assertion that,

Diversity breeds diversity, and teaching is where this needs to start.

Again this is not quantified in her previous comments, nor does it follow from her arguments. She sites relevant issues with the wider music curriculum, which are legitimate and ongoing. But she goes on to imply that predominantly white children enjoy a private education and that those at state schools can’t be expected to learn to read music. Both of these comments are naïve and in turn elitist, and wrongly put the onus on the class teacher who is working within a strict curriculum and often with limited resources.

To follow on from Benedetti’s remarks, if a child is interested in creative writing, it does not stifle that child’s expression to teach vocabulary and grammar – expression is enhanced when the student has the tools. A budding artist will remain frustrated if he or she is not taught some of the technique of drawing. To look at Picasso’s later work, one might surmise that figurative technique and study of drawing are unnecessary to make art, but his work was informed by an immense, learned skill in draughtsmanship. Failure to teach the basics actually damages progression and ignorance never aids confidence.

[Image: The Harker School]

Ultimately, while it has less day-to-day application than general literacy, learning to read music is no more difficult than learning to read. While it is not necessary for performers of every genre to learn notation, it is enormously helpful and inclusive to be able to converse in a universal musical language that crosses other language barriers. The sticking point for some may be that music reading is best learned during one-one instrumental or singing lessons, and these are not always available or even desired.

By failing to teach notation, children who want to progress as musicians will become locked out. By pandering to the idea that music is something that everyone can naturally do, generations of knowledge and technique become unavailable. By ignoring the international nature of notation, an inclusive, wholly egalitarian means of creative communication is lost.

The EBacc and the Arts – An Educational Paradox

Last month our guest blog featured Sarah Evans, a secondary school teacher and professional cellist who shared her concerns about the lack of exposure to classical music for children aged 11 to 14. However, according to the ISM, the problem is only set to deepen as arts subjects become increasingly sidelined within schools.

In December 2015, we shared the ISM’s campaign regarding concerns over the government’s promotion of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) and its negative impact on arts subjects in schools. It has now been over a year since the Bacc for the Future campaign launched, yet according to Mary Bousted, General Secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), the thousands of individuals and organisations who responded to the consultation are still awaiting a response. This is despite the Government’s own consultation principles that state a response should be published ‘within 12 weeks of the consultation or provide an explanation why this is not possible.’

Businesses from Aardman Animations to Yamaha, higher education institutions, teachers, head teachers, artists, musicians, film directors and creative organisations are united in their opposition to the EBacc.

[A filmset at Aardman Animations photographed by Jan Hagelskamp]

[A filmset at Aardman Animations photographed by Jan Hagelskamp]

In making the qualification all-but compulsory in secondary schools by immediate effect, the impact predicted by the campaign is already visible in this year’s GCSE results. There has been an 8% decline in the uptake of creative artistic and technical subjects at GCSE level and a 1.7% decline in the number of students taking at least one arts-based GCSE. Whilst the Department for Education (DfE) clearly supports the arts as demonstrated by music hub funding, Saturday design schools and other initiatives, and it sees the value of technical education (the new Post-16 Skills Plan), the EBacc is at odds with this and with the rest of Government policy, including the Prime Minister’s vision of social mobility. Deborah Annetts blog in the Telegraph from November 11th 2016 is aptly titled The English Baccalaureate limits ambition – it must be scrapped.

This decline can only be detrimental to the hugely profitable creative, artistic and technical economy which is worth more than £500bn a year to the UK economy, in turn closing off access to creative, artistic and technical professions for those whose secondary school curriculum represents an opportunity.

[Image: Grunpfnul, Flickr]

[Image: Grunpfnul,Flikr]

The Bacc for the Future campaign (comprising 200+ organisations and more than 100,000 individuals) is calling on the Government to drop their plans for the EBacc and instead continue with implementing the original proposals for Progress 8 and Attainment 8 for all secondary schools. This is of increased concern in light of the decision to leave the European Union, which, according to the campaign, makes ‘protecting the talent pipeline into our creative industries even more important, and makes the arts more important’.

Julian Lloyd Webber, cellist and principal of Birmingham Conservatoire says,

It is crazy that we should have to be fighting this battle all over again! Countless studies throughout the world have PROVED that children do better in their other subjects if they study music and play an instrument.

We are lagging behind countries like China that have recognised this and where children playing instruments and studying music in school is the norm.

The UK is missing out on talent in an area which has been of enormous benefit to the UK’s economy and prestige and these short-sighted proposals will exacerbate the problem.

1_ISM_logoThe Bacc for the Future campaign is calling for continued support, and for music educators to contact their MP today, requesting a response to the campaign. Read more on the campaign website: http://www.baccforthefuture.com

Without the musical and creative opportunities I was offered for free at school, my life and career would have turned out very differently.

The opportunities presented to me were invaluable, and I truly hope that the Department for Education will give young people the same enriching experiences and challenging opportunities. I believe that musical education for all schoolchildren provides a cultural richness which we must never lose or take for granted.

I encourage the Department for Education to recognise the enormous value of music and creativity in schools and listen to the concerns raised by the Bacc for the Future campaign.

Alpesh Chauhan – Conductor

Without access to music in school, I would have not had the opportunity to realise my potential and fulfil my dream of becoming a professional composer. Without these opportunities in our schools we will undermine our creative economy, and undermine creativity in our society.

I urge the Department for Education to recognise creative subjects in schools and urge musicians, artists, designers, actors, parents and everyone to support the Bacc for the Future campaign and help save creativity in our schools.

Debbie Wiseman MBE – Composer

The Music Workshop Company believes in the importance of Arts education for all and are concerned that plans for the new English Baccalaureate will damage creative education in the UK. We are proud to support the ISM’s Bacc for the Future campaign.

Maria Thomas, Artistic Director, The Music Workshop Company

Ages 11 to 14: The Barren Years

img_0029The profile of classical music in schools is complex, with provision, inclusion and expectations differing wildly between primary and secondary age groups. Professional cellist and secondary school classroom teacher Sarah Evans describes her experiences of teacher attitudes, her frustration that classical music continues to be viewed as too challenging, and her determination to let her students make up their own minds.

“As a professional musician, I have spent much of my career teaching and promoting classical music. Yet as classical audiences diminish, I feel we are fighting to try and keep our business alive and our careers worth pursuing. When I chose to train as a secondary school music teacher, I was very much conscious of the diminishing returns on my own educational investments and keen to discover why classical music is a dying art.

[image: Tiffany Bailey Flickr]

[image: Tiffany Bailey Flickr]

As a musician, I have many hours giving workshops to children around the country. I have seen the impact these have had both short and long term. Classical musicians are confident taking their skills and enthusiasm to primary schools where students have usually be primed and are almost exclusively enthusiastic and will take part in any activities on offer.

As a teacher I cannot tell you how many year 7 students have shown me what they have learnt at a Royal Opera House Schools’ Matinee, an Opera North singing project, or the Gamelan visits they participated in, sung the songs taught to them by professional singers, or enthused about the instruments they have seen and heard when specialists arrived at their school for a day. Despite the lack of funding for specialist music teachers in primary schools, these students arrive at secondary school pre-enthused, malleable, happy to sing, open minded and in some cases, well educated in a variety of musical genres. As musicians, we feel we have been educating the next generation of audience members.

However, as students reach secondary school, this musical confidence and excitement often wanes. The funding and opportunities for musicians to take part in professionally offered musical projects stops, the time and energy to discover new genres and musical paths by students stops as exam pressure kicks in, and as teenage hormones kick in, we as teachers often resort to the path of least resistance – giving them the music they are already familiar with.

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In my 17 years of giving workshops to schools and communities, I only once had the opportunity to visit a secondary school, and that was to play briefly to GCSE students – scary enough in my pre-teacher days. As a musician, the thought of trying to engage 32, 11-14 year olds filled me with dread. As a teacher, KS3 lessons can at times be a fight: Students know they can drop music at the end of year 8 or 9, so bad grades will have no impact on their future. And yet this is the age that we need to be targeting. Students start forming staunch opinions about what they do and don’t like at this stage and without giving them options, they cannot make informed choices.

There is too little support for secondary school teachers in the realms of classical music. Many schemes and projects have been recently formed to ‘gee-up’ music in the secondary school classroom, but almost all of it leaves classical music (and other equally exciting genres) as the poor cousin to rock and pop, and non-classically trained musicians somewhat in the dark.

I recently attended a secondary music teachers course and also taught in a secondary school, where my admission that I taught western notation to Year 7 and that we studied classical music in a positive way was met with shock and distain. Why was I bothering?

Teachers asked if anyone had ideas as to what classical music they could teach KS3 (years 7-9) which might be engaging as they now have to prepare their students for the new (classically inclusive) GCSE. The only responses from other music teachers? Pachelbel’s Canon, “as they can write pop songs from it,” and, “The Alton Towers Theme Tune, because they all know it.”

[image: Tiffany Bailey Flickr]

[image: Tiffany Bailey Flickr]

If classical music appears inaccessible to music teachers and musicians cannot access funding to offer support, how are we to engage the next generation of classical audience? The BBC 10 Pieces scheme is accessible, pre-planned, full of resources, engaging and challenging – it is frankly, brilliant – but teachers are still wary of starting it as the vicious circle of classical music being ‘boring’ still exists. As we all know, boring is a term used frequently by teenagers. It mostly hides a fear from lack of understanding. As teachers we are shattered and yes and if we are lucky, our departments will be given enough money in the year to rub a ukulele and a drum stick together. But we have a responsibility to challenge students, to introduce them to things that they may not otherwise come across, to break down barriers, to try new ideas and to do this without prejudice.

Listening is free, a highly underused resource in music classrooms and this is often where professional workshops succeed. Regularly offering up examples of all styles of classical music, telling the stories behind the music, the dirty details of the composers and making it interesting is so invaluable to producing students confident to engage with the genre. Now, I am not saying that classical music is in anyway the purest art form, that students will all instantly adore Beethoven, nor that it should be taught exclusively in schools. Our lives need balance and we should be opening our students’ eyes to as many musical genres as we can. But as teachers and musicians, we should be doing our research, challenging our own fears and preferences and offering up the full smorgesbord of experiences that music has to offer. As an industry, classical music could be doing so much more here to support schools, in the same way it does at primary school level. I feel exceptionally lucky to have taught in a school where all musical genres were promoted and encouraged in and out of the classroom from day one. As a result, students who set up their own Renaissance choral group and Indian classical group sat alongside those who set up their own funk band, those in the school musical and those who DJ’d.

Our opinions are based on what we know. If we don’t regularly offer children as many choices as possible throughout their education, we are limiting their options. Doing this purely at primary school age and again at GCSE is not enough – we need more funding, more education and less fear of the existing preferences of students between 11 and 14. As classical musicians and as teachers, we need to consider these barren years of KS3 if we are to train up the audiences of tomorrow.”

Sarah Evans is a professional cellist who trained at The Royal Academy of Music and Trinity College of Music. She is a qualified secondary school classroom teacher originally working in schools in London and more recently, Yorkshire.  

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/

Bridging the Musical Gap

Across the UK there are outstanding young musicians whose financial circumstances are a real barrier to achieving their full musical potential. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, more than 2.5 million UK children currently live in poverty, and of these, 350,000 are not able to pursue a leisure activity or hobby such as learning a musical instrument due to a lack of available finances. It is estimated that, as a result of deprivation, between 600 and 1000 children with exceptional musical abilities are lost to our society every year.

Future Talent was founded in 2004, co-created with The Duchess of Kent. The Duchess spent 13 years teaching music in an East Hull primary school and has first-hand experience of the challenges young people face in learning an instrument. Over the past 10 years the organisation has worked with and supported many talented young musicians from across the UK, helping them realise their dreams.

The Music Workshop Company team talk to Future Talent’s Craig Titley about musical excellence without boundaries…

What is Future Talent?

“We support exceptionally talented young instrumentalists and singers up to the age of 18, who, due to financial hardship, low aspirations and lack of opportunity would otherwise struggle to realise their musical potential. We provide a bridge for young musicians from low-income backgrounds to enable them to study at junior conservatoires and ultimately give them the option of a career in music.

(c) Alex Harvey-Brown, Poppy cropped

Our ambition is to make it possible for young people to make a career in music of all genres, whatever their start in life. There’s still a lot of work to do, but with the right level of support at the right time in the development of a young person’s musical journey, a career in music doesn’t have to be an unachievable pipe dream.”

Why is this important?

“The Making Music report, published by Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in autumn 2014, makes it clear that sustained, progressive music education sadly still tends to be the preserve of children born to wealthier parents. The cost of lessons and instruments is cited as a major barrier.

There is a particular need for our work in the current climate. Some low-income families face a stark choice between supporting the musical talent of their child and feeding their family. This level of financial hardship creates a culture of low aspiration, which in itself adds significant barriers to success in the music industry.”

How does it work?

“Through an annual application and audition process, we identify young people who most need our support.

We estimate that many parents of talented musicians spend in the region of £11,500 a year on singing or instrumental lessons, junior conservatoire, youth orchestra or choir and other training course fees.

The families of the young musicians we support are means-tested to determine financial need. It is a real challenge for them to find the money to give their child the same opportunities that children from wealthier backgrounds can take for granted.

We also offer advice and mentoring, which are vital to help the young musicians progress towards their goals. We don’t just provide funding, we offer performance opportunities, involve the musicians in events and masterclasses, and tailor the support to nurture each individual towards a career in music.”

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Without the funding and opportunities that Future Talent has provided over the last four years, it would not have been possible for Alex to have achieved all that he has in music. Your support has opened many doors, which would otherwise be unimaginable.

In September 2014, Alex was offered the Andrew Lloyd Webber music scholarship to study his A-levels at Eton College.

What do you provide?

“We provide a Bursary Programme through which we respond to each individual young person’s needs; for example, a bursary might help a young musician and their family to buy a new instrument, take lessons, and attend workshops, specialist music training courses and summer schools. Young musicians who are able to demonstrate financial hardship are able to apply for up to £3000, which can be used in a lump sum, perhaps paying for an instrument, or over a period of 3 years where it could fund instrumental lessons. ”

FT_10-29Without the financial bursary of Future Talent it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for me to finish my last and incredibly important year in Junior RNCM. I would not have been able to take my Grade 6 Musical Theory Exam, and I would have had to do without the guidance of my JRNCM tutors in the run-up to my training in conservatoire. The bursary has allowed me to conclude this very important phase in my musical education in a positive manner.

“We also offer career advice. The musical world can be daunting for the young musicians we support. Future Talent staff work closely with children, families and teachers to negotiate instrument prices and recommend courses. We set goals and maintain regular contact with each young person and their family, selecting appropriate performance and audition opportunities to increase their confidence and help them discover and plan their individual music journey and potential career path.

This may seem basic, but it is actually vital work and can make a real difference. Unlike children from wealthier and better-connected backgrounds, most of the young people and their parents with whom Future Talent works do not know about opportunities that exist to develop their careers, nor do they know how to access them. Through our practical and ongoing support we give these young people the best possible chance for their talent to develop.”

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 Adam O’Shea, a tenor, received a Future Talent bursary in 2008 enabling him to accept a place at Chetham’s School of Music where he studied with mezzo-soprano Helen Francis, an important step in his music development. Thanks to that opportunity, he went on to study with the renowned tenor Adrian Thompson at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and is now beginning to make a name for himself as a young singer:

Adam O’Shea gives a courageous and skillful performance – Bachtrack review of Workshopera’s new opera: Boys of Paradise

My aspirations for the future have only been made stronger by Future Talent, who have encouraged and supported me in my ambitions. I think Future Talent has been the best thing to happen to me all year and I truly owe so much to this wonderful organisation – Adam O’Shea

“We also offer mentoring and performance opportunities. We have strong partnerships in the musical profession; mentors and partners who have worked with Future Talent young musicians to date include Danielle de Niese, Natalie Clein, Vasily Petrenko, Chloë Hanslip, Lesley Garrett, Guy Johnston, Laurence Cummings, Tine Thing Helseth, the Rambert Orchestra and Sir Mark Elder. The musicians with whom we work would simply never have the opportunity to meet, work and perform alongside such inspirational musicians without our help. Many of these young people lack confidence. Contact with professional musicians of this calibre sends them a powerful message and gives them a strong sense of self-worth. As well as masterclasses and training, we also provide opportunities for young musicians to shadow professional players, rehearsing with organisations including the Hallé and Rambert Orchestras.”

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How do you measure the impact of your work?

“Future Talent has a great track record in finding these young people and transforming their chances of succeeding in the music industry. Where appropriate, we will work with each child for up to three years, providing long-term support for greater impact. Our programme represents quality, rather than quantity. We focus on significant outcomes to transform the lives of a select number of exceptionally talented young musicians. A number of organisations exist to provide opportunities at a basic standard to enable large numbers of children to engage with music, and this approach can be a wonderful introduction to the music, but it rarely provides meaningful long-term transformative life changes. At the other end of the spectrum, there is support in place for young professional musicians who have already reached a high level of playing. Future Talent occupies a niche position to bridge the gap between these two approaches. We aim to make a real difference by providing holistic support to young people with exceptional musical talent; people who would otherwise not have the opportunity to shine.

We continuously evaluate our work and measure its impact. Our young musicians write reports of their progress every six months, and we receive annual reports from mentors, monitoring progress against the goals we set with the young people.

We measure long-term demonstrable musical achievements and career progression. Of last year’s award recipients, five were offered places at a conservatoire. Others hold positions in national ensembles including National Youth Orchestra, National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, National Youth Brass Ensemble and National Wind Orchestra. Ninety seven percent of our young people have passed their grade 8 exam with distinction and our musicians have won prestigious competitions and awards including Royal Overseas League, Young Drummer of the Year, British Flute Society Young Artist, and the ABRSM Sheila Mossman Prize for highest graded exam mark in the UK.”

Joy Becker came to Future Talent seven years ago, as a 14-year-old violinist, struggling with confidence. With our help she went on to become leader of both Junior RNCM Orchestra and Hallé Youth Orchestra and a member of National Youth Orchestra. Joy has just graduated from conservatoire and is now working on the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra’s professional experience scheme.

“As our work continues over a longer period, we are increasingly able to see the long-term impact of our intervention in the early stages of these musicians’ careers.”

future talent logo

Future Talent will be accepting applications for a 2016 bursary from Monday 28 September. Visit the website, futuretalent.org, for an application form and further details.

 

 

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