Creative Subjects Need Your Support

The Music Workshop Company has been following changes to the secondary curriculum in the UK with concern, as the implementation of the EBacc (English Baccalaureate) results in a worrying decline in take-up of arts subjects.

We’ve been supporting Bacc for the Future – the brainchild of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM). We spoke to the ISM’s Jessica Salter to find out how the campaign is progressing:

“Bacc for the Future calls for creative subjects to be included in EBacc and ABacc league tables, or for these qualifications to be replaced by a more rounded option. The campaign began in 2011 when the EBacc was first imposed. It’s now supported by more than 30,000 individuals and 200 creative organisations.

[Image: Tiffany Bailey]

The EBacc is a league table measuring schools by pupil performance in five subject areas. The intention is for ‘at least 90% of students’ (nationally) to be entered into the EBacc subjects, with only certain types of schools exempt. This essentially makes it a compulsory qualification for most school-age children in England.

For a pupil’s performance to count towards this new measure, he or she needs to have studied a minimum of seven GCSE subjects which must include English Literature, English Language, Maths, two or three sciences, an ancient or modern language, and history or geography.

If students are encouraged to study triple science and history and geography, this minimum of seven GCSEs becomes a minimum of 9.

It becomes clear looking at this list that the EBacc pushes creative subjects, like music, out of the curriculum and out of school options at Key Stage 4 (GCSE level).

The fact that the EBacc undermines creative subjects in secondary schools is a big problem. Statistics released by the Department of Education (DoE) in January showed an 8% drop in the uptake of creative GCSEs in 2017.

Add that to the 8% drop in 2016, and the figures are significant.

A recent survey from the BBC, which looked at 1,200 schools nationwide, found that 90% of these schools had cut back on lesson time, staff or facilities in at least one creative arts subject.

The ISM continues to meet with parliamentarians to fight the EBacc. We still need your support and encourage musicians and music educators to actively participate to help us. You can do this by writing to your local MP and the Prime Minister about why creative subjects matter in our schools.

To find out more and to support our Bacc for the Future campaign visit baccforthefuture.org and follow us on Twitter @bacc4thefuture.”

Read MWC’s previous blogs about the campaign:

The EBacc and the Importance of the Arts in Schools

The EBacc and the Arts – An Educational Paradox

Government Bulldozes on with EBacc Despite Evidence

The ISM was set up in 1882. Today the organisation supports a growing membership of nearly 8,500 professional musicians from across the music sector. Its members include performers, composers, music teachers, music administrators, music technology professionals and portfolio musicians. The ISM provides a range of services including specialist legal and tax advice, template contracts, comprehensive insurances, professional development materials and select discounts – as well as fearlessly protecting musicians, the music profession as a whole and the wider industry through rigorous campaigning.


If you would like to contact the Music Workshop Company to book one of our bespoke workshops, or if you have an issue, an event or anything music-education related you’d like to see covered in our blog, get in touch today, we’d love to hear from you: info@music-workshop.co.uk


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A New Beginning for Musicland

Musicland Publications has been a leading publisher of sheet music, tuition books, teaching materials, teacher training programs, and learning resources for the Music Education sector, for over 30 years. String teachers in particular will be familiar with its tuition books, classical and contemporary music for solo instruments and ensembles.

Earlier this year, the firm announced an exciting re-launch, and a change of management, as Simon Hewitt Jones takes the reins.

The back-story

Caroline and Alan Lumsden with their four children in 1986.

The Musicland catalogue was established in 1984 to distribute the music of Anita Hewitt Jones and her daughter Caroline Lumsden, both music education specialists. Over the course of 30 years, it has grown into a wide range of high-quality musical and educational resources that help children become immersed in practical and theoretical music. The library of compositions leads children from their very first experiences of music right through to Grade 8 standard and beyond.

Founder Caroline trained as a violinist and singer at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama before qualifying as a primary school teacher. Passionate about the social side of music, she believes that every child, whatever their background, should be given the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and partake in group playing and singing, giving them a head start in life.

Caroline’s Musicland characters and rhythm training are used worldwide to help the very young learn to read music subconsciously. The method, developed at the Gloucester Academy, was subsequently adopted by StringTime at Junior Trinity.

What’s new?

In January 2017, Caroline announced the re-launch of Musicland Publications with Simon taking over the day-to-day management. Her decision to step back is largely due to taking time out to care for her husband, Musicland co-founder Alan, who is coping with Alzheimer’s. Simon, who is a virtuoso violinist and Director of the pioneering online teaching resource, ViolinSchool, is Caroline’s nephew, and as the business passes to a third generations, Caroline will remain closely involved with updating the catalogue and planning new publications, as well as delivering a limited number of workshops each year.

She says,

I know that my mother Anita (Hewitt Jones – whose popular chamber music compositions make up the bulk of the early Musicland catalogue) would be delighted that Simon is at the helm.

Musicland’s brand new e-commerce website at www.musiclandpublications.com features some of their best-loved string sheet music and educational resources.

The online shop features favourites such as Bread and Butter Pudding, Lollipop Man, the ever-popular Ragtime Serenade and Rumba, and many more, with new covers rolled out across the catalogue, and some of the ‘classic’ Musicland pieces now available again for next day despatch.

The new site means that the entire Musicland Publications catalogue will soon be available through most major sheet music retailers, including in Europe and Australia, with direct worldwide shipping.

Simon’s son Rubin… the fourth generation!

What does the future hold?

Musicland will be creating a plethora of books, video programs and apps for learners of all ages, and developing plans for the firm to become a state-of-the-art digital publisher for string music and educational resources. As Caroline says,

Anita was a deeply passionate advocate of music education, and we’ll be holding close to her values and legacy as we move Musicland forward into the digital age!

 

 

 

 

www.MusiclandPublications.com

sales@musiclandpublications.com

+44 (0) 20 3468 4744


The Music Workshop Company would love to hear your music education stories. If you would like to feature on our blog, contact us today

Composition, Improvisation and Creativity

The Music Workshop Company (MWC) runs a range of workshops based on a wide variety of World Music, including African Drumming, Samba, Junk Percussion and Singing.

We also run Music Composition workshops during which participants create and perform new music under the guidance of one of our workshop leaders. These workshops can be based on a theme or topic, or they can focus on a particular style of music such as pop, jazz or classical. Compositions are built up from ideas, notes or chords, often using improvisation, and built into a final performance where students play the pieces without sheet music.DSC_0033

Improvisation is an effective tool in a classroom composition workshop, and is not exclusive to children who play instruments. In fact, using percussion instruments or voice and getting children away from the technical constraints of their violin or clarinet can free them to experiment more confidently.

A workshop exploring improvisation can also be designed as a one-off event for budding musicians, perfect for an Arts Week in school, or for a group such as a youth orchestra or music summer school. It can even be used in the workplace as a team-building exercise and to develop creative thinking.

Playing from memory and improvising are both concepts that can be intimidating, but they are integral to a creative workshop experience. This month, Matthew Forbes, professional cellist and MWC workshop leader, introduces the topic of improvisation, and explains why he believes it is so important to musical development.

“Few words in the vocabulary of the musician provoke such an extreme reaction as ‘Improvise!’

I have known it to strike fear into the heart of the most experienced professional, and yet to trigger excitement in the eyes of children. Why is this?

Many people seem to think that improvisation is a skill that you either can ‘do’ or not, depending on personality and natural ability. These people, in my experience, are the ones who confess themselves to be unable. And yet the only difference between them and those who ‘can’ is the environment and teaching that they have received and absorbed on the subject.

Matthew Forbes

Matthew Forbes

In the UK, and particularly in England, the opportunities to learn how to improvise have been very slow in coming. For as long as I can remember, to learn an instrument at school or privately, you must learn how to read music on top of all the physical techniques of the instrument itself. The two elements are inextricably paired. Moreover, the written word is sacrosanct. You must play THAT note, THEN, and for THAT long.

This is a lot to take in at once.

Is it any wonder then that so many give up or never reach their potential? Despite so many developments in the progress of literacy education in this country, why is it still assumed that in order to progress as a musician you have to be able to read as well as you play? As a professional classical musician who still finds reading music the hardest thing of all, it upsets me deeply to think that so many people stall in their musical experience because of this weight of responsibility to be a good reader. Not everyone is, and when learning a musical instrument or studying singing, the two senses that are most crucial must be the aural and kinaesthetic. Particularly for us boys, this latter sense is much stronger and more easily learned than the skill of turning a written symbol into a sounding gesture. The physical act of playing or singing can be far more powerful and satisfying than we give it credit for. The same part of the brain that catches a ball, holds a knife and fork and writes with a pen has limitless power to weave the same magic with a bow, a mouthpiece or a keyboard.

‘Some students respond well to the chance to improvise or develop skills away from written music.’ Maria Thomas, MWC

Think of some of the great non-reading musicians of the last hundred years: Art Tatum, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder to name a few. Their engagement with the music, the audience and their ideas had nothing to do with anything written down, yet their skill and attention to fine detail were as rigorously crafted as any great concert pianist or opera singer. Just because music is improvised does not mean it has to be jazz, despite the strong associations. Mozart, Beethoven, Messaien and many others were proud improvisers, developing their voice and their style through immediate participation.

Thankfully improvised music is more and more finding its importance in performance and music education now. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority’s schemes of work for primary and secondary schools all mention improvising as a vital skill for any musician, particularly in regard to any cross-cultural participation. To assume that “I just can’t do it” is like saying that because he has never done it, a professional chef can’t bake a loaf of bread. The myth that improvising is some magical power needs to be dispelled. Improvisation is as much a teachable and learnable discipline, along with sight-reading, playing chamber music or song writing.

The secret to it is to start from a place of comfortable familiarity and develop one step at a time from there. A child who can only play one note can still improvise! There is still rhythm, there are dynamics, structures and ideas. Similarly, the student who doodles incessantly and without focus needs a framework to turn their repeated random sounds into something coherent. photo 3

Any composing, whether written or not, needs parameters – a framework. Some musicians find these parameters comforting, some find them restrictive. In my fifteen years of teaching improvisation, the first category tend to be female, the second male. This is not a judgement on whether one is better than the other, nor is it any more than a general observation. But being aware, as a student of improvising, which one is more ‘you’ can be reassuring.

Music, in its bewildering beauty, is rich with potential angles from which to begin – rhythm, melody, visual stimulus or a deliberate effort to break free of convention.

 For young players this is particularly to be encouraged. All the times I was told, ‘Stop messing around and practise what you’re meant to,’ made me even more curious to find my own sound. I only realise now how significant this act of rebellion was.

 But improvising is not really rebelling – it is the musical equivalent of thinking out loud. Throw away that music stand for an hour. Play something. Sing something. See what happens…”

Whatever the level of musical or instrumental skill in your classroom or workplace, MWC can create a workshop to facilitate and develop improvisation. Contact us today to discuss a bespoke Composition or Improvisation workshop for your school, business or community group.

 

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