Music Mark Conference 2018 – Youth Voice

On Thursday 22ndand Friday 23rdNovember 2018, Kenilworth welcomed music educators from across the country to Music Mark’s 2018 annual conference to discuss the theme of “Youth Voice.” MWC’s Maria Thomas was there…

With sessions on topics such as Whose Music Education is it?, Trust the music – connection with young audiences, Youth Governance, Ensembles and young people, and Reaching out to Young People – Shake up your marketing and communications strategy, one key message was engaging young people in the music education discussion.

But there were also discussions on the gender gap in music – currently across the UK only 14% of music creators (composers and songwriters)  registered with the Performing Rights Society (PRS) are women – increasing investment in and access to musicmaking for deaf children and young people, mental health and wellbeing support for teachers within music services and hubs, careers in the creative industry, music workshops designed to support the development of speech and language  and wellbeing for children and young people.

Of course, with so many interesting workshops and discussions taking place, it is difficult to choose which to attend! So here are thoughts from a couple of sessions.

One session, led by Philip Flood from Sound Connections explored routes into music education as a career, with a particular focus on instrumental teaching and workshop leading. Three music hubs described their work in supporting early career educators and CPD.

Adam Hickman from Services for Education, Birmingham and Luan Shaw from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire discussed how they work together to offer Conservatoire students training and experience as instrumental teachers both at Undergraduate and Postgraduate level. They also reflected on how this has helped with wider CPD through the development of an online resource pack including videos.

Michael Davidson and Ije Amaechi talked about how Hertfordshire Music Service are focussing on diversifying their workforce of instrumental teachers and workshop leaders bringing together both teachers from a traditional teaching background and community musicians to share good practice. Ije talked about her journey from a participant on a songwriting course to being a workshop leader herself and highlighted how reflection sessions after workshops has helped her develop her skills.

Open Mic attracted me & then songwriting workshops were more appealing than grades. I’ve since performed at the Albert Hall & became a trainee tutor, shadowing across different projects & groups was useful to me, and reflecting after each session. 

Ije AmaechiTim Shephard from the University of Sheffield talked about his relationship as Chair of the Sheffield Music Hub, and shared his experience of working with Ian Naylor, Head of Music Education at Sheffield Music Hub to create opportunities for students to get involved in outreach through Music in the City and Music for Youth. It has also led to the development of a BA Music Education where Sheffield Music Hub offers training and opportunities to the University of Sheffield students.

An interesting question was raised in the whole room discussion:  

When are people good enough as tutors / workshop leaders?

This is particularly relevant to those who come to music education through non-traditional routes, and so the question was asked, “If a qualification is needed, how could it be completely accessible?”

One of the afternoon sessions, chaired by Youth Music’s CEO, Matt Griffiths explored inclusion in music education. As Matt stated at the beginning of the session, the debate has moved from, “Is inclusion needed?” to “How do we embed inclusion?” The first presentation was by Holly Radford of Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) who explained how music hubs around the Midlands had come together, facilitated by MAC and led by Phil Mullen, to explore how inclusion can be embedded in their work. The feedback from participants in the room demonstrated how useful the process had been for engaging with a range of local bodies such as local councils to develop support for music education.

The second presentation was by Michael Davidson of Hertfordshire Music Service discussing the work of MusicNet East, a collaboration between 4 music services (Hertfordshire, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk), supported by Youth Music who are all exploring inclusion in different ways. Michael talked about the work of Hertfordshire Music Service and how they are developing projects to fit the needs of educational bodies and participants, for example their work with Pupil Referral Units and their Songwriter programme. Delegates from Cambridge and Essex also shared their experiences of how these programmes are helping to get the value of music education as an aid to inclusion on the wider education agenda.

As Matt Griffiths, CEO of Youth Music tweeted at the end of the conference:

Main observation #MusicMark2018 was a collective will to innovate & change. Informed by & with young people, their lives in music, and acting on the school challenges we face. We can stand still, observe & moan or step up & transform. I’m totally for the latter #musicalinclusion


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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!

How Should we Sing these Songs?

While planning a recent singing workshop, MWC’s Artistic Director, Maria, had cause to reflect on the names and lyrics of songs, how the meaning of some words has changed, becoming sensitive, controversial or unacceptable, and how some aspects of music might impact workshop participants.

Looking into the topic more deeply, Maria discovered examples that have created debate in the past. One such incident happened when Garry Martin, a headteacher in Melbourne, Australia, decided it was necessary to alter a word in the song Kookabura. His concern was around the phrase, “Gay your life must be.”

Mr Martin mentioned his decision to change the word ‘gay’ to ‘fun’ on local radio, and found himself under fire. He had been conscious that the word would potentially lose him control of his class: “I knew if we sing ‘Gay your life must be’ the kids will roll around the floor in fits of laughter … I wasn’t trying to insult gay people.”

Although Mr Martin’s decision was based on behaviour management, it raised concerns from gay and lesbian advocates who said it sent a signal that the word ‘gay’ was unacceptable.

Mr Martin later acknowledged that instead of avoiding the issue, he should have explained the meaning of gay as another word for happy, and taken the opportunity to educate the children that the term should not be used disparagingly.

Songs that use gay to mean happy or joyful are common. Jamaica Farewell, released in 1957, made famous by Harry Belafonte and covered by various artists including Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke and Carly Simon. is another example.

Down the way

Where the nights are gay

And the sun shines daily on the mountaintop

I took a trip on a sailing ship

And when I reached Jamaica I made a stop

 

But I’m sad to say I’m on my way

Won’t be back for many a day

My heart is down

My head is turning around

I had to leave a little girl in Kingston town.

So how should we teach these songs in schools, youth groups, holiday clubs and other community groups?

The setting can be very important, but should not be prescriptive. While homosexuality can be a challenging issue in some religious settings, the original meaning and context of any lyrics still stand. Approach the subject sensitively. Decide whether it is really necessary to change any words, and think carefully about your reasons for doing so.

Other songs that can raise challenges include songs that may cause children to remember abuse or trauma.

What Shall We do with the Drunken Sailor is a sea shanty dating from as early as 1820 which became popular among non-sailors in the 20th century. As a song for musical activities, it has easy words with lots of repetition, makes use of drone and is a good way to introduce the concept of work songs – songs that helped workers carry out tasks.

Children often find the idea of drunkeness funny. However, for participants who have experienced abuse from a drunken relative, this song could trigger feelings of trauma.

Alcohol is a topic that requires care in religious settings. The tale of Sinbad the Sailor, which makes a great basis for a composition workshop, features drunkenness, even though it is set in Muslim countries. Again, sensitivity and awareness are key. Any elements of a story that might cause offence and risk children losing the opportunity to participate can be removed.

Music that links to war can also bring up bad memories or emotions in participants. The Second World War has inspired many composers, with works including Steve Reich’s Different Trains. MWC’s Maria says: “Having studied the Holocaust at school, I cannot listen to Different Trains. I find it chilling, it literally makes me feel cold.”

As a teacher or workshop leader, be aware that music can trigger strong emotions, and this can be a positive or negative experience. When choosing challenging music, try to predict possible issues, and once in the classroom make sure you are hyper-aware of the body language and reactions of your students.

Race is another subject that requires thought. Some pieces of music might be worth listening to for their cultural context or for their compositional value, but be laden with difficulty. For example, consider how you would introduce Debussy’s Golliwog’s Cakewalk. Is it best avoided, or is it better to teach the history behind the name? While it may be more comfortable to disassociate from this area of music history, this is a valuable opportunity to educate students and deepen their understanding. Instead of ignoring the piece, you can explain what it was about, and what ‘golliwog’ and ‘cakewalk’ meant. This excellent essay explains the racism behind the Golliwog Caricature.

Remember too that it is possible to be oversensitive. Teachers who changed the words to the nursery rhyme Baa Baa Black Sheep to Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep because they felt the word ‘black’ was racist caused a debate about political correctness ‘gone mad’. In the case of this song, the sheep is black simply for the purposes of alliteration. Removing the word could send the message that ‘black’ is a negative term. It also gives an example of trivial political correctness that racists can use to criticise and undermine the very real issue of racism.

With many cultural items, things move in and out of fashion or are interpreted differently over time. Only recently, removal by Manchester Art Gallery of John William Waterhouse’s painting Hylas and the Nymphs, triggered by the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, sparked discussion about political correctness and the danger of censoring or editing art that does not conform to what is currently acceptable.

It’s important to constantly evaluate traditional attitudes and familiar phrases. It is also always possible, if you feel there will be a problem that might preclude some children’s inclusion, to chose an alternative song or piece of music that achieves the same result.

Every piece of art is a result of the society in which it was created. The challenge for music educators is to ensure the survival of great music while placing it in a context that shows sensitivity to the audience/participants and the works themselves.

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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Aiming High with the Opera North Orchestra Academy

Acclaimed for the high quality of its operatic performances, Opera North also boasts one of the country’s finest orchestras. The Orchestra of Opera North plays at each of the Company’s operas and regularly performs at concerts in the region. An important, and enjoyable, additional strand of its work however, is ensuring that the next generation of young musicians are given valuable support, guidance and inspiration as they build on their playing expertise.

This month, the team at Opera North share their vision with MWC…

Opera North Orchestra Academy is the latest in a series of Opera North Education initiatives. It is an orchestral training programme for outstanding instrumentalists aged 14-19 years and studying at Grade 7 or above. During a week-long residential course in Leeds, which will take place between Tuesday 28 August and Saturday 1 September 2018, participants will be encouraged to take their playing and performance skills to the next level, whilst also getting the chance to meet like-minded young people and forge some life-long friendships along the way.

Throughout the week, the Academy musicians will rehearse exciting orchestral repertoire alongside the full Orchestra of Opera North and benefit from sectional coaching with the orchestra’s players in a bid to develop excellence in ensemble skills and orchestral performance. Guided by the players from the Orchestra of Opera North, the Academy musicians will also be given the opportunity to rehearse and perform chamber music, enhancing their overall music-making experience.

This video gives some idea of the community-centric focus held by Opera North. Here, the musicians of the orchestra create a surprise performance for shoppers in Leeds…

The Academy residential will culminate in a public concert under the baton of an internationally-renowned conductor, giving the Academy players a glimpse into what it takes to stage a professional orchestral performance and the excitement of the event itself. Subsequently, the participants will be invited to take part in ‘keeping in touch’ weekends during the October and February half terms and to join collaborative projects as part of the Opera North Youth Company.

Opera North’s Education Director, Jacqui Cameron, explains the idea behind the project:

The Orchestra Academy Summer Residency week aims to give everyone who takes part a valuable insight into working and rehearsing with a professional orchestra in an exciting and supportive environment. We decided to make entry by audition only to ensure that all participants are at the best stage in their playing to take advantage of this opportunity and for us to tailor the learning precisely to their needs.

It’s perfect for those who are already members of their local youth orchestra, as well as for students looking for an immersive musical experience during the summer. We hope that, having been given this glimpse of what it could be like, it will encourage many talented young players to consider pursuing a career in music with all the rewards that can bring.

The Company is well aware that some young people can be deterred by the idea of an audition so the process will be made as fun and friendly as possible to try and keep nerves to a minimum. The audition day will be split into two parts with an informal workshop in the morning where the young musicians will play some orchestral excerpts and learn about ensemble playing, followed by an opportunity to impress in the afternoon. The latter will be with the same players from the Orchestra of Opera North who have worked with the young people in the morning, so the auditionees will be playing their prepared solos in front of a friendly face. Whether successful or not, everyone will benefit from feedback on their playing and will hopefully leave the audition day having found it a positive learning experience.

The Orchestra Academy joins Opera North’s acclaimed portfolio of youth ensembles for both young instrumentalists and singers of all ages and abilities, including Opera North Junior Strings, Opera North Children’s Chorus, Opera North Young Voices and Opera North Youth Chorus. The Company also runs an open-access Orchestra Camp in the summer for which there is no need to audition.

More information and applications (by Monday 9 April) for the Opera North Orchestra Academy can be made at https://www.operanorth.co.uk/opera-north-orchestra-academy. Auditions will be held in Leeds on Saturday 21 April.”

 

 

 


If you would like to speak to the Music Workshop Company about booking a tailor-made workshop, or would like to contribute your project to our guest blog, contact us to find out more:

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

We Do Have a Voice

Sound Connections is a London based charity working to strengthen the music sector, bridge gaps in provision and deliver landmark music programmes. The charity’s Wired4Music council, made up of young people from a diverse cross-section of the community, all passionate about music, was set-up in 2009 to voice opinions on music education and raise awareness of musical opportunities. Since then they have established themselves as the only pan-London youth council with a music focus.

Wired4Music member Tyler Edwards, an emerging artist and producer spoke at the Music Education Expo about his vision for music education. 

“As a creative young person, I’ve found it ever more important to have the courage to express my ideas, thoughts and goals. But not everything can be done on our own.

Being given a platform and an opportunity to take responsibility for the things I want to achieve has been vital for my first steps towards being an adult and a professional.

The trust and belief that Wired4Music has had in me to take charge of roles that I would otherwise not have seen myself suitable for because I’m ‘young’ or ‘might not be ready’ has had a profound effect on the way I approach the challenges I’m faced with. The meetings and drop-ins that they hold have helped to foster a great working culture that inspires open collaboration and a way for us to manage projects ourselves, with a helping hand whenever we might need it.

I’ve had the chance to contribute ideas and facilitate events like the Wired4Music Rising Futures symposium at the Roundhouse, which is focused on empowering young people in their own music making. I’ve taken part in the Leadership Programme where we pitch our own music projects to be funded and brought to life and through the rest of my time at Wired4Music, I’ve been given the opportunity to guide workshop discussions and share my opinions with people who have the power to make change in their own organisations. 

We’re not asking to be isolated and completely separate from any form of guidance, we just want to know that we can openly discuss and suggest how we are involved with our progress and that we’ll be included in all aspects of our journey.

To me, youth voice is about having  a chance to prove to others and most importantly to ourselves that we do have a voice that can make a difference, breaking down the impractical barriers between educators and learners that stop the best work being made.

With these small steps we can work towards the trust and active participation of both teachers and students for true diversity, accessibility and collaboration to flourish in music education.”

Tyler’s opinion piece was written for a speech that he co-presented with Sound Connections Programme Manager Jennifer Raven at Music Education Expo 2017. It was part of a panel called “Hear me now: diversity, inclusion and youth voice in national music education policy and practice”, which was chaired by Pete Moser (More Music Morecambe) and also featured Carol Reid (National Foundation for Youth Music), John Kelly and Douglas Noble (Drake Music), Samantha Spence (Ealing Music Service).

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If you would like to hear more from Sound Connections, you can sign-up to their newsletter for the latest sector news, jobs and training or follow them on Twitter @sconnections

Sol-Fa – Singing Through the Ages

November 14th 2016 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Curwen, an English Congregational Minister and music educator who was responsible for refining and popularising the tonic sol-fa system of musical notation. Although he did not invent tonic sol-fa, Curwen developed a distinct method of applying it in music education which included important aspects of both rhythm and pitch that have been formative in much of the singing and early-years music teaching ever since.

The sol-fa, or solfège, system is designed for singing. If you have ever heard the song Do Re Mi from Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical The Sound of Music, you will be familiar with the idea. This concept transfers over to instrumental learning with the understanding that children can learn a great deal about pitch, rhythm and tone by learning to sing which can then be applied on any instrument.

Initially developed in the form we recognise today by Sarah Glover (1785-1867) a music teacher from Norwich, to aid Sunday School teachers with a cappella singing, Glover’s teaching method used movable solmisation syllables (a system of attributing a distinct syllable to each note in a musical scale) as an aid to sight-reading, alongside a sol-fa notation, which she had devised as a stepping stone to reading music from the staff.

There is evidence to suggest that a similar system of solmisation existed many centuries earlier. In her research paper Non-Lexical Vocables in Scottish Music, Christine Knox Chambers of Edinburgh University traces the use of solmisation back to China, Korea and even the Native American tribes. In Indian Classical Music the notes of the basic seven-note scale have the names sa, re, ma, ga, pa, dha and ni. And in Scottish Gaelic, the word canntaireachd (chanting) refers to an ancient Scottish Highland method of solemnisation which ‘notated’ music played on the Great Highland Bagpipes. This made it possible for music to be passed on in the aural tradition even without instruments.

Sol-fa or solfège as we know it was first seen in Europe in the 11th century, developed by Guido d’Arezzo, a music theorist and a monk of the Benedictine order who is credited with inventing modern staff notation. Staff notation replaced a system called neumatic notation, an ancient system of inflective marks which indicated the general shape of the musical line but not necessarily the exact notes or rhythms to be sung.

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Arezzo’s original solfège note names derive from an 11th-century hymn in which the solfège syllable is the word accompanying the first note of each phrase. The starting notes of each phrase are C, D, E, F, G, A:

In the sol-fa method, the seven tones of the scale are named do, ray, me, fah, soh, lah and te and are arranged into ascending and descending scales where do is the note C.

There is also a method called moveable do, which Curwen and Glover both employed, where the note do can be the tonic in any key.

Having experienced considerable difficulty himself with music reading and traditional music notation, Curwen became interested in the sol-fa method and its potential for teaching and developing music reading. He felt the need for a simple way of teaching how to sing. He believed that music should be easily accessible to all classes and ages of people.

In order to facilitate this, he devised a step-by step approach to teaching: Firstly reading from sol-fa notation, secondly reading from staff notation in conjunction with sol-fa notation below, and thirdly reading from staff notation alone. As his ideas developed he devised the pitch hand signs that are familiar to most music teachers as part of the Kodály Method and incorporated the French time names which are familiar from childhood music lessons (taa taa, titi). The use of sol-fa served as a memory aid as well as a learning aid.

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Many of his pedagogical ideas are fundamental not only to other music teaching methods such as Kodály and Dalcroze, but also to general educational practice.

Curwen’s principles of education:

  • Let the easy come before the difficult
  • Introduce the real and concrete before the ideal or abstract
  • Do one thing at a time
  • Let each step, as far as possible, rise out of that which goes before, and lead up to that which comes after
  • Call in the understanding to assist the skill at every stage

the_empire_of_song_-_containing_theory_and_practice_lessons_for_singing_classes_exercises_and_pieces_for_institutes_and_conventions_tunes_and_anthems_for_choirs_and_glees_and_choruses_for_concerts_

Further reading:

A full description of sol-fa:https://blog.key-notes.com/solfege.html

More information about John Curwen: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Curwen

A full description of Curwen’s method: http://music-ed.net/Curwen/Ped&TchngTechs.html

Information about the Kodály Method: http://www.britishkodalyacademy.org/kodaly_approach.htm

Indian Ragas: http://raag-hindustani.com/Notes.html

Harnessing Potential for London’s Young Talent

The Mayor’s Music Fund mmf (charity no. 1141216) was launched in 2011 in response to a London-wide survey carried out by City Hall, highlighting a number of gaps in provision for school-age musicians in the capital. We hear from Chief Executive, Chrissy Kinsella about the fantastic opportunities provided by the Fund. 

Our vision is that every young Londoner who demonstrates significant musical potential, enthusiasm and commitment to learning an instrument is given the opportunity to develop that potential.

We aim to nurture and encourage young people to progress their musical talent through our Scholarships and Partnership Programmes. The young people who take part in our Partnerships are from diverse social and financial backgrounds, whilst our Scholars are from low-income, often challenging backgrounds.

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Our objectives include collaborating with London’s 29 local authority Music Education Hubs to provide extensive musical opportunities across London’s 33 boroughs. We support high-quality, sustained instrumental tuition for Mayor’s Music Scholars, organise an annual series of playing days providing opportunities for Scholars to create music together, and support large-scale musical collaborations between Music Hubs and professional arts organisations, providing opportunities for aspiring young musicians (aged 8-21) to learn from, be mentored by and perform alongside professionals. We also enable professional musicians and artists to be motivational role models, empowering young people to explore and develop their musical capabilities, which in turn develops their social and emotional well-being and frequently uplifts academic performance. 

Our programmes…

Our four-year scholarships programme is specifically targeted at children who have received some first-access provision, but whose families are unable to pay for them to continue learning, even at this early stage.

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We work closely with local music services and primary schools in each borough to identify children with potential, enthusiasm and commitment to learning. Scholars must be in Key Stage 2 at the point of nomination, have been learning for at least a year and show potential on their chosen instrument. They receive a programme of around two hours per week via their music service, to include instrumental lessons, ensembles, and other supporting activities. They also have a named mentor to look after their programme, and an instrument to take home if needed. A Head Teacher in Bexley describes the positive effect the Fund has had on one of his students:

Michael was asked about being nominated for a scholarship: ‘Before, I was really naughty at school and now I’m really happy. I’m really good now and can do my work a lot better because of my trumpet.’ This scholarship opportunity won’t just give Michael the chance to become a better trumpet player, but it will give him a greater chance at life and breaking through the barriers of social deprivation.

Our Partnership Projects are large-scale collaborations, working with professional arts organisations to address a specific gap in provision. Previous projects have included an advanced string ensemble programme with the Philharmonia Orchestra in Hounslow and Sutton, a musical theatre orchestra led by the Tri-Borough and Youth Music Theatre UK, a world music ensemble based at the Lyric Hammersmith, run by Musiko Musika, and a jazz-meets-classical project in Hackney, working with the London Symphony Orchestra. One Young Musician’s Training Orchestra participant said:

Being in the Music Theatre Orchestra gave me an insight of how professional ensembles work and it is by far the best ensemble I’ve ever done! My confidence grew and I will continue to strive to improve and more determined than ever.

Success and Impact…

Since 2011, the Mayor’s Music Fund has awarded 375 scholarships across every London borough, representing over 330 schools. The second cohort (scholarships awarded in 2012) has just graduated, taking the total alumni to 140. The impact of our programmes is far reaching: In addition to evidence of higher self-confidence, self-esteem, and improved behavioural, social and academic skills, Music Fund scholars have gone on to win scholarships or places at independent schools such as Christ’s Hospital, & the Forest School, high profile state schools, Junior Conservatoires & London’s Centre for Young Musicians, and at specialist music schools such as the Purcell School and Menuhin School.

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Since 2011 the Fund has funded 28 projects across 29 boroughs, working with over 8,500 young musicians. Three additional projects have been approved for 2016/17, reaching a further 1,000 young musicians.

In total, the Mayor’s Music Fund has awarded over £1.5million directly to support music education in London!

The future…

A meeting of the Government’s Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee last week heard about the challenges facing regional arts organisations following local authority cuts. Arts Professional reported that Mark Pemberton, Director of the Association of British Orchestras said he was “disturbed” by the lack of diversity of young people entering employment as musicians.

At the Mayor’s Music Fund we are passionate about empowering and enabling young people from all backgrounds to fulfil their potential. Over sixty percent of Mayor’s Music Scholars are from BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) backgrounds, and 100% are from low-income families.

It is no surprise that just fifteen percent of state school children learn a musical instrument, as opposed to fifty percent of independent school children. We are committed and dedicated to ensuring that all children who show potential and commitment to learning are given the chance to continue.

We are delighted to welcome a new patron to the Fund in 2016, the recently elected Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. We look forward to working with his administration to further develop our programmes to ensure all Londoners are given the opportunity to develop their full potential.”

This video gives an introduction to the work of the Fund from the perspective of the students.

For more information about the Mayor’s Music Fund, please contact Chrissy Kinsella, Chief Executive on 020 7983 4258

 

 

ROH Bridge: Planning for A Bright Future

The Royal Opera House Bridge project works to connect young people with great art and culture, breaking down the stereotypes of inaccessibility and nurturing networks and innovation. The issue of culture, music and learning is vital to the future of education. In previous blogs we’ve looked at the value of exposing children to classical music and explored the ways in which opera companies can avoid alienating young audiences. We’ve also covered organisations such as Future Talent which provide opportunities for young musicians to develop their careers.

This month, instead of publishing our usual guest blog, we decided to showcase the Royal Opera House Bridge Conference which took place on 17th June 2016.

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The conference, entitled A Place For Culture, which took place in the beautiful setting of Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, explored how we can secure the place of cultural learning in schools and communities.

Key discussion points included:

  • How does where children live affect their cultural opportunities?
  • How can schools make space for cultural learning in a crowded curriculum?
  • How does local culture contribute to placemaking?
  • How can schools and cultural organizations work together to stimulate learning around Heritage and British values?
  • Have you taken your place in the cultural life of your community?

oldpalacesunny-300x199Attendees included cultural organisations, schools, Arts Council England, Grant giving bodies, local authorities and cultural trusts, freelance arts practitioners and Music Hubs.

The day was divided into keynote speakers, workshops and performances. Speakers included Althea Efunshile CBE, Deputy Chief Executive of Arts Council England with provocations from Deborah Annetts, CEO of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, Jonathan Simons, Head of Education at Think Tank Policy Exchange and Andrea Stark, Director of Foundation for FutureLondon. The 3 provocations asked delegates to think about the current cultural, political and economic landscapes and where cultural education fits.

Key messages were to understand the environment you are working in, and a reminder that there is never a perfect time to launch projects.

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Gary Clarke, Independent Choreographer and Artistic Director and Tom Andrews, Founder of People United talked with Althea Efunshile about their experiences of arts and culture with many inspired by Gary’s story. Gary came from a working class background in a Yorkshire village and is now one of Britain’s leading dance experts. Read more about his work in this interview.

Workshops covered topics such as Our Place: Building pride, aspiration and attainment through heritage, Rules for Rural – developing a shared manifesto, Place-marking: A strategic approach to working with communities and their schools, British values? Exploring a creative approach to the mandate for schools, The Cultural Governor – championing arts and culture through effective leadership in schools and Leading Cultural Learning – nurturing teachers as cultural champions.

A team from Hull showcased the work they are doing as City of Culture…

There were performances throughout the day from students from the University of Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire Music Service and the Pénte Ensemble from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.

Countess Anne choirThe afternoon kicked off with a performance by the choir from local school, Countess Anne Primary School to remind delegates of why access to arts and culture is so important. Many of the children had taken part in the Hertfordshire Music Service Gala concert at the Royal Albert Hall earlier in the year.

You can read more about what people said about the day here… https://storify.com/ROHBridge/royal-opera-house-bridge.

To find out more about the cultural learning across the Royal Opera House Bridge region visit http://www.roh.org.uk/learning/royal-opera-house-bridge/spotlight where leaders share what they have learned, explore the varied challenges in cultural learning and showcase innovation.

 

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