As events go, our retiring VC John Brooks must have been delighted to discover that Ed Miliband chose to deliver his key note speech on NHS reform in the atrium of the recently renamed, after himself, Brooks Building on the Birley campus. He’d even prepared a short speech, in hand:
By around 11am, a huge crowd had gathered that spanned the entirety of the ‘Spanish’ steps and spread upwards across all remaining floors of the faculty. Students, staff and the general public alike had come to hear the Labour leader;
I’ve not heard Ed Milliband speak live before. I was very impressed. He was entertaining, warm, obviously well prepared and came across as a natural and engaging person. After a 10 minute speech outlining the various NHS reforms his party would implement, he spent well over 40 minutes answering questions from the general public before responding to a few questions from political journalists from the BBC, Sky and ITV.
The other good news from John Brooks’ point of view, was that he clearly loved the venue. Here’s a snippet of video from the very beginning of the event when he clearly looked up and was seriously impressed by the wonderful building that is our Faculty of Education.
He even promised, in front of hundreds of witnesses, to come back for a consultation meeting with a group of student nurses once he is elected Prime Minister. Fingers crossed for the election result in May.
Coming soon to a primary school near you – a prescribed list of 100 pieces of classical music that every child should be familiar with. No, this isn’t a joke. This is the cornerstone of future Tory music education policy according to the speech given by Nick Gibb at the Music Education Expo this week.
For clarity, here’s is the complete extract from the speech together with the suggestions that the preeminent expert on music education thinks should be included (that’s sarcasm BTW ):
While there is already a great deal of good practice, we also want to make sure there is support available for teachers who may need it – in particular, practical help for non-specialist primary school teachers. I am delighted that Classic FM and the ISM are going to compile, and give schools access to, a new list of 100 pieces of classical music that every child should be familiar with by the time they leave primary school.
Being familiar with the best known classical works is as important as reading the canon. Music has been important to me personally and my suggestions for pieces to include would range from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to Parry’s setting of ‘I was glad’ and Allegri’s ‘Miserere’, which I still remember singing as a choirboy. I very much hope there will be strong engagement from those within music teaching with ISM and Classic FM as they develop the list.
The full speech can be read here. I challenge you to find another single idea about the future of music education within it. Music Education Expo is the premiere music education event in the UK each year. As a platform, Gibb had the chance to set a future vision for music education under a Tory government. This was the best he could come up with. I’ll leave you to make your own judgement.
The Venezuelan youth orchestra program known as El Sistema, founded in 1975, has attracted considerable international publicity and funding in recent years. Said to be an effective means of resolving a wide range of social problems and now operating under the banner of ‘social action through music’, it has inspired attempts to adopt and adapt it in dozens of countries around the world.
However, there are very few critical analyses of the program’s aims and no rigorous studies which demonstrate that it achieves them. Furthermore, its methods are poorly understood and obscured by idealistic rhetoric. Efforts to transplant El Sistema overseas have taken place without reliable written sources about its history and its pedagogical and philosophical program. Continue reading
Geoffrey Baker’s new book, El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth, is a stinging critique of the Venezuelan instrumental and social music education programme. Baker’s research is far reaching, drawing on observations of the programme throughout Venezuela and interviews with key participants in the programme and students themselves. As a piece of qualitative and ethnographic research, it is beautifully constructed. Throughout his book, which I reviewed here for the Music Education UK website, Baker is at pains to justify his assertions about the programme and, when necessary, points to the limitations of his research and the conclusions therein.
In the final chapter of his book, Baker points to a number of projects that exemplify what he calls a more ‘progressive’ form of music education. At this point, it was lovely to find references to Musical Futures, a project that surely every music teacher here in the UK must be aware of that has made a significant and positive contribution to music education over the last ten years. This was what Baker has to say about Musical Futures:
One of the most radical and promising music education initiatives is Musical Futures, which began in the United Kingdom in 2003 and is spreading internationally. Musical Futures builds on Green’s (2002, 2008) work on informal learning and its application to the classroom. It’s central element is copying recordings by ear, and it integrates listening, improvising, and composing into the learning process, which is holistic and student-led (rather than sequential or drill-based) and promotes student choice of instruments and repertoire. Green (2008, 199-80) applies this informal learning pedagogy to ensemble playing and classical music, revealing that there is no inevitable bond between El Sistema’s curriculum, collective ethos, and conservative pedagogy. (Baker 2014, p.318) Continue reading
Morris’ post-doctoral paper ‘Sounds in the Cloud: Cloud computing and the digital music community‘, written in 2008, is remarkable prescient. At an early stage in the development of the cloud, it explores the technological and cultural implications of cloud-based music, how the cloud itself is leading to the commodification of music (and not in a good way), and how our relationship to music is changing as a result. Through the adoption of various metaphors and an analysis of [then] current trends, Morris is pretty scathing. Firstly, he argues, the cloud fundamentally changes our relationship to music itself:
[Music] is now part of a network of technologies and blended into a multi-mediated computing experience. Phones come with music, as do Web sites, video games and new cars. CDs are routinely given away in newspapers and magazines as promotions (Straw, 2009). Social networking sites, search engines, and other such technologies use online digital music as a draw for their services. Rather than a commodity of its own, music is integrated into so many diverse services that it becomes difficult to talk about music as a specific experience at all. Music appears to be ubiquitous: it is both everywhere and nowhere. [my emphasis] Continue reading
The Classical Music magazine are reporting huge cuts to the budgets of music services across the UK, including in Wiltshire (£140k cut) and Bromley (a planned cut of £305k over two years). In Redbridge, councillors planned to cut £166k from the music service budget but this was overturned following a public protest. Today, via Twitter, I have received further news that last night Kirklees councillors have voted through large cuts of £300k to Kirklees Music School in Huddersfield. Through other work that I’m doing, I am also aware that there are large cuts to the LA budget for music services in many other parts of the country that have not been announced yet.
Regular readers of this blog will know that this is something that I alerted you all to some time ago, in posts such as this and this. Continue reading
In what is a busy news day for music education, the next round of funding for the music education hubs has been announced by Arts Council England. The full details, including a spreadsheet of funding for each music education hub, can be found here.
The announcement is matched with a new report from ACE called ‘Ensuring Quality‘. This will be essential reading for all leaders of music education hubs.
We were also pleased to see that the Greater Manchester Music Hub is named checked by ACE in terms of the work they have done in developing their youth ensembles.