Sunday, 11 March 2012

The New Music Hubs

There are a couple of topics I'd like to air, well, three, come to think of it. The first of these is that I have never been able to come to terms with the description of music as "classical". It's perfectly OK, if you want to go into the historical ins and outs of music's development in the western world, but if someone asks, "What sort of music are you interested in?" and you give the answer, "Classical", then this answer has immediately and often been consigned by the questioner to a genre that lies buried in the past, and is continually dug up and practised by a few boring intellectuals, who guard their precious music with a passion that pushes it into the realms of exclusivity and musical elitism. This is, by the by, nonsense, but there is an unfortunate element of truth here. Without laboriously having to explain every time the question is asked that the word can cover everything from early music to contemporary, taking in Baroque, romanticism, serialism, neo-classicism, minimalism and any number of other -isms on the way, how do you convey width and breadth with the term, "classical", which smacks of a narrow specialism in cobwebs and Ancient Greece?

And on an even more personal note (second gripe), why do we musicians have to wear that funereal uniform at concerts which simply adds to communicating institutionalised elitism?  It's just not on as far as I'm concerned. Classical music is much more rock 'n' roll than this.  It is a living, developing, exciting music and the old, now rubbing shoulders with the new, is just as relevant today as it was centuries ago. Jazz doesn't have this problem, even though it encompasses just as many different forms. Its practitioners simply refer to it as "The Music". I wish we could do that too.

What stimulated this little outburst was thinking about how many people, especially youngsters, are put off classical music because of these negative associations, "It's too difficult; it's boring; it's only for the chosen few, it's out of date" and other misapprehensions. I've always felt that my orchestra should be more involved in combating this with music education, not just through rehearsals, concerts and workshops, but more fundamentally. At some point in the future this may become a reality, especially as the orchestra is growing by leaps and bounds in membership and musical quality. The value of music education is not in doubt and this leads to my third topic.

Until September of this year, the music education in schools is in the hands of local music services.  From September, this will all change as the government's first national plan for music education swings into action. This plan is all part of the financial cuts that we are having to accept in one form or another. Going immediately beyond that downside, there are some great ideas here.

Responsibility for providing music education in schools will be taken away from the music services and instead will be administered by "Music Hubs" which will be formed by appropriate organizations, including professional orchestras and ensembles. Funding will be reduced by a massive 20 per cent over the next couple of years, but, conversely, what is available will be guaranteed for the first three years of the scheme to facilitate proper planning. Hub applications will be assessed by the Arts Council, not previously involved in distributing funds for education and t
here will be a new music teaching module for trainee primary teachers. The aim is to provide a national plan for music which will eliminate the previously patchy service and bring an end to discrimination in terms of pupils' ability to pay.

We should be supporting this in any way we can. Feedback, please.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that the term 'classical' music is a poor one. It's limited as you point out and can smack of fuddy-duddy elitism but education is key here.

    Until we moved last summer, I was attached to a music group in Lancaster. Originally there was just a music centre which was run by Lancashire music service but funding eventually ran out in the mid 90s and a group of (brave) parents took it on. Initially the idea was to help their own children and later local kids generally. However, as time went on more and more adults came and joined the ensembles! I started going in 2003 because my daughter wanted to learn the violin and anyone taking lessons was firmly (but kindly) encouraged to join an appropriate ensemble. She enrolled in Beginner Strings. Beth was always very keen and so I was never allowed to miss one Saturday! Clearly it made sense to take my cello along to kill time! After a few years we found ourselves in the Symphony Orchestra and String Orchestra and Beth had a couple of years leading these before heading off to music college in Cardiff. I can honestly say that it launched her and we both had a load of fun!

    Entry into the String and Symphony Orchestras was for people of about Grade 5 and above and they ran consecutively from 10 until 1 pm with a 15-20 minute break in the middle. All morning, lessons were provided by local music teachers who joined the Centre and were paid directly by their pupils. We also had a few newly qualified music graduates from RNCM who would come and give us their expertise.

    The senior ensembles generally had 3 conductors who would educate as well as conduct. When not conducting they would sit in and play with the orchestra. We did a concert once a term and took carols into Lancaster (busking) every Christmas. This had the effect of showcasing us to the local community as well as raising money for charity.

    LCMC is a brilliant resource for Lancaster. The new people in the senior ensembles benefitted from playing with more experienced players, the conductors educated all of us and the adults could marvel at the speed with which stimulated teenagers could so quickly go from Grade 5 to 8!

    There was a through-put of these teenagers which gave the orchestras a very dynamic feel but parent players became the back-bone providing experience and stability and usually would eventually find themselves getting involved in the running of the centre as well. I became distributor of practice copies!

    LCMC has taken on a role as music educator for the local community. In my experience everyone involved felt great loyalty and love for it as well as gaining enrichment. We looked forward to our Saturday mornings. We felt we were contributing positively and learning simultaneously!

    Here's the link: It's hard to believe that this started with just a small group of parents.