Showing posts with label cuts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cuts. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Breaking news: Music is left out of education reform again

Legacy? What legacy? The runaway success of the Cultural Olympiad and the London 2012 Festival looked set to prove to everyone that the UK's arts scene is second to none. But that's meaningless without the follow-up of lasting care and attention at grass-roots level - ie, in education. And as our dear government - specifically Michael Gove, the education minister - announces further plans for the reform of the schooling system, this time replacing GCSEs with something called the EBac, creativity and the arts are not just out in the cold, but nowhere to be seen.

Of course, the government has already excised state funding in its entirety from all arts further education in England, including from all the music colleges. While many of us have felt it best to give the directors of those institutions the space and privacy to negotiate behind the scenes for the most positive outcome possible, I can't help feeling we should have yelled a bit more about it from the start. To trumpet the excellence of British arts during the Olympics, while simultaneously removing the hope of training for anyone who can't access the funds to pay for it, represents mendacious hypocrisy at its zenith.

The Incorporated Society of Musicians has produced a strong response to the omission of arts and creativity from the EBac, pointing out that in the end it's the UK economy that's going to suffer. Here's the ISM's statement.




Missed opportunity for the economy as Government forgets the Olympics lessons

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) – the UK’s professional body for music teachers, performers and composers – has condemned the proposals for GCSE reform which threaten to damage not just our children’s education but also our economy.

Having criticised the English Baccalaureate (EBac) in its original incarnation, the ISM is even more concerned at the present proposals which will increase pressure on pupils to study the six areas of maths, English, sciences, languages and humanities with no creative subjects at all being present.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the ISM, said:

‘These proposals represent a missed opportunity to reform our education system. Michael Gove will ensure with these so-called reforms that the UK loses its competitive edge in the fields in which we are world class. It is as if the Olympics never happened. Design – gone, technology – gone, music – gone.

‘This short sighted, wholesale attack on secondary music education will emasculate not only our world class music education system but also our entire creative economy which is estimated as contributing up to 10% of our GDP.

‘In its present form, intellectual and rigorous subjects like music are nowhere to be seen in the EBac offer. In its present form, the CBI, Creative Industries Council, ISM and Cultural Learning Alliance are all seeking reform of the EBac to include at least some of what the UK economy is good at: creativity and culture.’

Diana Johnson, Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education and a former education minister said:

‘The Secretary of State for Education has clearly forgotten all his warm words about music education in the past to launch an assault on music in secondary schools. Music education in the UK is world class, contributing hugely to our economy. The absence of music and any other creative or innovative subject from the EBac will further undermine the UK's progress in some of the growth generating industries of the future. We just saw Olympic and Paralympic closing ceremonies showing off some of the best of British music, design and creativity. The Government should at least include music in the English Baccalaureate.’

Fact checker: Gaps in the Secretary of State’s statement

1. In his statement to Parliament, whilst warning that the previous ‘examination system [had] narrowed the curriculum’ Mr Gove continued to promote the EBac, a course which is causing schools to drop music and other creative and cultural subjects.
2. Whilst claiming that higher education providers back the English Baccalaureate, Mr Gove forgot to mention that advice from the Russell Group only refers to post-16 study, not pre-16 study, and forgot to mention some Universities – like Trinity College Cambridge – make their own list of rigorous subjects which include music.
3. Whilst claiming that the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) had backed ‘widespread view among business that we needed to reform GCSEs’ Mr Gove forgot to mention that the CBI has explicitly criticised the EBac in its present form for omitting creative and technical subjects from the EBac.

Deborah concluded:

‘This Government was formed with the claim that they knew how to get the economy moving, yesterday, they proved that this was not the case. You would be forgiven for forgetting that the Olympics, Cultural Olympiad and Opening and Closing ceremonies had just taken place. You could be forgiven for missing out the importance of creativity, technology and the UK’s leading position in the music industry to our economy.’

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Trouble with Sponsorship

More people these days are making their feelings known about where sport and the arts get their necessary lucre. And it's not a moment too soon. But where do we go from here?

Mark Rylance [right], probably today's finest Shakespearean actor, appeared the other day on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show (catch it here for the rest of the week) and didn't mince his words about certain fast-food chains that are sponsoring the Olympics and building their largest-ever outlets on location in East London. It shouldn't be allowed, he insisted.

As the Olympics approach, more and more Londoners are starting to find the surrounding morass cringeworthy: big money, black markets, shuddery transport, the alleged attempt not to remunerate performing musicians, and so on. Junk food is not the jewel in the crown. It's the nail in the coffin. 

After tweeting about Mark Rylance, I found I'd acquired a new Twitter follower called BP Or Not BP. "We are the Reclaim Shakespeare Company," says its mission statement. "We cometh to rescue the RSC from the slings and arrows of outrageous BP." And considerable attention is also being drawn to the involvement of the oil industry with fine art.

I recently went to hear the Simon Boliv├ír Orchestra and Gustavo Dudamel at the Royal Festival Hall, playing the Beethoven 'Eroica' Symphony. As the Venezuelan musicians took their places, a woman in the audience began shouting. I couldn't see her or hear the details of what she was yelling about; the assumption that it must be a human rights issue about Chavez’s government didn't seem unreasonable. But then, briefly, a banner the size of a tea-towel became visible and made clear that her protest was environmental, directed not at the performers, but against the sponsors of the series in which they appeared, which goes by the title Shell Classic International.

Only a couple of people appeared to be involved; they were quickly booed down and all was peaceful thereafter. A few days later, at an opera, I found myself surrounded by big-money types sporting interesting languages, sharp suits and trophy wives. Their exceedingly powerful company was sponsoring the event. It has a somewhat mixed history regarding both the environment and politics, but here there were no protests. Indeed, the company's personnel seemed to account for most of the audience.

Government subsidy is reducing. The latest dollop of extra money from ACE, 'Catalyst Arts', has been awarded to various entities - the Wigmore Hall and some top orchestras among them - on condition that they raise private funds themselves to match the amount. Arts companies, as well as sporting events, must court private sponsorship more actively than ever before. And sponsors with the inclination and spare dosh to invest in the arts are not as plentiful as they might have been five or six years ago.

I don't need to give you a run-down here about banking and LIBOR, or environmental disasters, or how smoking kills people, or the connections between the arms trade, organised crime and blood diamonds, and so forth. You can find it all with a few judicious Googles. Scratch away at the paintwork of many big events and you might well discover something lurking beneath that could justify unfurling a tea-towel. 

Now, there are wonderful people who practise philanthropy on a daily basis; admirable individuals who, having made money through hard graft, are devoting the fruits of their labours to supporting the arts that they love - for example, by helping young musicians, sponsoring recordings and financing good instruments. This needs real encouragement. No company brand is involved, no subliminal message designed to implant the idea that maybe if you eat this, you'll be able to do that.
 
But beyond that, arts organisations, along with international sporting fixtures, are sometimes having to cosy up to people they might rather not. They do have to be cosied up to. They have to be wined and dined and played to and publicly thanked. Sometimes they become power-hungry. The worst scenarios involve the whitewashing of public images and the cleansing of charred souls. 

Arts audiences - the ordinary ones who'd like to buy tickets to see and hear something inspiring – are people who care about Shakespeare and Mozart and talented kids, and they're likely to care about the environment, human rights and good health as well. With issues as high-profile as the Olympics and that recent Formula One event to prove the problems loud and clear, more are waking up. Will they begin to vote with their tickets? I'm starting to wonder.

If an organisation can please either its natural audience or its sponsors, but not both, chances are they'll plump for the sponsors every time. Are we to end up with a state of affairs in which our arts organisations are mere playthings for the super-rich? 

The arts need big money. The audience wants good ethics. Where do we go from here? Answers on a postcard, please.  

Meanwhile, a good proportion of the shoppers in our local supermarket are now so fat that they can only waddle. It couldn't be more obvious that Mark Rylance is right. 

UPDATE: LondonJazz has forwarded this story from Simon Tait's Arts Industry newsletter, describing the way that Jeremy Hunt is pushing the sponsorship agenda and pulling state support back. Look out for this bit, with JH saying “I hope the state will continue to be able to support the arts” - implying for the first time from him that it might not – and admitting in his next sentence that “the state has become a less reliable partner” in arts funding. The fear of the likes of Nick Serota is that it is about to become even less reliable, bringing forward the Comprehensive Spending Review a year to this autumn and piling still more cuts on the arts. http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=a11ee4dbf1f30d899385efb31&id=6d0bda3e74&e=d8f9c6cad9

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Crisis at Janacek and Korngold's home opera

A distress call from Brno in the Czech Republic signals the latest cultural victim of the "financial crisis". The opera house in Brno is the country's second-largest, and has a long, distinguished history: not least, the city was the home of Janacek, composer of a raft of the early 20th century's finest operas, and it was also the birthplace of Korngold. According to our correspondent, the budget of Brno's cultural institutions has already been chopped by 20 per cent. The next step, it seems, is that the opera house's ensemble, chorus and orchestra are, allegedly, to be disbanded.

The email I've received suggests that the plan is that they will be taken back after seven months, but that there is no guarantee and the employees don't believe that that will happen. Besides, they have to eat, so they're not likely to sit about waiting, just in case, but will have to seek employment elsewhere.

One of the immediate casualties is the planned staging of Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane in the 2012-13 season, which would have been a co-production with Kaiserslautern.

There's a petition online to save the opera house's ensemble, and the affected performers would be mightily grateful if you'd like to sign it. It's in Czech. Click here.

Update: above right, a photo of the protests this situation has sparked. I've posted some Czech links in the comments box below, too.

Beware, friends. You don't know what you've got until it's gone. Institutions that have taken decades or centuries to establish can be swept away in one stroke of a pen. We live in a copycat world. Such precedents are much more dangerous than you might fondly imagine, of a Sunday morning.

Here's Lotte Lehmann - the first Heliane - singing the opera's most famous aria, 'Ich ging zu ihm'. JDCMB regulars will have heard it before, but that is no reason not to hear it again.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

SHOUT OUT! MUSIC EDUCATION FOR ALL #2

All this week here on JDCMB, some of the stars of British musical life share their firm conviction that musical education should be available to all children, regardless of wealth. They offer their personal memories and gratitude for the opportunities that were open to them, without which they might not be where they are today. And, just as the Big Noise of Sistema Scotland releases some truly astonishing statistics about the impact and beneficial effects of its programme at Raploch - eg, 100 per cent of parents reported their children's confidence increased by music-making - they remind us that music does more for the soul than can ever meet the eye...

Today we hear from James Rhodes, Errollyn Wallen and Nick van Bloss. Over to you, guys...




"Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, Mozart, et al, are and always will be the musical equivalent of Shakespeare, Byron and Chaucer. To make cuts in our education system that will make music-making and even music-listening the preserve of the wealthy is an appalling indictment of our society. As a child I found it was these great composers that offered a rare glimpse of something bigger and brighter than the rest of my educational world. Being able to torture my teacher with my dire piano playing, listening to Peter and the Wolf, watching a talented ex-pupil play Chopin on stage - all of these things were vital and extraordinary experiences that in some way moulded and shaped my desire to immerse myself in music and, perhaps more importantly, gave me the feeling that there was something infinitely more exciting than my rather one-dimensional and painful schooldays. 

"To cut or remove classical music from the curriculum would be tantamount to substituting Shakespeare with Grisham - a cheapening and eroding of our cultural heritage that will have long-lasting and far-reaching consequences. Accessibility is a vital part of education. In the land that gave us Britten, Elgar, the Proms and Cheryl Cole, surely music education is a right and not a privilege. The success of El Sistema in Venezuela and the global inspiration it has produced should provide a clear message - the life-changing power of music is something to be treasured and supported. Music will always survive; far better it does so because of our government rather than despite it. "





"I was nine years old when, walking along my street in Tottenham, North London, holding my uncle’s hand, I confided that I heard music all the time in my head which I didn’t know what to do with. It was my Uncle Arthur who suggested that I might be a composer.

"It has been a long and winding road towards acquiring all the education and skills I needed but without the good start I had – a wonderful music teacher, Miss Beale, at our state primary school in Tottenham who taught everyone in the class to read and write music at the age of nine and who encouraged me to write my first ensemble composition for the class – Frogs and Toads – it would have been an even harder journey.

"I’ve just finished a day’s work on what is my eleventh opera. I still hear music all the time in my head and am full of plans for the future. I am never without a commission.  My music has been, on a NASA mission, to outer space.

"Every single day I give thanks for the musical education which made my career as a professional composer possible.  I believe that everyone who wants to, regardless of their background, should have access to the tools of this most remarkable trade."



"The days of considering music to be a mere hobby for the rich, a luxury, something of no intrinsic value, are surely over? Or are they...? Children of all ages are fascinated and stimulated by sound. They are 'wowed over' when they watch a virtuoso, thrilled when they experience a symphony orchestra. Given the chance, they're eager to pick up an instrument and ‘have a go’ - to engage, to 'create'.

"Budgetary cuts affect music education disproportionately.  Students are still being taught the full school curriculum but instrumental teaching is being slashed. It is obviously the funding structure which should be amended, so that when cuts have to be made, the basic building blocks of music education are not annihilated overnight.

"The Longfellow quotation, 'Music is the universal language of mankind', may sound like a cliche, but, can we, as a society, deprive children the chance of experiencing this 'language'? The benefits of music education are numerous. It has a multitude of applications physical, artistic, cognitive, creative, social, therapeutic, intellectual...  No matter who we are, it is a major force in our lives. 

"It would be a sad indictment of our society if we not only ignore the benefits of music education, but if we deny a generation the chance of experiencing even a few of the wonders music has to offer. Music itself is a great survivor, but the route of passing it on to others has rarely been more fragile."

Monday, April 04, 2011

SHOUT OUT! MUSIC EDUCATION FOR ALL #1

Music education in the UK is facing a shaky future due to financial cutbacks. Despite an apparently positive response from central government to Darren Henley's recommendations in his official report, local authorities have already begun to slash their music services and budgets for music teaching. Some are putting fees for instrumental tuition up to levels way beyond the recommended MU rates, pricing the non-privileged out of the market. This discrepancy between apparent central intent and what's really happening "on the ground" needs to be recognised and spotlighted. And it needs noticing now. 

I, for one, don't want to see music-making in the UK barred to those who can't afford to pay for lessons. Yet while authors jumped forward with alacrity and tough words about the iniquities of closing libraries, and were instant fodder for headlines, even the most prominent musicians seem to lack suitable outlets to speak out. An entire musical country has therefore been feeling voiceless and hopeless. 

Enter JDCMB. I've asked some of the prominent British musicians I know to please consider voicing their concerns via my site and I'll be running their responses throughout the week ahead. Today we begin with no less a team than Tasmin Little, Barry Douglas and Julian Lloyd Webber. 



"My point is short and far from sweet.  If we do not keep music education high on our agenda, it is not just the current generation of children who will be deprived of profound experiences which can affect their whole lives, but future generations, who will wonder why they cannot understand emotions which lie deep within themselves.  

I have had so many experiences of the power of music on children of all ages, nationality and social background - from kids with communication disabilities in UK, to groups of Chinese children who have never heard a note of any live music, to young Zimbabwean children whose animated faces at their discovery of music will never leave my memory.  However, a teacher in Yorkshire emailed me recently and her words sum it all up for me:



“I also teach minority ethnic children English, and thought you would like to hear this story:  one of these children had selective mutism, and it was only when I took my guitar in to her English lesson and gave it to her to hold that she said her first sentence to me, which was 'I'd like to learn the violin'!  From that point she has begun speaking, and after I arranged violin lessons for her, it turns out that she has musical talent and is doing well.  This is the power of music!”

"We like to define society by the expressiveness and achievement of its people. OK - fine.  But in this era of cutting mercilessly, it's not 'just about the economy, stupid!' The wealthy class always hold all the cards and the rest try 'their best'; and here is an amazing example of, potentially, a whole generation of young people being barred from the fulfilment and delight of music and the arts. When all other European countries except Ireland are freezing or increasing funding, the one-time hub of the music world is cutting and imploding.  How short-sighted and how cruel. Even when I was growing up during the conflict in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, the concerts, festivals and music education available helped sustain us. Think again, please, for the sake of your children and grand-children." 


"It is extremely frustrating when the Coalition has given its support to the importance of music in schools – having recognised the huge social benefits music brings both to children and their communities - to then discover slash-happy local authorities lagging far behind in their thinking. It is so easy to make a knee-jerk ‘cut’ to provisions for music and so hard to reinstate it later.

"Music is a universal language which brings people together and which provenly enhances children’s skills in so many other ways. There is no better way to build a ‘Big Society’ than through music – one thing EVERYONE can share together."