Richard’s Blog

It’s now just over a year since I left ABRSM and it feels as if both me and that organisation have had a busy time and have some new things to get used to.

ABRSM first: for those who aren’t aware, Guy Perricone (Chief Exec) left ABRSM, rather suddenly, at the end of February. Leslie East, formerly Executive Director of Publishing & Syllabus has been made Chief Exec and my successor, Lincoln Abbotts, has been made Director of Strategic Development, which is a brand new post. I believe that, in addition, there may have been some further changes since those appointments were announced. Change is often uncomfortable, because it nearly always implies something being taken away. In this case, I’m disappointed to see my old department, professional development, has shrunk rather dramatically and I wonder if the same will happen to the courses that were running so successfully? In any event, it’s not my concern and I’m pushing ahead with plans to run some courses of my own, of which, more later.

Since leaving ABRSM, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Mark Novels, from Novels Consulting, on the development of the new Certificate for Music Educators, which should come on stream later this year. Mark and I worked with a good number of music sector colleagues to draw up the contents of this new qualification and I hope it will hit the spot for all those people who engage children and young people, in and with musical activity, in one form or another, but perhaps don’t have anything formal on paper that demonstrates their skills, knowledge and understanding, in this area of work.

Music education seems to be developing in a slightly curious way here in the UK and I wonder how Hub life is settling down. I find it hard to get too enthusiastic about the concept of Hubs and, whilst I’m all for every child having the opportunity to begin learning to play a musical instrument, I do think we need to retain our focus on developing the skills and fluency of the most able. To my mind, the current obsession with partnerships, sometimes shifts the focus away from the all-important matter of developing the emotional intelligence of young people, through the sustained progressive approach to learning about playing and performing music, as an individual, and as a member of an ensemble. The focus must always be on teaching music through the instrument.

And now, back in my little corner of the world, not working full-time has given me the opportunity to go to more concerts and musical events, and in the past few weeks I’ve seen and heard: jazz trumpeter, Arturo Sandoval at Ronnie Scott’s; poet and musician, John Hegley, here in Bedford; evensong at Westminster Abbey; evensong at King’s College, Cambridge; Alison Balsom, trumpet, also here in Bedford with the Philharmonia orchestra, and Northern Ballet’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, at Milton Keynes theatre, to name but a few. In March I attended the excellent Music Expo at the Barbican and pay tribute to Chris Walters, now working at Trinity who, as then Editor of Rhinegold’s, ‘Music Teacher’ magazine was the mastermind behind the event.

Last weekend I was in Frankfurt, for the Musik Messe, which, for some unaccountable reason, I never managed to get to whilst working at ABRSM. It’s a trade convention which amounts to an amazing gathering of music retailers from all over the world, with a huge number of people attending. Last year, there were over 1,500 trade stands and some 68,000 visitors, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there were even more there this year. Visiting Frankfurt allowed me to begin some conversations with colleagues from mainland Europe and South East Asia, and start to explore possibilities for professional development work with teachers in a number of countries. It’s too early to say whether this will develop into something but, as ever, I’m cautiously optimistic.

I’ve also had some good breaks, doing not very much, visiting Madrid and, of course, returning to my favourite place, the Isle of Wight on a number of occasions, and the rest of the time has been spent playing with Priscilla. I should quickly explain that Priscilla is my 1989 Morgan 4/4 roadster, of which I became the proud owner last summer. Despite a rather chilly winter, there have been few weeks when I haven’t managed to get out for a drive and, I’m pleased to say, the hood has not yet been up! Here’s a picture for those of you who haven’t met Priscilla.


Priscilla 1989 Morgan

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