It’s been ages since I wrote anything, so here’s a little catch-up:
Rather disappointingly, from my perspective, my big spell of work at Trinity (TCL) as Acting Head of Academic Governance (Music) finished around October last year, although since then I have had some very enjoyable involvement with the Trinity Certificate for Music Educators qualification, working with Chris Walters at TCL.
The good news is that the reduction in workload has meant that I have been able to spend a little more time with Priscilla (my 1989 Morgan 4/4) and, in October, an ad caught my eye in the Morgan Sports Car Club journal. The Plus 5s, a Morgan car-owners gig band, was looking for a keyboard player or guitar player. I made a rather tentative approach, having not played much music of any sort since the early 90s, and no longer owning a keyboard, stand, amplifier or any of the necessary kit. I was invited along to join a rehearsal, as a kind of mutual audition, using a borrowed keyboard and amplifier. To my delight, we found that I could make a useful contribution to the band and they were keen to have the range of sounds that a synth could supply. So, from November 2013 onwards, I found myself involved in rehearsals and played my first gig with the Plus 5s in January. It’s been good to get back to some music-making, especially in the company of such friendly bandmates, and with all of us having the added common interest of being Morgan owners.
At the beginning of 2014 I travelled to Kent, to lead a day’s professional development with a small privately-run music service, one of several similar engagements in the past few months. February saw a trip to Dumfries to work with Education Officer, Alan Cameron, who has pioneered video-link instrumental teaching. In early March, a return visit to the Frankfurt Musik Messe, where I was able to meet a number of colleagues and enjoy some excellent German hospitality (aka beer). A Plus 5s gig at Brands Hatch in April was good fun and being able to pop over to Nice on a few occasions to enjoy some sunshine has also been lovely.
Despite enjoying a more leisurely paced life, some travel, work and music-making, I’m finding it hard to feel positive about the general state of music education in the UK right now. At the risk of treading on a few toes I’ll say what I think and offer an apology in advance for any offence my remarks may cause. Although I’m not travelling around the UK as much as I used to, I get a strong sense that classroom music, particularly in primary schools is often not up to much. Why? The answer is simple. The subject is not deemed to be important enough and music training for primary school teachers, who are not already confident, or skilled in the subject, is minimal.
It now seems that Hubs have some responsibility for looking after curriculum music in schools. At least, that’s what the Ofsted report published before Christmas suggested. As if Hubs didn’t have enough to do. I’m not an enthusiastic supporter of Hubs but I am an enthusiastic supporter of Music Services. I’d like to see Music Services be able to concentrate on what they can do best, and that’s essentially three things: provide forms of first access to learning an instrument; provide regular instrumental lessons to small groups and individuals in schools; provide opportunities for children and young people to make music together in bands, orchestras, ensembles and choirs.
My perception is that Music Services are run ragged and find themselves pushing staff to the limit to provide first access, do everything that’s expected of them, and all alongside attempting to maintain high standards in bands, orchestras and ensembles. What’s missing is locally based music education expertise focused on supporting classroom work coupled with strong leadership at a national level. Music Services need to be able to concentrate all their efforts on sustained progressive learning that comes with high quality teaching, supported by continuing professional development and rigorous monitoring of teachers’ effectiveness.
Meanwhile, I’m delighted to be doing some work for two publishers which will keep safely distracted from being annoyed about the current state of play and the weather’s been ideal for some motoring in the newly MOTd Priscilla.