Education, education and music education - Sinfini Music
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household with eclectic music tastes, listening to everything from AC\DC and George Benson to The Beatles and Tchaikovsky. If there hadn’t been music constantly playing at home, I clearly remember secondary school music lessons with Miss Jones – an eccentric older lady with platinum demi-waved hair and bright lipstick – and I still enjoy listening to some of the classical pieces she introduced the class to: including Mussorgsky’s thrilling Night on Bare (in my memory it was ‘Bear’ for the added scare factor!) Mountain and Smetana’s epic and patriotic Ma Vlast. I was to stumble upon an evocative performance of the latter, over a decade later, as a backpacker in a city centre square in Prague.
So I’m firmly of the opinion that it’s vital to get exposure to music when you’re young, inquisitive and receptive. ‘Sinfini for Schools’ – an initiative from online classical music destination Sinfinimusic.com – has chosen to launch its free teaching materials for Key Stage 3 (11-14 year olds), because this marks the last three years where music forms part of the National Curriculum and is taught to all pupils. The first set of lesson plans are based on two well-known pieces of music: Ravel’s Boléro and Toreador’s Song from Bizet’s opera Carmen, and are designed to work alongside the wealth of online resources available on Sinfini Music’s site.
Providing quality teaching resources, while certainly helpful for time-strapped teachers, only addresses part of the problem. Another issue is the continued impact of funding cuts on the supply of musical instruments in schools. Back in 2000, the BBC teamed up with the National Foundation for Youth Music to launch the first ‘instrument amnesty’, which collected thousands of unused instruments and gifted them to young people. At the time I was working at the BPI and remember the great PR created by David Bowie donating a saxophone and Sir Elton John contributing a set of keyboards. The best thing of all was receiving a personal thank you note from the head of a youth music centre in Liverpool that had benefitted from the scheme. The supply of instruments is clearly still a problem, since the amnesty idea has now been successfully revived by pianist and campaigner James Rhodes, with his ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ project.
The encouraging thing is that people still care and place great importance on teaching music in schools. The reaction to Sinfini for Schools has been incredibly positive, with a number of supportive emails from artists, as well as educationalists – hopefully this will help spread the word, so as many KS3 music teachers as possible can benefit from Sinfini’s resources. Elsewhere, BBC’s ‘Ten Pieces of Music’ is championing the teaching of classical music to primary school children, and has the support of trumpeter Alison Balsom and violinist Nicola Benedetti, among many other musicians.
Perhaps the situation is best summed up by Mayor Boris Johnson who, at the recent launch of his London Music Pledge, said: ‘Music isn’t a “nice-to-have”, it’s an essential part of every child’s education.’
Access your free music teaching resources at www.sinfinimusic.com/uk/schools