Stuff that occurs to me

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Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

People on the #dontstopthemusic tag might like these Government reports on music in the UK

From the #dontstopthemusic tag last night it seems that lots of people enjoyed James Rhodes' programme in which he tried to get hold of some musical instruments and support a stronger teaching infrastructure for children in schools. Music teaching appears to be ... somewhat undervalued in some schools and, according to snippets of speeches from a music teachers' conference this problem seems to be fairly systemic. Here's a great post from Mark Robinson's Teach Kids Music blog on 5 Valuable Lessons From James Rhodes’ Don’t Stop The Music. - Two-part documentary in which pianist James Rhodes attempts to give schoolchildren the chance to learn a musical instrument by calling for an 'instrument amnesty' (if you've got old instruments to donate, you can).
Campaign website | Campaign Twitter | James on Twitter
There's a petition "Deliver on the Government’s promise to give EVERY child the opportunity to learn an instrument" and he's playing tonight at The Ambassadors Theatre (7.30pm) in London as part of a tour.

There are a few publications from the GOV.UK website that people might find interesting. If you're looking for their publications go to then scroll to the end for the Publications link, which as I've linked it you could just click of course, then type in your search terms or browse by topic.

Anyway here are some Government reports (bold bits boldened by me):

Music Education in England: a review by Darren Henley for the Department for Education and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Department for Education and Department for Culture, Media & Sport
7 February 2011

Music education in England: the government response to Darren Henley's review
Department for Education and Department for Culture, Media & Sport
7 February 2011

The importance of music: a national plan for music education
Department for Education
25 November 2011- this document is referenced in the petition above.

National curriculum in England: music programmes of study
Department for Education
11 September 2013
- also "Further music resources are available on the TES website. This is free of charge to schools and teachers but they will have to register with the website to use it."

Government spend on school music department instruments since 2009 (FOI release)
Department for Education
19 September 2013
- you can also find other examples of requests made under the Freedom of Information Act at for example a request made to Fife Council about Music Education Cuts

As it happens I was lucky enough to go to a school where music was a big thing, however I'm afraid to say it did nothing for me and I was frankly a bit rubbish at it. Unfortunately I was the not-very-musical daughter of very musical parents. The only instrument I took up voluntarily was the flute but there was compulsory violin and piano and, being reasonably tall, cello (the decision to include me in cello lessons was made by the music teacher turning up to an art class, getting us all to stand up and picking the four tallest in the room). I also managed to get into the choir - the teacher employed a sort of 'exception reporting' system, assuming that all of us were choirable until proven otherwise. Sadly I was able to pick out the middle note from a three-note chord and hold a tune so I got roped into that too.

However as an adult I love listening to it, buying it and going to see it performed live - I don't think my childhood experiences have any impact on that, as I rarely wish I could join in ;)

There's an awful lot of flannel written or spoken about music and the developing brain and I'm wary of an over-reliance on functional MRI (fMRI) and other brain scanning techniques used to propound the idea that learning a musical instrument is great 'because we can see how the brain lights up'.

I'm not wary of fMRI otherwise (just on overextrapolating conclusions) or of the idea that learning a musical instrument is great, it is - though not for me. Here's a post from violinist Eos Chater which talks about a range of personal and social benefits of learning music Ten Lessons for Life through Music Education.

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