Notable development

Yes, I’m going to get all self-promotional and a touch ranty for a moment, but this is important to me.

Music education is a difficult balancing act between artistic development and summative assessment. By this, I mean that different people develop at different rates and have differing strengths which require addressing on an individual basis. Sticking every pupil through the same exam is a valid way of normalising progress and setting a bar to be reached.

My problem is just that. We set the test around those things that are easier to assess – performance, listening skills, memorising scales and reading music from the page at first sight. These things tend to be right or wrong – binary choices we can score against a total.

For historical knowledge, theory, ability to improvise, and all those other difficult-to-quantify things we create an exam called “Music Theory” and write books about it and structure the exam questions in such a way that we can get right or wrong answers. Most teachers I know don’t teach it in the depth we could though, because we’re focussing on creating performers and for most students making music is so much more interesting than knowing how it works.

When it comes time to take Grade V in a musical instrument (ABRSM Exam Board) and you realise you can’t go further without passing that Music Theory Exam at the same level, that’s when panic sets in. We know we don’t know everything we need to know…

Why not start earlier? Create the context for musicians to understand the pattern and principle, and their development will flow more naturally. Knowing how stuff works breeds confidence to play around with it and experiment. If we want musicians to grow as full and rounded practitioners, we need to fill in the gaps in the education we offer.

Today I agreed to found a School of Music. I’m working in association with Mapseeker Studio in Aldridge and we’re going to launch on Thursday 8th May. If you want more details about the School you can e-mail me at Feel free to pass this news around. The more applicants, the more likely we can make this project financially viable and get it off the ground.


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