Yamaha Class band is a whole-class wind band learning programme. It can act as a transition project as students begin on brass or woodwind in their last year at primary or their first year at secondary school. Already established for over 15 years throughout mainland Europe, Yamaha began pilots with music services in Coventry and Staffordshire in January 2011.
Early feedback from peripatetic staff, class teachers and senior management teams has been exceptional, with indications that, in addition to bringing much-needed practical music skills into the classroom, Class Band is already contributing to positive cultural change within host schools.
The project begins with the partner school or music service being supplied with a class of Yamaha Instruments. These will outlast, by many years, inferior and cheaper instruments, which makes the Yamaha brand by far the best long-term investment.
Yamaha can also provide assisted finance schemes to ensure start-up costs and budgets are always manageable. Benefits for host schools and music services include regular training for their teachers and networking/exchange opportunities with other Class Bands throughout Europe.
Click here to read more information about the Class Band project, on the Yamaha Music in Education UK website.
Yamaha partnerships provide many schools and music services with access to top-quality instruments with minimal capital expenditure. Host schools can then provide Yamaha courses outside school hours for their local community and the shared income covers operational costs for both Yamaha and the school. An alternative business model is also available, which allows schools to generate profits to help fund their music departments, if that is their preferred option.
Of course, during the school day, the quality of the Yamaha instruments also adds greatly to the quality of learning within the curriculum.
Yamaha also currently provides highly effective, progressive whole-class primary school programmes for keyboards and drums. Guitar and vocal content is to become available later this year. Our pioneering programme with Sandwell Youth Music now sees over 800 students learning keyboards across 14 Sandwell primary schools. Teachers and heads experienced a huge up-turn in interest in music making when the scheme was introduced in 2008. They have noted that the scheme has seen pupils developing much-improved social skills, behaviour and learning attitudes.
In a highly evolved music education system like ours in the UK one of its successes is that it has integrated a broad range of musical activity. In our music curriculums young people can learn something about performing, composing, listening, music IT and a range of other related activities. If these are balanced well and presented in a helpfully progressive way, then all the skills we, and our young people, think are important can be built on a foundation of practical music-making skills.
There is a strong argument that the very least we should be doing for our young people in this respect is to ensure that they all learn to play and sing. I mean EVERY child. And if that were the only thing we achieved, all young people would at least experience music making with their peers that would present new musical opportunities to them and help develop them both musically and socially as a result. We could be proud of that.
However, so few of our young people actually learn to play. Though we have excellent music services their budgets are stretched further than ever, so that more than 80 per cent of young people don't have music service lessons. While there are some who will learn privately the overall picture is still of the majority with no access at all to progressive instrumental learning.
Some educationalists will argue that music isn't just about learning to play. They are right, of course. But if, for most young people, it is hardly ever about learning to play then we are creating obstacles for these people. Look, let's just distinguish here between icing and cake. In music, the sound and its communication are the point, so learning to sing and play must be seen as the cake. Whether we like it or not, this makes everything else the icing.
Without prioritising the 'cake' of performing skills the 'icing' has nothing to adhere to and just crumbles. We can continue to fill the music curriculum with all manner of interesting musical ‘icing’ activities but without providing a core of progressive performing skills, we limit the potential of our young people to engage more than superficially in activities like composing, IT, Musical Futures, listening, improvising, etc. While I've seen first-hand the positive impact that the Wider Opportunities (WO) whole-class vocal and instrumental primary school programmes can have when some of our inspiring music service teachers collaborate with the best class teachers, it is just not good enough to provide instrumental learning for only one year out of the nine in which National Curriculum music is (for now) mandatory.
Just think how much better current classroom music activities would be if all young people could actually play, even to just grade 1 level. And think how much more those young people would get from the activities.
Over the past few years I've been hearing from increasing numbers of secondary heads of music who are fed up with the fact that learning to play is largely banished from the classroom. They are hungry for change. Some of them are now bringing in progressive classroom-based instrumental learning so pupils can develop the practical performing skills they need to become independent learners and musicians with a broad range of musical options.
Bill C Martin, music education manager, Yamaha Music Europe GmbH UK
I attended a very good conference last week run by the University of London's Institute of Education, called 'The Changing Face of Music Education'.
Good conversations, some outbreaks of new thinking and some very good speakers - particularly Dick Hallam (music participation director) and Deborah Annetts (Incorporated Society of Musicians' CEO and Music Education Council's chair).
Why new structures? Local authority (LA) music providers are currently very much under the spotlight because of the Henley review into the delivery of instrumental and vocal teaching in English schools, which Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, commissioned in September 2010 and which will announce its finding in January 2011. This review is primarily about the structures for delivering instrumental teaching in our schools, which currently enjoys ring-fenced governmental funding until April 2011. Thereafter it is highly possible that funds made available will be given directly to schools and the music services - most of which are producing world-class work in instrumental tuition, running ensembles and participating in the delivery of the whole class instrumental and vocal teaching in primary schools - will have to sell their services back to individual schools.
Now, I'm old enough to remember the last time that the pendulum swung over this particular set of devolutionary principles. Well intentioned as they always are, they brought us local management of schools and a fractured approach to delivering music, which we've fought tooth and nail to re-build into a world-class provision again, with an entitlement - not just access - to music education for all children aged 5 to 14. We now have some great music education intitiatives and activities that are truly worth celebrating and, indeed, developing further. These include the whole-class instrumental teaching programmes (called wider opportunities), Sing Up and the pilots of In Harmony - the English version of the Venezuelan social change music project, El Sistema.
But the current review is not primarily about content. It has been set up to explore the mechanisms of delivery of instrumental and vocal music education. The local authority cuts were always going to happen anyway. However the Federation of Music Services - the membership body for the local music services which deliver instrumental and vocal teaching in schools across the country - has expressed concern that a number of LAs have begun making potentially damaging 'pre-emptive cuts', even before the Henley review is published.
The Henley review itself places additional pressure on those local authority music services which rely significantly on government funding. It is forcing them to look long and hard at the fact that the organisational structure and overheads of the more traditionally-run services make them too expensive in the current climate. After all, if their high overheads mean that they have to bill out at £40-£60 per hour, those headteachers who don't fully 'get' the holistic job that our best music services do - providing a skilled workforce to teach in small groups, run ensembles, collaborate with other colleagues in the whole-class music lessons, etc - will find their own teachers locally for significantly less.
So battles really do need to be fought and won right now on the obstacles to organisational and structural change for those music services which remain under LA control. The shrewd ones may be looking at how to split from the LAs in order to jettison layers and layers of LA management and overheads, which effectively diminish their ability to compete successfully on price.
For our part, Yamaha is already partnering a number of music services in joint Yamaha music school projects. We will also begin a pilot of a new whole-class wind band project with two music services in 2011. Partnership working is a value and principle that we share with many education organisations and one which enables us to multiply the impact. We do this only where we believe our 50+ years of group instrumental teaching experience, our connections with inspirational artists and our top quality musical instruments, spanning the genres, can really help music service colleagues make a difference both to quality and quantity of provision.
While there is a significant minority of music services which have a range of funding sources (and therefore stand a better chance of survival if one funding source is reduced or removed), there are many which appear to be inactive in preparing their strategic plans. Maybe they prefer to wait and see before formulating a robust plan. But my message to those in this position is that, unless you already have several options already mapped out, the pace of change is likely to be such that you will not have time to plan something new if you wait until announcements are made. You will then find yourselves in a position where your only strategy will be a reactive one, putting you at a strategic disadvantage and considerably narrowing your options. It doesn't need to be this way if you have plans already prepared and can then choose the most appropriate one when the details of the Henley review are known.
The conference could easily have been all doom and gloom. But it wasn't.
Instead there was a real sense that this latest set of changes will also provide new opportunites. I get the distinct impression that those who merely wish to maintain the status quo will not be listened to but the radical thinkers, the bold planners and the entrepreneurial leaders in music education may find that this is their opportunity to come to the fore.
But colleagues must put their Plan B together now. It must be bold and they must be ready to implement it. The plan should at least cover the transition to new independent business structures. It could introduce some commercial activities, if that is what is necessary to ensure that the next generation is able to enjoy the musical, personal, social and financial benefits that present and past generations have enjoyed from our music education system.
In 2011 Yamaha Music Europe GmbH UK will be running two major projects involving the wonderful Yamaha Silent Strings. These are skeleton electric violins, violas, cellos and double basses and are to their acoustic strings counterparts what the electric guitar is to the acoustic guitar.
One project is with the Hallé Orchestra, based in Manchester, which will run a live performance workshop programme with schools in Oldham and Burnley over the first half of 2011. This project will involve an electric string quintet - two violins, viola, cello and double bass - with backline amplification and digital effects pedals, to control the sound and create something that is distinct from the acoustic sound.
The projects will involve performance from young string players as well as from members of the Hallé, with works specially written by the Hallé's Steve Pickett and Yamaha's Bill C Martin.
A second project is a national electric strings composing project, in partnership with the Bournemouth Orchestras and a string quartet made up of players from their their contemporary ensemble, Kokoro. The competition, whose details will be announced in Spring 2011, aims to encourage composers between 16 and 23 to explore the creative and sonic possibilities of electric strings. Yamaha's Bill C Martin, decribed the idea of the project as "the R&D for tomorrow's classical music. We want people to approach this with a sense of excitement, danger, creativity, humour, risk, and a general awareness of how cool and exciting it is when they are exploring something genuinely new!"
The project is also designed to re-stimulate the enthusiasm of any string players whose interest may be waning a little. But rather than wanting them all to sell their acoustic instruments and play electric ones instead, the idea is to broaden and extend their opportunities and reportoire.
With contemporary classical music remaining a difficult-to-teach part of the music curriculum, particularly in terms of its perceived inaccessibility, this project will provide participants and their teachers with ways of thinking about and approaching new music, which go way beyond one's initial emotional responses - ie whether one likes the music or not. Instead judgement is suspended in order to give composers and performers the chance to truly explore new ideas before value judgements close the idea down.
From the video entries, six finalists will be selected, whose compositions will be performed by Kokoro in early 2012. A distinguished judging panel will then choose two winners, who will receive Yamaha prizes and second performance by Kokoro.
More details will follow on the Yamaha Education Info website in early 2011.
As part of their prizes awarded at the 2010 finals of the first Yamaha Jazz Experience competition held at Cheltenham Jazz Festival in May 2010, the three winners of the competition were each awarded a gig at a top London jazz venue, thanks to the generous support of the Jazz Experience programme's venue partners.
The under-17 winners, 'Cheltenham 8', an eight-piece ensemble from Dumfries directed by Christine Barbour, who leads the Dumfries youth jazz group, played to a packed house at the Bull's Head jazz club in Barnes, pictured above at the gig in south-west London, in September.
On Sunday 17 October at 1pm, the under-15 winners, 'Blue Shift', from the Junior Guildhall School of Music & Drama, will play at the 606 club in Chelsea, supported by one of the under-19 Jazz Experience runners-up, 'Friendly Bacteria', also from Junior Guildhall.
The winning ensemble in the under-19 category, 'Tomorrow's Warriors Biggish Band' will play at Ronnie Scott's to celebrate its Jazz Experience win, supporting leading jazz vocalise exponent John Hendricks, from 7:15pm on Saturday 20 November.
For further information on the next Yamaha Jazz Experience scheme, which will incorporate a teacher improvising workshop tour in 2011 and a competition in 2012, more information can be found on the Yamaha education website.
Pictured above: winners of the last YMFE piano scholarship (2008), left to right: Sasha Grynyuk (GSMD), Alexander Romanovsky (RCM) and Vyacheslav Sidorenko (RNCM), with Yamaha's director of corporate affairs Mike Ketley
Applications are now being invited from piano students from the United Kingdom and Ireland for the 2011 Yamaha Music Foundation of Europe Scholarship (YMFE) awards. Launched in 1989, the Foundation recently celebrated twenty years of providing performance opportunities, support and financial assistance to talented music students throughout Europe. The programme now operates in 31 European countries and since its foundation has provided over 850 scholarships amounting to in excess of €1 million.
I'm delighted to announce the nine ensembles shortlisted to take part in the Yamaha Jazz Experience competition finals, hosted by Cheltenham Jazz Festival on 1 May 2010. Jazz FM broadcaster Helen Mayhew joined leading jazz educator Richard Michael and me, Yamaha's education liaison manager, Bill C Martin, to make the selection at Yamaha UK headquarters in early March.
The finalists for each category (ages as on 1 September 2009):
11 & under 15: Blue Lizard (Manchester Music Service); Pimlico Junior Jazz (Pimlico Academy); Blue Shift (Guildhall School of Music & Drama Junior Department)
11 & under 17: St Ignatius Jazz (St Ignatius College, Enfield); Dumfries Youth Jazz Group (Dumfries Youth Jazz); Time Team (Northampton Music & Performing Arts Service)
11 & under 19: Tomorrow's Warriors Biggish Band (Tomorrow's Warriors, London); Friendly Bacteria (GSMD Junior Department, London); Chetham's Jazz Sextet (Chetham's School of Music, Manchester)
Jazz ensembles from all over the UK - from Shetland in the north of Scotland, down to Devon on England's south-west peninsula - entered ensembles for the competition, with a chance to win gigs at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Ronnie Scott's, The 606 Club and The Bull's Head Jazz Club in south-west London on 1 May 2010, along with a total of £9,000 worth of Yamaha prizes for their school, college or community centres.
To enter, participants had to set up a jazz ensemble comprising piano (or keyboard/vibes), bass, drums and optionally up to five additional performers. They had to prepare a blues and either a jazz standard or a piece of their own choosing, with impro at its heart, video their best performance of them and send them to Yamaha them to Yamaha.
Then in early March 2010 two of the distinguished Yamaha Jazz Experience judges, Helen Mayhew (jazz broadcaster, Jazz FM) and Richard Michael (2009 Parliamentary Jazz 'Jazz Educator' award winner and Yamaha Jazz Experience workshop leader), joined Yamaha's Bill C Martin for the difficult job of choosing only nine ensembles to take part in the competition finals in Cheltenham.
Helen, Richard and I had a fantastic time watching and listening to the wonderful video entries, from every conceivable kind of educational and music institution and from all over the UK. I was particularly pleased to hear entries from some of those teachers new to jazz who took part in our Jazz Experience workshops in 2009, and who have clearly moved their own skills on tremendously. We were stunned by the overall quality of musicianship in the entries, which made it very difficult to choose only nine finalists! We want to thank all the teachers and music leaders who have clearly put in so much work with their ensembles and, even if they haven't got through to the finals on this occasion, they may be consoled to know that Helen has noted names and will be on the lookout for emerging new jazz stars, no doubt to feature on her Jazz FM programme, 'The Yamaha Jazz Jam', in the future!"
On 1 May the nine finalists will perform before a distinguished judging panel of: Julian Joseph (internationally acclaimed jazz pianist and Jazz Experience workshop leader), Andrea Vicari (jazz professor at Trinity College of Music, professional jazz musician with Andrea Vicari Trio, director of Dordogne Jazz Summer School and Jazz Experience workshop leader), Liane Carroll (inspirational jazz singer, winner of 2008 Parliamentary Jazz 'Musician of the Year' award winner), Helen Mayhew (jazz broadcaster, Jazz FM), Peter Ind (Jazz Experience patron and legendary jazz double bass player) and inspirational jazz educator Richard Michael.
The judges will announce the winners at the event.
We would like to thank the Yamaha Jazz Experience venue partners, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Ronnie Scott's, the 606 Club and the Bull's Head Jazz Club in London. We wish all the finalists the greatest success.
I had a wonderful day yesterday with Jazz Experience's Richard Michael and Jazz FM broadcaster, Helen Mayhew. (A big thank-you to you both.) Our task for the day was to shortlist the entries down to nine ensembles - three under-15s, three under-17s and three under-19s - who will then go through to the Jazz Experience finals, kindly hosted by Cheltenham Jazz Festival, on 1 May 2010.
The whole point of Jazz Experience was:
The competition was open to young people under-19 on 1 September 2009 from any institution or organisation within the UK. We were staggered by the very high quality of entries for the competition, which came from schools, music services, community organisations, regional youth jazz groups, conservatoire junior departments and venues. We had entries from as far north as the Shetlands to the deep south-west of England. Many of the performances were approaching a professional standard, which has been very exciting (and which Helen Mayhew has noted with particular interest, for possible future Jazz FM programmes!).
The preliminary judging panel has now made its selection of the nine finalist ensembles, who must now confirm their availability to attend the finalists' event in May, before we can announce them in mid-March. We are delighted that we have such a wonderful geographic spread, as well as ensembles from all kinds of institutions.
During the judging, we were looking for evidence of musicality, good internal and external communication and creativity. Those ensembles which exhibited all these qualities strongly are the ones we've chosen for the finals. However we were struck by some highly accomplished and talented performances by individual musicians or maybe the rhythm section in some of the ensembles. These are highly talented musicians and we hope they take this further, even if, on this occasion, their ensembles haven't made it to the finals.
We will be contacting all the ensembles and will provide feedback where appropriate. You are all stars! I hope to visit some of the ensembles which were of very high quality but who were pipped at the post on the day - which is particularly true in the under-19 category. I want to encourage and support these ensembles and their musicians to continue their studies and will be able to share our feedback with them in due course, which I hope they'll find helpful.
The UK has a much-deserved world-class reputation for music education and our conservatoires offering full-time jazz degree courses (which Yamaha supports through its parliamentary jazz scholarships) help nurture some of the UK's most gifted and talented young jazz musicians. We're delighted that we've had outstanding entries from several of the conservatoire junior departments. But in our finals, these sit alongside equally strong entries from ordinary schools, specialist schools, music services and community music organisations too.
Everyone who has taken part in our competition will have won: they have worked hard to gain new experiences, new learning, maybe new friends and new confidence as performers. We're very proud of all of them - whether they are new to jazz and improvising or more seasoned performers. My experience is that music - and in particular improvising - provides us with a lifelong journey, which all those who sing, play or compose are on. We may be at the beginning of the journey or much further along the road. The joyous thing is that none of us ever gets to the final destination. So there's no end to what we can learn from this, no matter how long we've been on the journey.
But all of us who travel the road together will improve as musicians and grow as human beings. This is a powerful testament to the fact that music education in the UK is very strong and highly effective. It just works! I would like to thank all the teachers and music leaders whose passion, inspiration and plain hard work demonstrate this so clearly and continue to enrich the lives of their young people.
Bill C Martin
Education liaison manager, Yamaha Music UK
I'm delighted to announce today that, in addition to the prizes for the three winners of the Yamaha Jazz Experience ensemble competition of prestigious London gigs at Ronnie Scott's, the 606 Club and the Bull's Head jazz club in Barnes, we will also provide a prize fund of £9,000 worth of Yamaha gear.
We're now receiving lots of video entries for the ensemble competition, from the UK's secondary schools, youth jazz orchestras, colleges, junior conservatoire departments, music services, various music organisations and venues. I've extended the deadline from 29 January to 12 February, since a number of entrants have had a delayed start to the term because of the arctic snow conditions which, as every year, took us by surprise!
So it's not too late to enter if you haven't already done so. Your ensemble's musicians must be aged between 11 and under-19 and must perform a blues and one other piece of your/their choosing which features jazz-style improvising. You must video it and send it to us with the completed application form. Competition rules and application forms are available here.
So what happens next? Well, on 1 March I have the privilege of working with two past winners of the Parliamentary Jazz Awards - presenter of Jazz FM's 'Yamaha Jazz Jam' Helen Mayhew and jazz-educator Richard Michael, who will shortlist the entries down to nine finalists. These nine ensembles will then perform at our finalists' event on Saturday 1 May at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, when our judging panel of world-class British jazz musicians and educators - Julian Joseph, Peter Ind, Andrea Vicari, Liane Carroll and Richard Michael - will choose three winners, who will be announced at the end of the concert and will be awarded their prizes.
Yamaha has a long history of supporting the UK's most gifted and talented young musicians, as they prepare to leave full-time music education and take their first steps into music careers. Our scholarship programmes began with classical and we've added rock and now jazz to this. But improvising remains a difficult-to-teach subject and I wanted to bring the power of some of the amazing artists and educators Yamaha works with to help improve access into jazz for those still at school. That's why we began the Jazz Experience project last March with a nationwide teacher improvising workshop tour, to help teachers who were interested but needed some help and guidance to improve their own skills and understanding.
A testament to the success of this phase of the project is that we now have a significant number of entries for the competition phase already in, from some of the teachers who came to our workshops last year. I'm thrilled by this as this will provide a legacy for many years to come. I'm very excited by the tremendous response we've had to the competition and wish everyone the best of luck.