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Music Schools BC

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The official blog of the British Columbia Association of Community Music Schools

Monday, March 28, 2011

Royal Conservatory of Music's exam system to become standard for U.S. music schools

From the Globe and Mail  Saturday March 26

When New York’s famed Carnegie Hall decided the United States’ patchwork of state music programs should have a national system to unite them, its leaders gave little thought to starting from scratch. Instead, they turned immediately to Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music.

At a Saturday conference of thousands of music teachers in Milwaukee, Wis., the two institutions will announce the Carnegie Hall Royal Conservatory Achievement Program, an extension of the conservatory’s existing exam system intended to be the new U.S. standard for music training and learning.

The goal is to increase participation in music throughout the U.S., partly by emphasizing music’s central role in the development of innovative, healthy, happy societies. But it may also prove a welcome source of revenue if it catches on.

“It comes back to the goal to make participation in music a central part of the daily lives of every person,” said Peter Simon, president of the RCM.

Carnegie first commissioned consultants to explore the appetite for creating national exams and curricula. The study showed that schools, teachers and parents were eager, and tapped the RCM as having the most reputable and applicable system. The two institutions had no formal relationship, but Simon flew to New York last fall and discussions moved quickly.

“It was pretty much: Here’s the study, we want to do this, we think you guys have a great program, let’s do it,” Simon recalled. “And at that moment I said, ‘I love it, we’re off.’”

Carnegie’s education program is substantial and expanding through an ongoing $200-million (U.S.) renovation, which will carve out a 5,600-square-metre education wing. The project has similarities to the RCM’s recent revamping of its own building in Toronto.

“We totally share the same vision,” said Clive Gillinson, Carnegie Hall’s executive and artistic director.

National programs in several countries have shown that the sense of progress and achievement born of having a national standard is instrumental in keeping students engaged in music, says Jennifer Snow, who splits time as the RCM’s director of teacher pedagogy and a professor of piano at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The examination program is designed to be used locally by students of all ages and skill levels, a doubly important strategy as music classes struggle to survive in cash-strapped schools.

Read More at the Globe and Mail

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sistema in Scotland

Big Noise orchestraVenezuela's El Sistema project is now being exported around the world. The concept is to give free music lessons to students in very impoverished neighborhoods to give the children a chance to better themselves through the study of music. This program is generating amazing results around the world  in the geographical areas where it has been adopted.  The latest in this success story of social empowerment of young people through music is taking place in Scotland.

from BBC News March 16, 2011

Sistema Scotland came to the Raploch in the summer of 2008.
The charity's mission was to transform lives through music - using a model established in Venezuela in 1975.
The estate they chose, on the north west edge of Stirling, was notorious, having long-standing problems with drugs and crime.
George Anderson, communications officer at Sistema Scotland, says the area was picked because it was in the "symbolic" heart of Scotland, "geographically distinct" and easy to reach from all parts of the country.
Sistema's work would also dovetail with Stirling Council's regeneration in the area - including the £17m Raploch Community Campus - providing what he calls the regeneration "for the head".
Mr Anderson says residents on the estate are fed-up with the "blighted" label - preferring instead to look to the future.
"People in Raploch are quite forward looking. They don't want to dwell on past things - so we don't," he says.
"The old Raploch is gone."
When the charity started the Big Noise orchestra, Mr Anderson says he only knew of one child on the whole estate who was having music lessons, but now there are more than 300.
And the reaction of parents whose children are involved in the orchestra appears to be universally positive.
One likens the inspiration it provides to the film Billy Elliot. Another says it has made her children "better and more tolerant" because they have been working with others of different religions and abilities.
Some parents say their children can concentrate and focus better, and several say it has had made theirs less aggressive and angry.
But how can music achieve all this?
Read more »

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Canadian students do well in International Survey

It seems our students in Canada are fairing much better than our friends to the south in the US.

Recent results from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) show Chinese students, taking the PISA exam for the first time, placed first in all three categories of math, science and reading, while US students were around or below average.PISA is an international analysis conducted every three years that measures performance of 15 year-olds in reading, math and science. It began in 2000, coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an organization of 34 member countries. In 2009, 60 countries and 5 other educational systems, including Shanghai-China, participated in the PISA program.
Surprises for some were the overall results of the program. In combined reading literacy, US 15 year-olds scored an average of 500, slightly above the OECD overall average of 493. The combined reading scale includes reflect and evaluate, access and retrieve, and integrate and interpret.

In reading literacy, 18 percent of US students scored below level 2, described by OECD as “a baseline level of proficiency, at which students begin to demonstrate the reading literacy competencies that will enable them to participate effectively and productively in life.”
Among OECD countries, the top five performers in combined reading literacy scale were the Republic of Korea (539), Finland (536), Canada (524), New Zealand (521), and Japan (520).
The top performing non-OECD countries or educational systems in combined reading literacy were Shanghai-China (556), Hong Kong-China (533) and Singapore (526).

In mathematics literacy, the US average score of 487 fell below the OECD average score of 496. Of the other 33 OECD member countries, 17 countries scored higher averages than the US. Of the 64 other OECD countries participating in PISA, 23 had higher average scores than the US.
Top five performing OECD countries in math were the Republic of Korea (546), Finland (541), Switzerland (534), Japan (529), and Canada (527).

The top non-OECD countries participating in the PISA math literacy exam were Shanghai-China (600), Singapore (562), Hong Kong-China (555), Chinese Taipei (543) and Liechtenstein (536).

In science literacy, the US had an average score of 502, not far off the OECD average of 501. Still, among OECD countries, 12 had higher averages than the US. Among non-OECD countries, 18 scored higher than the US.
Top five OECD countries in science were Finland (554), Japan (539), Republic of Korea (538), New Zealand (532), and Canada (529).
The top non-OECD countries in science were Shanghai-China (575), Hong Kong-China (549), Singapore (542), Chinese Taipei (520), and Liechtenstein (520).

Overall, only 2 percent of US students performed at the highest proficiency level. That compares to Korea at 8 percent and Finland at 5 percent.
A new report on global educational systems, What the U.S. Can Learn From the Worlds Most Successful Education Reform Efforts (pdf), published by the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation, noted that while the US was the first nation to offer free public education opportunities for its young people which resulted in the best-educated workforce by 1945, the 21st century of a globally connected high-tech economy has allowed countries such as China, Canada, Korea, Japan and Finland to lead the way as best-performing PISA countries.

The report comes at a time when political leaders in Wisconsin are attempting to reduce teachers’ bargaining rights and reducing their pensions.
In Texas, as many as 100,000 teachers face possible layoffs if the state is unable to find a solution for its $27 billion budget shortfall, an issue being avoided as its governor, Rick Perry, fast-tracks controversial abortion and state voter ID measures.
The OECD report suggests several measures for bringing the US up to a competitive level on the international scale, including improving the status of the teaching profession to that of the world’s best performing economies, establishing and applying high standards to all students,
improving per capita spending patterns on its students, and controlling socio-economic differences to help level the playing field for economically disadvantaged students.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/304761#ixzz1GyobOZgU

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring Break is almost here!

Spring Break is almost upon us, and for some school districts it may already indeed be upon us. Many school districts are now engaging (or perhaps I should say disengaging) in a two week holiday instead of the traditional one week holiday.  I am wondering how that affects us in the land of the private music instructor and community music schools? One of the schools I am involved with is shutting down for the two week break with no scheduled lessons, the other is hoping to shut down for one week, but how many students will cancel anyway effectively shutting things down and leave us with a nightmare of rescheduling?  Does it make good pedagogy to have a two week holiday in the middle of the year? Is your school planning any special events during the break, and if so how is enrollment going?


Monday, March 7, 2011

Does the internet make us stupid?

This Book Review is a little off topic, but at the same time maybe should be a cue to make us think about how we use technology, and perhaps a reminder to us all not to over used it!

The Shallows: How the Internet Is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember by Nicholas Carr

‘I don’t own a computer, have no idea how to work one,’ Woody Allen told an interviewer recently. Most of us have come to find computers indispensable, but he manages to have a productive life without one. Are those of us with computers really better off?

There are two ways that computers might add to our wellbeing. First, they could do so indirectly, by increasing our ability to produce other goods and services. In this they have proved something of a disappointment. In the early 1970s, American businesses began to invest heavily in computer hardware and software, but for decades this enormous investment seemed to pay no dividends. As the economist Robert Solow put it in 1987, ‘You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.’ Perhaps too much time was wasted in training employees to use computers; perhaps the sorts of activity that computers make more efficient, like word processing, don’t really add all that much to productivity; perhaps information becomes less valuable when it’s more widely available. Whatever the case, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that some of the productivity gains promised by the computer-driven ‘new economy’ began to show up – in the United States, at any rate. So far, Europe appears to have missed out on them.

The other way computers could benefit us is more direct. They might make us smarter, or even happier. They promise to bring us such primary goods as pleasure, friendship, sex and knowledge. If some lotus-eating visionaries are to be believed, computers may even have a spiritual dimension: as they grow ever more powerful, they have the potential to become our ‘mind children’. At some point – the ‘singularity’ – in the not-so-distant future, we humans will merge with these silicon creatures, thereby transcending our biology and achieving immortality. It is all of this that Woody Allen is missing out on.

Read more »

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Diane Ragsdale on the State of the Art

This keynote address is very similar to the one Diane gave at the Arts Alliance in Vancouver about 2 years ago.

Well worth a few minutes of your time.

Diane Ragsdale on Surviving the Culture Change (Full Remarks) from Arts Alliance Illinois on Vimeo.

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