25. November 2013 14:23
This letter is in reply to the article in The Times (19 Nov) titled "The creative importance of music in schools", a copy of which can be found on their website at http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/letters/article3925304.ece
On the subject of the decline in music education in schools, I would disagree with the contributor who described the current situation as a ‘national tragedy’. I think that barely begins to describe the cultural and academic disaster that is not only unfolding relentlessly, but also accelerating, before us.
There is little benefit perhaps in detailing the cause of our current predicament, but the prevailing situation is an almost perfect storm of preconditions necessary to snuff music out of education in large areas of the UK.
1) Many Hubs only have resources to deliver Wider Opportunities (whole classroom tuition) projects and maintain their area ensembles (county orchestra’s etc)
2) In these areas, the majority of the teaching in schools is often carried out by independent self-employed teachers.
3) Those hubs wanting to engage schools with non Wider Opportunities teaching are now competing with (and losing against) the teachers that they recently made redundant who can offer a cheaper alternative.
Consequently, huge tracts of the UK have no cohesive, structurally supported or strategically co-ordinated music provision at all.
Music provision in primary schools offers little kudos in the eyes of the government where all eyes are on success in other target areas (numeracy and literacy etc) and all resources are given to playing the government game so that success occurs both in league tables and with the Ofsted inquisitors. Musical success gains almost no recognition and is not a supported by the government as major feature in the curriculum. Consequently, the rich seam of beginners ore that primary schools provided for the secondary schools has been all but mined out.
The bizarre thing about all this is that it is occurring despite a wealth of incontrovertible evidence that music has benefits beyond simple musicianship. Among its many qualities are the ability to improve the mind, health, socialisation and self esteem as well as offer vital life lessons. For example the relationship between input and outcome. There is no frivolous, life cheapening instant gratification with practical music making. Music is regarded by too many as simply being something that is ‘nice’ to have and the reality is that there is active negative discrimination in curricular terms.
If you ever go on a sales course, you will be told that people respond to benefits rather than technical details. A salesman won’t dwell on the details of how something functions, but will concentrate on explaining how their client’s life will, in some profound, practical and tangible way, be enhanced by their purchase.
I believe that the best education that we can offer to H.M. Government and school heads (and parents) is the message that music gives tangible and significant benefits. These benefits need to be sold to anyone in a position to aid in supporting music provision. Music matters because it has the potential to help a school achieve higher academic standards, to reduce the incidence of anti-social behaviour and truancy, to give health benefits and to build generations of well rounded individuals. The clear benefits for the Government are that it can assist in achieving its academic targets and it can also save money by reducing the need for support services to deal with the effects of bad behaviour (including outside the school environment) and truancy etc. Some these benefits will leave indelible and significant marks on the broader community far beyond the school playground and far beyond an individual’s school career.
As a musician myself (and I mean that in the sense that musician is what I am rather than what I do), I am of course concerned about the decline in something that has been a part of world culture for centuries. However, I don’t want to encourage action purely to maintain a long standing habit or because music is ‘nice’. It has become a cliché to say that music changes lives, but those of us who have experienced it know the truth of the statement. More importantly, the wealth of research that has been carried out is in full endorsement of it. How many non-musicians have experienced teary eyes when watching Gareth Malone’s choral series and how many of those that he has tutored have said that their lives have changed irrevocably as a result of their brief experience?
Why then, is something that has the capacity to have such a positive effect on education in particular and, consequently, on society in general being cast to the winds.
The Government surely must immediately engage with Music Mark to come up with a strategy for re-introducing music to the core of the education system (starting in the primary sector) in a manner whereby high quality instrumental lessons are provided along with sufficient funding to allow this to be sustained indefinitely as a key element of the very fabric of mainstream education in the UK.
It is simply indefensible to consider the possibility of decline into oblivion or for it to be relegated to the equivalent of game reserves in the leafy suburbs of middle class suburbia where it can finally become extinct out of the public eye.
This is not in any way a tilt against those dedicated people involved in music hubs who are doing their level best to offer high quality music provision in the most difficult of circumstances. They have my respect, admiration and (unfortunately) sympathy. I hope that they will have the opportunity of delivering music to the standard that they would wish under a new regime where the true value of music in education and the community is finally fully recognised.
John Packer Ltd
21. November 2013 14:50
To say thank you for all your support over the past year, we have put together a free Christmas Gift Guide full of great ideas for your musical friends and family. Featuring a range of brass, woodwind, general and gift ideas, there is something for everyone, whether your budget is £5 or £5,000. As well as a great selection of ideas and suggestions for Christmas we are also giving you some fantastic discounts on a wide range of accessories.
Sign up for our general newsletter before Tuesday 26 November 10am and we’ll send you codes and the Christmas Gift Guide to give you:
25% off all Mutes
25% off all Cases
25% off all Stands
25% off all Mouthpieces
To sign up for our newsletter visit www.johnpacker.co.uk/newslettersubscribe/ and fill in your details.
Our Christmas opening times are:
Mon 23 Dec: 9:30 - 5:00
Tues 24 Dec: 9:30 - 12:30
Christmas Day: Closed
Boxing Day: Closed
Fri 27 Dec:9:30 - 5:00
Sat 28 Dec: 9:00 - 5:00
Sun 29 Dec: Closed
Mon 30 Dec: 9:30 - 5:00
Tues 31 Dec: 9:30 - 12:30
Wed 1 Jan: Closed
Thurs 2 Jan: 9:30 - 5:00
For delivery before Christmas, please order before Wednesday 18 December for Second Class and Friday 20 December for First Class. Any large items including instruments and cases& gig bags that require postage by courier must be ordered before Friday 20 December.
Happy Christmas from all the staff at John Packer Ltd.
Terms & Conditions: offer valid until 31/12/2013. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer. Offer only valid for purchases online.
29. October 2013 15:06
Over 90 VIP Yamaha brass and woodwind dealers from 16 European countries formed a capacity audience at the historic Theatre Kehrwieder in the heart of Hamburg’s fashionable warehouse district on 30 September to witness a new chapter in the illustrious history of XENO, as Yamaha unveiled the latest additions to its award-winning range of trumpets.
The event was characterised by exceptional performances from seven of the world’s most accomplished and respected trumpet artists. It is testament to Yamaha’s relentless research and development work on the XENO range that such a roster could be assembled for the event.
The evening was expertly hosted by R&D manager Thomas Lubitz and brass product specialist Timo Hanf, both of whom provided humorous and informative links between performances They also conducted highly educational question and answer sessions with the artists, who each gave their own personal opinion on the XENO instruments and their impressions of the improvements Yamaha have now made to the 16-strong range.
Artists taking part included UK-based Philip Schartz, principal trumpet of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales; the Italian, Andrea Tofanelli, also recently appointed to the board of directors of the International Trumpet Guild; French Instrumentalist Sylvain Gontard; local Hamburg boy Ingolf Burkhardt, who is with the NDR Big Band; Vincente Campos from Spain, who is Professor of Trumpet, Conservatorio Superior de Musica de Valencia; soloist and Professor at Conservatoire National re region de Rueil-Malmaison, Eric Aubier and the explosive Norwegian soloist Frank Brodahl, who is also Musical Director of Norwegian Blaseensembelet.
Two key and common themes emerged as the artists provided rare and personal insights into their opinion of the new instruments. Firstly, the new instruments do not represent one big change, rath, many small, subtle improvements that combine to produce much better sounding, more versatile and more playable instruments for all musical styles. Additionally, Yamaha is keen to stress that they have maintained current price points thus ensuring that the new models offer exceptional value for money.
Secondly, the assembled artists all noted the great projection and free character of the instruments. This allows the players to build their own personal sound, giving them unprecedented creative freedom at the highest levels of performance, the instruments ‘coming to’ the players without them needing to work too hard to find ‘their’ sound.
Trumpets are at the heart of Yamaha’s brass instrument range and the groundbreaking YTR-1, the very first Yamaha trumpet, was introduced in 1966. Providing the benchmark for all subsequent brass instruments, the new XENO trumpets remain true to the vision of the designer of the original trumpets. The XENO range has now expanded to 16 instruments, comprising medium and large-bore models, standard and reverse type models and a variety of finishes.
Yamaha spokesman Ian Frankland, commenting on the launch, said: “With such a stellar line-up of some of the world’s finest players, this is the perfect start to the next chapter in the history of XENO. The range now offers great variety and options ensuring that serious players can find their sound. The huge variety of sounds available from the new models provides tremendous creative freedom whatever the musical style”
If you are interested in trialing any of the new Yamaha Xeno instruments, please don't hesitate to get in touch with our brass team. Steve Herbert, our Brass Manager is more than happy to discuss the new range with you further. he can be contacted at email@example.com or by calling 01823 282386 (menu option 1)
This article was featured in British Bandsman October 2013 http://britishbandsman.com/
11. October 2013 11:25
International guests from as far afield as Spain recently took part in a special weekend of flute activities at Plymouth University to mark the 10th Birthday of local flute charity 4Flutes. Vital in championing flute playing in the South West of England, 4Flutes has always managed to entice the most exciting flute players to perform in more than just a recital and concert in the nation’s capital. This year, flute royalty Ian Clarke and Clare Southworth not only performed in several recitals over the weekend but also hosted special one-off workshops giving aspiring flautists the chance to work with some of the UKs finest musicians.
During the workshops participants were given expert tuition on a variety of areas including playing, technique, breathing, embouchure and ensemble work. Participants especially enjoyed the chance to ask Ian and Clare about specific issues that they were experiencing and to draw upon their extensive knowledge and professional experience.
The concerts that took place on Friday 4th and Saturday 5th October featured a variety of genres including classical and modern playing. Ian’s concert “Deep Blue” featured a number of compositions from his 2013 album of the same name which made it to number 8 in the Classical Album Chart earlier in the year. Ian is thought to be the first UK Flautist to make it into the top ten with an album compromised entirely of new compositions. Accompanied by Tim Carey, Ian played Hatching Aliens!, Touching The Ether and Madrigal by Philippe Gaubert amongst many others. His creative flair and innovative use of the instrument delighted the audience.
Clare Southworth played alongside the Ten Tors Orchestra, conducted by Simon Ible in the Minster Church of St Andrew Plymouth on Saturday evening. In this special performance, Clare brought new life to the concerto by Reinecke, a less well known Victorian composer, in a vibrant & compelling performance. The Ten Tors Orchestra also played A Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture by Mendelssohn and Symphony in F Major Pastoral by Beethoven.
As well as the captivating concerts and workshops, both Yamaha and Pearl also had a presence at the event. There was also a contrabass flute by Dutch flute maker Eva Kingma that stood over 6 feet tall and proved a real talking point.
A truly celebratory event that was enjoyed by all, Ruth Ballantyne, Director of 4Flutes, closed the event by thanking everyone involved for their support and shared her wishes for a bright future for flute players.
7. October 2013 14:43
A large number of enthusiastic musicians from across the UK took part in a special wind band event on Saturday 28 September in Taunton, Somerset hosted by Brass and Woodwind specialists John Packer Ltd. The workshop, led by Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Chris Davis OBE BA(Hons) MMus DMA LRAM saw participants challenged with a variety of exciting pieces and arrangements including the lively Stage Centre by Richards, The Melody Shop by King and Sea Songs by Knox.
Participants thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of the day and remarked how well balanced the choice of repertoire was. Erica Wright who played in the trombone section complimented the day adding “I was thoroughly challenged but (the event) also gave me a more confidence in my playing”
Chris Davis shared many wise words of wisdom with those that attended commenting that the “texture and layers of playing was very encouraging”. His extensive knowledge and experience enabled people to grow in confidence over the day players with many remarking on improved playing.
Following a full days playing, friends and family were treated to a final concert performance featuring some of the highlights from the day. Of particular note was the emotional and moving performance of John Williams’ Hymn to the Fallen.
Richard De La Rou of the Exeter Music Group described the whole day by saying "I much enjoyed the wind band day organised by John Packer recently. The music was difficult enough to interest advanced players but not impossible for those slightly less competent to attempt. I left feeling that I had a good day and exercised my sight reading considerably!"
Following the success of the second annual wind band day, John Packer Ltd plan to host their annual Brass Band workshop on Saturday 29 March in Taunton with special guest conductor Dr Robert Childs. Needing no introduction, Dr Childs is one of the leading figures in the world of brass music having performed at the highest levels for over 30 years.
To register your interest and to reserve your seat, contact our Brass Manager, Steve Herbert by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01823 282386 (option 1)
3. October 2013 13:38
Greetings from the Exeter Music Group (EMG)!
During our 2012-2013 season the EMG Symphony Orchestra has become very aware of the debt we owe to the many fine brass, percussion and woodwind players who join us for repertoire that requires many players additional to our core membership. We want to keep in contact with this group and are also experimenting with the development of a high quality Symphonic Wind Band constructed by our Musical Director, Marion Wood.
Marion Wood studied Postgraduate Orchestral Conducting at the Royal College of Music and also spent some time as Assistant Chorus Master to the London Philharmonic Choir. She continued her orchestral and choir work with appointments to the Belfast Philharmonic Choir and Assistant Conductor to the National Youth Orchestra as well as working with various choirs and ensembles of young professionals in London.
Marion was Director of Music at the University of Exeter from 2006 to 2013 and her work included support for the University Concert Band. Her appointment as Musical Director of the Exeter Music Group Symphony Orchestra proved a great artistic success, challenging the players to undertake works not usually attempted by laregely amateur orchestras. Her enthusiasm for the development of a high standard symphonic wind orchesta has encouraged EMG to broaden its range of musical activities.
Musicians are invited to a special Symphonic Wind Band Workshop to be held at St Peter's School, Quarry Lane, Exeter on Saturday 1 March 2014.
We are inviting those who are interested in joining us for the workshop to contact Richard de la Rou (percussion and brass) or John Welton (woodwind). The music will be challenging so musicians should be of an advanced standard.
Tickets for the workshop on March 1st, 2014 must be pre-booked with the contacts below.
Please bring your instrument, music stand and a packed lunch.
Registration from 9.15am for a 10am start. The day will end at 5pm.
John Packer Ltd will be in attendance with a selection of instruments and accessories.
Brass/Percussion - Richard de la Rou - 01395 274099 - email@example.com
Woodwind - John Welton - 01395 271915 - firstname.lastname@example.org
26. September 2013 16:23
We are looking for a musician to help in our busy retail premises on Saturdays.
The successful candidate will play a woodwind or brass instrument to a good standard. They also need to be intelligent, articulate, accurate and a good communicator.
Sales experience would be helpful, but is not essential as training will be given. This is a ‘people’ business, so musical ability, attitude and personality are more important.
Please apply in writing with cv in the first instance to our Retail Manager, Andy Still: email@example.com
16. September 2013 11:26
International musical instrument retailer, John Packer Ltd and south west flute charity, 4Flutes are collaborating in delivering an exciting weekend of flute events to mark the 10th anniversary of 4Flutes. Originally set up in 2003, 4Flutes aims to enables flute players in the south west of England to benefit from the same level of performers that are usually reserved for London and other large cities around the UK. In the past they have worked with top flautists including Mike Mower, Jonathan Snowden, Gareth Mclearnon, Emma Williams, Pete Long and Paul Edmund-Davies amongst many others.
Hosted by Peninsular Arts with Plymouth University, The Great Plymouth Flute Adventure kicks off on Friday 4 October at 7.30pm with a recital from flute revolutionary Ian Clarke. His recent 2013 album Deep Blue made waves in the flute community as it marked the first time that a UK flute player had broken into the top 10 Classical Music album chart with an album consisting entirely of personal composition. Heralded as creative and innovative, Ian’s repertoire includes both traditional classical pieces and also modern interpretations pushing the boundaries of what audiences expect from the flute. Joining Ian and also performing during the weekend (Saturday 5 October 7.30pm) is Clare Southworth, Professor of Flute at the Royal Academy Of Music. Clare is renowned for being one of the very few flute players to have launched a successful career as a solo performer and teacher. Passionate about raising the profile of flute playing, Clare is unrelenting in her international mission having performed and taught all across the world.
Alongside these two very exciting concerts is a chance for aspiring players to be coached by these two flute greats. Over the weekend both Ian and Clare will be hosting individual workshops enabling budding flautists to benefit from their wealth of experience and knowledge. Tuition, advice and mentoring will be available on a range of subjects. Participants will also get the chance to perform with Ian or Clare in short concerts at the end of each workshop.
Tickets cost £30 for one workshop and one concert
Full access to all weekend events £50 (two workshops two concerts)
For more information and to book tickets visit the 4Flutes website.
11. September 2013 16:31
This summer has been very busy, bringing both challenges and opportunities to perform and practice for the challenge. This 4th blog in the series will highlight some of the activities that I’ve been taking part in over the summer and will touch on some of the techniques that I have been using in order to improve my technique and to keep my lip in across all of the instruments and their ranges.
My summer began with playing at the CSSM (Charterhouse Summer School of Music) in Sherborne. This is an adult summer school for mainly orchestral instrumental players ranging from beginners to advance ability in a large variety of different ensemble settings. Over the period of the course, which runs for 1 week, I played Euphonium, Alto Trombone, Tenor Trombone and Trumpet in a variety of ensembles including symphony and chamber orchestras, a wind band and a brass septet. Playing is intense on this course and certainly builds stamina as the playing day runs from around 9:15am until up to 8:45pm (with some breaks for food, drink, air etc) and evening concerts can run after this all week.
As a regular attendee and steward for the course, the organisers Pip Huw Davies and John Huw Davies agreed to aid in the advertisement and fundraising of this event. I would like to thank them personally and on behalf of Cancer Research UK for helping me to raise over the £600 mark during the week of the course.
Following CSSM, I spent a week house sitting at a secluded school house. I took with me my Trombone, Tenor Horn and Trumpet and spent a lot of time practicing the grade 8 repertoire for the challenge whilst also trying to enhance my technical abilities and tone using the Arban and Vizzutti Method Books. As a result of the hours of practice on a variety of instruments and the regular changing of embouchure, my lips were feeling great by the end of this week.
However, immediately after the house sitting, I went on a camping holiday with my family. With no space in the car for even a trumpet, I took with me a pocketful of mouthpieces and my copy of the Arban Method. Though there are a mass of equipments for keeping the ‘lip in’ without your instrument (such as the berp, pete, buzzard, lip-dumbells etc) I have yet to find anything that really works any better than just buzzing through the mouthpiece (not that I have tested them all). And so after a week of instrumentless practice running through lip exercises, my lip and previous work had suffered a little. Nothing is as good as blowing through the instruments, however using the mouthpieces to keep my lips buzzing slowed down the lip muscle atrophy that occurs when it is not possible to practice in ideal conditions.
Over the rest of the Summer holiday period I shall be practicing intensely and contacting local bands to try to get in the band experience of playing all of these instruments.
You can now donate to the charity directly by visiting my webpage at www.justgiving.com/Russell-Lock
You can also donate from your mobile phone by texting: GRAD88 and the amount you wish to donate (e.g £5) to 70070.
100% of the money raised will go to Cancer Research UK. Your support is very much appreciated.
To view my previous blog and to catch up with the story so far click here.
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(Supported by John Packer LTD, Denis Wick Mouthpieces and Trinity College London)