Friday, August 24, 2007

"El Sistema"

There has been much in the newspapers recently about “El Sistema”, the most recent in the Herald August 18th, and the decision to import it into the Raploch area of Stirling. By all accounts it looks to be wonderful program for introducing children to Classical Music and hopefully in turn help to give young people a purpose in their lives. With all that involves I wish them luck.

It is not however unique nor is it the first time such a scheme has taken place in Scotland. The most successful of these schemes started around the same time as “Il Sistema” i.e. 30 years ago. It involved the people of Pollock and was based in the now closed Bellarmine Secondary School. Under the guidance of Winnie Dean, the most inspired music teacher of her time, it grew into one of the most successful music schemes in Britain. Many of the people who took part are now professional musicians themselves, playing in orchestras all over the world. Many have gone on to various other careers but all still recall their musical and social experiences on a Saturday when they came together to make music at “The Arts Centre”. Unfortunately for this scheme it became an easy target for financial cutbacks. It was easy to target because it had become an embarrassment to the Education department and some City fathers. Some thought it was outrageous to let these working class children have ideas above their station. Others were just were just directly opposed to it because they had no real control. It had to close in 1988. The result was an enormous void in that community. This is the biggest danger with such schemes. They can become a political football, mostly through petty jealousy and lack of vision, and the result is anger and disillusionment among the benefactors of the scheme.
“El Sistema” has succeeded because it has been backed both financially and politically, no matter the persuasion, over a long number of years. I feel there is no reason why a similar scheme could not work here if there is willingness from the parties involved to give it the long term financial backing it needs. The benefits are enormous for the children involved and for society as a whole

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Summer has ended before it begun

This has been the worst summer, weather wise that I can remember and I am sure I will not be the last to say it!

Unfortunately I have now started back teaching and Sardinia seems a long way away. Usually when I go back I am ready to and sometimes even raring to go. This year, however, I could have seen it far enough. That attitude was strengthened after the second day. Day one passed off peacefully and I finished early. No arguments!! Day two was an unadulterated waste of time.

I have banged on about this before but I feel if you have a day in which it's planned to have about 60 musicians in the one room, it would be a good idea to mention something about music. NO?????????? I sat through 4 hours of sales talk on Sibelius software and the wonder of Smartboards! Now Sibelius could be tentatively linked to music in that it is one of the main computer software programs used by musicians and in fact I use it a lot for my arrangements and other cello material. That does not warrant a 1 and a half hour talk on some of the other software which is useless to a teaching musician and which has nothing to do with the instruments we teach. When you are then told what this other software will cost you, it does not take a genius to work out what the purpose of these said talks were all about! The talk in the afternoon then took us to Sibelius 5 which is the latest version on sale from them. Schools will not sniff this software for about another 10 years; by which time it will be obsolete! Schools are struggling to get Sibelius 2 on their computers!!

That was the only really tentative link to music all day. The first part dealt with business. The business doesn't change year in year out, it just gets worded differently and maybe by a different messenger. The form filling get more complicated and long-winded in order to really piss people off and so they end up not filling them in! Why bother??

The other part in the middle and before Lunch was dealing with the use of Smartboards. Does one have to clever to use a Smartboard? No! You need a laptop,not provided, a few clothes pegs and at least one good finger. Oh! and it is preferable to use them topless in order that you don't have trailing line from a disobedient shirt or cardigan! That could make for an interesting class!!

All in all I really just hate being treated as either an imbecile or as a candidate for a good sales pitch which is marginally less painful than sitting through a pitch by a Time-Share salesman. At least at the end of that you might end up with a little sun! That's more than we have had this summer.