Another sign brass is dying out???

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by horn1, Sep 4, 2007.

  1. horn1

    horn1 Member

    I've just read the examiners report from this years EDEXCEL Music GCSE and it was pretty scary reading for brass players!

    Acording to Edexcels statistics in a sample of 15000 performances 'piano, voice, keyboard, drums and guitar have made up 72% of the performances.. there was a consequent reduction in performances on orchestral instruments, which made up only 26% (WITH BRASS INSTRUMENTS MAKING UP A MERE 4.5%) and with
    ethnic instruments, which made up 0.5% of the sample.'
    Not only that but the examiner also said: 'Brass instruments were the rarest of orchestral instruments heard, but, proportionally, they also were the least well prepared.'

    So all in all not a good day for brass! I have to say that I'm not suprised based on experience in my own school. Considering the area I teach in (Oldham, heart of brass band country) I get no students coming to the school already playing brass instruments. Those that I do manage to convince to take up a brass instrument either get fed up of sounding like a duck, get told off for being loud when practicing at home or can't bear the ridicule of walking to school with a big instrument and subsequently give up. I've tried all sorts to get this sorted but to no avail! My latest plan is going into primary schools to teach brass so that they're keen before they get to secondary school. Currently none of my feeder primaries have brass in their schools.

    Is anyone else having similar experiences?

    Nicola
     
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  3. hellyfrost

    hellyfrost Member

    My friend teaches at St. Thomas's C.E School in Moorside Oldham and they are part of the Wider Opportunities Scheme with brass instruments.
    I think it's great that they've got this programme and there's 30 kids in her class aged between 8 and 10 who're all learning on Virtuosi cornets and having tuition from Oldham Music Centre Staff I think once a month and I think once a week the teacher (my friend) gives them an hour's lesson. She really enjoys it (although she's had no musical training and has never played a brass instrument in her life before going on the day course for wider opportunities!) and the kids do too, but after six months the novelty is starting to wear off a bit now and she's been looking for new ways to re-inspire them so I told her to speak to the parents and get them to one of the local youth bands in Oldham/Saddleworth. What do you think? Any ideas to keep them going?
    I think any scheme which gets kids into banding is great and I've nothing but praise for the school for buying into this scheme:clap:
     
  4. Morghoven

    Morghoven Member

    It does sound pretty scary, and I think it's something we should all be concerned about. However, I do wonder if it really gives us a true picture.

    When I was taking my GCSEs in the late 90s, my year and the years around me in GCSE music had each set divided roughly in half - those who genuinely wanted to do music, and those who took it because they thought it was an easy option (which sadly, it probably was). Of course, most of the latter half had to sing for their performances because they couldn't play an instrument. Of the half who were genuine, some of those were singers as well - and to be fair, a couple were really very good!
    I've done some work in a couple of local schools this past year and the situation is even worse. In one school I went to, I'm not convinced that any of the people in one of their groups really wanted to do music, they just didn't want to do anything else either and figured at least they wouldn't have to write much in music...and guess what, most of them were going to sing or play keyboard or drums for their performances. No-one played an orchestral instrument of any kind.
    It isn't good to see orchestral instruments, and brass especially, being pushed out. But I think that a lot of people who do voice or keyboard especially aren't particularly serious about the subject.

    It would be interesting to see similar statistics for A level, by which time most of the 'hangers-on' have been weeded out.
     
  5. Hells Bones

    Hells Bones Active Member

    What School do you teach at?
     
  6. horn1

    horn1 Member

    I agree with what has been said about the groups taking music. My last years group were not musicians and ended up doing keyboard. I think that possibly students that are good enough don't always bother to pick music because they are torn a million ways subject wise and know they can still continue playing outside school.
    Hopefully things will begin to remedy themselves for me in the next couple of years. As well as me going into feeder primarys to support music at least one of our feeders has opted for wider opps in brass, which sould be helpful.
    Another problem I have is that whilst the school (Hathershaw) has had good music historically it had dropped away quite significantly before I took over the Head of Music job. This has meant that I've had to build from virtually nothing, maybe I'm just impatient and want everything to happen now!! I must admit though that it has been quite disapointing to be a brass specialist with no brass and do wonder how many people are in a similar position.
     
  7. Alisop

    Alisop Member

    I have just looked through the information I have on our new year 7's. We have an intake of 300 and none of these students play a brass instrument. Most of the ones that do play an instrument play guitar and there are a few playing violin, flute, clarinet or saxophone. However what is refreshing is that for the first time in 5 years I have cellists and not just one but 3!

    Also we have 41 students in our new year 11 GCSE music group and only 4 of these play an orchestral instrument.

    It's all pretty scary but we're working with the music service and primary schools to see what we can do to reverse this trend.
     
  8. x..Emma..x

    x..Emma..x Member

    I don't think there was anyone in my school who played a brass instrument in their GCSE's this year, Hopefully I will be playing flugel for GCSE in 2 years time :D
     
  9. Aussie Tuba

    Aussie Tuba Member

    This trend has been going on for a while, When I was in school in the 70's I was the only student that was already playing a brass instument prior to starting at the school.
    The ones learning didn't take kindley to one who could play so I left the school Orchestra and stuck with my Band, The Teacher wasn't to happy with the rest of the class for their attitude.
    Didn't stop me playing in Band though, Been playing EEb Tuba for more than 30 years.
     
  10. Danny_L

    Danny_L Member

    Well in 1999 when I took GCSE music 50% of the class played a brass instrument!! Pretty good I think!! (Oh yeah....there were only two of us...)
     
  11. Bungle

    Bungle Member

    I took GCSE music on euphonium in 1982 the other two members of the class played piano and violin. It some ways it is good more pupils are taking music but I think it is being chosen as a soft option. Still, if it means they enjoy their time at school it has to be a good thing.

    My daughter plays cornet and was told at school if she intended taking music she should learn another instrument as well to broaden her understanding (as if she dosen't have enough difficulty finding time to practice her cornet). She takes her cornet to school in a pink and purple gig bag and her friends think it is cool and offer to carry it for her.

    But lets face it, to parents, playing brass isn't trendy, or something to impress other parents about. When I went to a concert at the local music center, they had a brass group of seven players and a violin group of forty!
     
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  13. Bunnymonster

    Bunnymonster Member

    I'm a teacher and find all these comments interesting. In my experience instruments go through trend phrases. I remember when you couldn't move for flautists, now it seems to be clarinetists! I am sure that instruments such as drumkits/electric guitars etc will always be popular, probably due to popular culture, however it does not mean that they are played poorly in GCSE/A level or grade exams. I also believe that it is very important that all students have access to Music lessons (both class and instrumental), how else will we maintain its importance in society and our varied splinter cultures of brass bands/ barbershop quartets/ wind orchestras/ steel bands etc etc etc? We underestimate the significance of music in the lives of young people, many of them pick friends based on what type of music they listen to, and then dress accordingly. You only have to look at them to be able to identify the 'Goths' from the 'EMOs' and the 'Rappers'.

    Going back to my own education, I remember being disgusted by other students and their parents who would walk out of concerts at the interval if the second half didn't contain any brass.

    Finally, I think we should get things into perspective. Before we bemoan the lack of brass instruments think of the plight of the poor bassoon and oboe!
     
  14. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - especially more-so as a result of the new series of 'Skins' making it appear cool to be learning clarinet!
     
  15. Lauradoll

    Lauradoll Active Member

    Well I'm afraid I'm going to buck the trend- out of 20 kids I had doing GCSE Music this year I had:

    Student 1- A*- Trumpet- also Y10 early entry student
    Student 2- A- Cornet
    Student 3- A- Baritone
    Student 4- A- Euphonium- also Y10 early entry student
    Student 5- B- Tenor Horn
    Student 6- B- Cornet- also Y9 early entry student
    Student 7- C- Cornet- also Y10 early entry student
    Student 8- C- Eb Bass- also early entry student

    I also have 5 brass students in my current Y11 option group of 9 and 4 in my current year 10 option group.

    From another point of view, I am also a moderator for AQA performance and heard many very good brass performances from schools all over the country when I was marking this year.
     
  16. MissRepiano

    MissRepiano New Member

    I was the only brass player when I took GCSE music in 2002. Although there was one other cornet player and a trombonist when I took music AS. Admittedly the trombonist hated playing and only took music cos her parents wanted her to play and it seemed like and easy option!
     
  17. Morghoven

    Morghoven Member

    Agreed that they are not necessarily played poorly, and indeed I know some pretty talented people who have done those instruments for GCSE. But drums, keyboards and singing will also be the routes that non-musicians just hoping for an easy ride will take, and so that will skew the statistics.

    Yes, everyone should have access to it. But by Year 10 there is nothing wrong with only taking people on for study who are actually serious about the subject and have some sort of ability. There's plenty of school bands & choirs and non-school ones as well if other people want to indulge themselves - but it ruins things for those of us who are serious when you're constantly fighting against half a group who really couldn't care less. Music is for everyone, but studying music isn't.
     
  18. horn1

    horn1 Member

    Well I knew you'd buck this particular trend Laura!! To be honest the thing that concerned me most when reading the report was how it claimed many of the brass performances were poor on top of such a low percentage. I agree with what has been said about the popularity of Guitar, drums etc but Edexcel seemed to think that these performances were generally of a good (and improving) standard. I would be interesting to see the stats for other exam boards as this would give a more acurate picture. I hope the acurate picture is more healthy than Edexcel seems to suggest!
     
  19. Morghoven

    Morghoven Member

    Just to throw yet another variable into the mix - we are trusting what EdExcel is saying here!! They may have their own axes to grind.

    Is there a terminal performance exam with an external examiner for GCSE music these days? Cos I don't remember doing one - which means the assessments are being done my the school music teachers. Now I'm sure everyone on here who's a school music teacher is doing a good job, and it's a job I know I'd be hopeless at...but a lot of school music teachers don't know their Arne from their elbow so I find it very difficult to take their assessments seriously.
     
  20. stopher

    stopher Member

    Think I'm right in saying WJEC is the only board that send an examiner in to assess the performance exam but don't hold me to that.

    As for Brass, last year in my school, 6 kids came up into Yr 7 having lessons. 4 dropped out before I got to them. Saying that, the 2 that are left are brilliant, keen and bought their own instruments (a cornet and a euph) and both passed their Grade 2 at the end of the year.

    I think you really have to get in to the Junior schools to build up from the bottom and it will take 5 years to get them to around grade 4 or 5 realistcally.
    From what I can see in my patch, Junior schools want to get kids to play an instrument but usually teach instruments that can sound half decent in a short amount of time or ones that can be taught in groups so can get a bit more revenue for them so you occasionally hear of 6 kids being taught in an hour! The LEA charge just under £30 per hour for each peri to come in and teach so 1 hour a week for 30 weeks= £900.

    I found out that one school gets a grant of £1500 a year but then have to spend that on a supply teacher so it is no wonder that that school doesn't have any students receiving instrumental lessons.

    For the 2 bands (a Grade 1-2 wind band and a sort of Big Band with clarnets and Euphs) that I started in school, it is about getting music that will appeal and sound good but also have a laugh with the kids.

    Just seen the broadcast that 4BR mentioned in Wales where Gareth Ritter and David Childs have said you have to have a balance btween appeal and the fun factor to get kids to do it - totally agree!
     
  21. DMBabe

    DMBabe Supporting Member

    I personally think that if kids want to play they will! I came from an non-musical family, picked brass because it was either that or piano at my primary school and by the time we were half way through 1st year at high school, out of 5 that started I was the only one left! Probably something to do with me being the only one that had bothered to join the local junior band.

    The thing that really worries me is that music has become a filler subject for a lot of kids. Within the Scottish system, when I did my O grade in 1989, the pieces were grade 5 and we had to do things like rhythmic and melodic dictation and Higher was grade 7, but in 1990 standard grade and revised higher in 1991 were brought in, which have now "progressed" to the higher having a performance standard of grade 3-4. When I was in 6th year a lad passed his higher at C playing his pieces on a one octave classroom xylophone!!
    On paper my higher is worth the same as the new higher but it was a much harder exam.

    I understand that music needs to be accessable but I was bad at technical subjects but didn't expect them to drop standards for me!

    Also it must have a knock on effect at university level as people starting music degrees must have a lesser knowledge base than previously so has 1st year of these courses turned into a catch up???

    I feel that enthusiastic teachers, who liase with local lower section/youth bands will reap the benefits of keen pupils, because I'm not sure I would have kept playing if I only had school stuff to keep me interested.

     
  22. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    why all the negativity?

    my lad was put off by music at school, but 1 day at RAH and some great chat with top players (YBS bass section thank you) and he is hooked.

    A whit friday with tMp band and he is now destined for a lifetime of what we call banding, thank you one and all.
     

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