Andrew Lloyd Webber says his new musical will challenge politicians to improve school music lesson funding.
School of Rock, based on the 2002 film, is about a group of schoolchildren who turn their lives around by entering a Battle of the Bands contest.
The young cast - aged between nine and 12 - all play their own instruments.
"At this time when there are cuts to music in schools, these are the kids that prove music is vital," Lord Lloyd-Webber told the BBC.
He said music "is a force for the good and empowers young people".
The composer, whose own foundation funds arts education programmes in the UK, said the government should rethink its "counter-productive" cuts.
"At a time when people are feeling alienated from politics, the arts cut right through that," he said.
Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, who wrote the musical's book, picked up on the theme.
"One of the main purposes of the education years is to help children find out who they are and what they want to do, and the arts are one of the greatest means of allowing people to discover their identity," he said.
"It really is mad for the country to cut back on that and throw out a whole load of people from school who really haven't found out what they want to do."
Lord Lloyd-Webber and Lord Fellowes were speaking as they unveiled the cast for the West End transfer of School of Rock, which opened to enthusiastic reviews on Broadway last year, earning four Tony Award nominations.
The show, based on the Jack Black film, features three rotating casts of child actors, selected after a nationwide search earlier this year.
They range from experienced actors, drawn from the casts of Matilda and The Lion King, to complete newcomers.
Among them is Amelia Poggenpoel, from Formby, who made headlines last year when her singing reduced Shia LaBeouf to tears.
The 10-year-old approached LaBeouf at his #TouchMySoul exhibition in Liverpool and performed Who's Lovin' You by the Jackson Five. When she finished, the actor stood up and hugged her, sobbing: "You touched my soul."
She will play Shonelle in the musical, her first West End role after several appearances in Liverpool.
Amelia told the BBC she was living in a "School of Rock house" with other cast members, where tutors run lessons before and after rehearsals. The set up is "much better" than regular school, she added.
Other cast members include Isabelle Methven and Eva Trodd, both 11, who previously played Little Cosette in the West End production of Les Miserables, and Natasha Raphael, 10, who toured the UK in the role of Annie last year.
Toby Lee, an 11-year-old from Priors Marston who runs a successful YouTube channel showcasing his guitar skills, is one of three youngsters filling the role of Zack.
The show revolves around failed rock star Dewey Finn who, in need of cash to pay his rent, fakes his credentials as a substitute teacher.
But what starts out as an excuse to get paid for slacking off turns into a life-affirming experience, as he prepares his pupils for a local battle of the bands.
"The reason I loved this story is every character in this story is somehow changed for the better through music," said Lord Lloyd-Webber, who first revealed he had bought the rights in 2013.
For the first time since Jesus Christ Superstar in 1971, he chose to premiere his new show in the US, principally because it has more relaxed child labour laws - meaning the production could have one permanent cast.
He previously expressed misgivings about bringing the show to London, saying he doubted whether he could find 39 children capable of pulling off the live musical elements of the show.
Instead, he said, "we could have found five bands to play".
"The depth of musical talent that we auditioned is something that I have to admit I didn't think we would find. I kind of feared they'd all be into their computers, but this proves that they aren't."
The role of Dewey Finn will be played in London by David Fynn, currently starring in US sitcom Undateable.
He said working with three rotating casts of children helped give the show spontaneity.
"It keeps me on my toes and, as a result, it helps them stay engaged."
The show begins previews at the New London Theatre on 24 October before opening night on 14 November.
By Laura Lewis Brown
Whether your child is the next Beyonce or more likely to sing her solos in the shower, she is bound to benefit from some form of music education. Research shows that learning the do-re-mis can help children excel in ways beyond the basic ABCs.
Research has found that learning music facilitates learning other subjects and enhances skills that children inevitably use in other areas. “A music-rich experience for children of singing, listening and moving is really bringing a very serious benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning,” says Mary Luehrisen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation, a not-for-profit association that promotes the benefits of making music.
Making music involves more than the voice or fingers playing an instrument; a child learning about music has to tap into multiple skill sets, often simultaneously. For instance, people use their ears and eyes, as well as large and small muscles, says Kenneth Guilmartin, cofounder of Music Together, an early childhood music development program for infants through kindergarteners that involves parents or caregivers in the classes.
“Music learning supports all learning. Not that Mozart makes you smarter, but it’s a very integrating, stimulating pastime or activity,” Guilmartin says.
“When you look at children ages two to nine, one of the breakthroughs in that area is music’s benefit for language development, which is so important at that stage,” says Luehrisen. While children come into the world ready to decode sounds and words, music education helps enhance those natural abilities. “Growing up in a musically rich environment is often advantageous for children’s language development,” she says. But Luehrisen adds that those inborn capacities need to be “reinforced, practiced, celebrated,” which can be done at home or in a more formal music education setting.
According to the Children’s Music Workshop, the effect of music education on language development can be seen in the brain. “Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds,” the group claims.
This relationship between music and language development is also socially advantageous to young children. “The development of language over time tends to enhance parts of the brain that help process music,” says Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and a practicing musician. “Language competence is at the root of social competence. Musical experience strengthens the capacity to be verbally competent.”
A study by E. Glenn Schellenberg at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, as published in a 2004 issue of Psychological Science, found a small increase in the IQs of six-year-olds who were given weekly voice and piano lessons. Schellenberg provided nine months of piano and voice lessons to a dozen six-year-olds, drama lessons (to see if exposure to arts in general versus just music had an effect) to a second group of six-year-olds, and no lessons to a third group. The children’s IQs were tested before entering the first grade, then again before entering the second grade.
Surprisingly, the children who were given music lessons over the school year tested on average three IQ points higher than the other groups. The drama group didn’t have the same increase in IQ, but did experience increased social behavior benefits not seen in the music-only group.
Research indicates the brain of a musician, even a young one, works differently than that of a nonmusician. “There’s some good neuroscience research that children involved in music have larger growth of neural activity than people not in music training. When you’re a musician and you’re playing an instrument, you have to be using more of your brain,” says Dr. Eric Rasmussen, chair of the Early Childhood Music Department at the Peabody Preparatory of The Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches a specialized music curriculum for children aged two months to nine years.
In fact, a study led by Ellen Winner, professor of psychology at Boston College, and Gottfried Schlaug, professor of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, found changes in the brain images of children who underwent 15 months of weekly music instruction and practice. The students in the study who received music instruction had improved sound discrimination and fine motor tasks, and brain imaging showed changes to the networks in the brain associated with those abilities, according to the Dana Foundation, a private philanthropic organization that supports brain research.
Research has also found a causal link between music and spatial intelligence, which means that understanding music can help children visualize various elements that should go together, like they would do when solving a math problem.
“We have some pretty good data that music instruction does reliably improve spatial-temporal skills in children over time,” explains Pruett, who helped found the Performing Arts Medicine Association. These skills come into play in solving multistep problems one would encounter in architecture, engineering, math, art, gaming, and especially working with computers.
A study published in 2007 by Christopher Johnson, professor of music education and music therapy at the University of Kansas, revealed that students in elementary schools with superior music education programs scored around 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math scores on standardized tests, compared to schools with low-quality music programs, regardless of socioeconomic disparities among the schools or school districts. Johnson compares the concentration that music training requires to the focus needed to perform well on a standardized test.
Aside from test score results, Johnson’s study highlights the positive effects that a quality music education can have on a young child’s success. Luehrisen explains this psychological phenomenon in two sentences: “Schools that have rigorous programs and high-quality music and arts teachers probably have high-quality teachers in other areas. If you have an environment where there are a lot of people doing creative, smart, great things, joyful things, even people who aren’t doing that have a tendency to go up and do better.”
And it doesn’t end there: along with better performance results on concentration-based tasks, music training can help with basic memory recall. “Formal training in music is also associated with other cognitive strengths such as verbal recall proficiency,” Pruett says. “People who have had formal musical training tend to be pretty good at remembering verbal information stored in memory.”
Music can improve your child’ abilities in learning and other nonmusic tasks, but it’s important to understand that music does not make one smarter. As Pruett explains, the many intrinsic benefits to music education include being disciplined, learning a skill, being part of the music world, managing performance, being part of something you can be proud of, and even struggling with a less than perfect teacher.
“It’s important not to oversell how smart music can make you,” Pruett says. “Music makes your kid interesting and happy, and smart will come later. It enriches his or her appetite for things that bring you pleasure and for the friends you meet.”
While parents may hope that enrolling their child in a music program will make her a better student, the primary reasons to provide your child with a musical education should be to help them become more musical, to appreciate all aspects of music, and to respect the process of learning an instrument or learning to sing, which is valuable on its own merit.
“There is a massive benefit from being musical that we don’t understand, but it’s individual. Music is for music’s sake,” Rasmussen says. “The benefit of music education for me is about being musical. It gives you have a better understanding of yourself. The horizons are higher when you are involved in music,” he adds. “Your understanding of art and the world, and how you can think and express yourself, are enhanced.”
Credit: Laura Lewis Brown, EarlyMorningMom.com
By the time you read this, I’m afraid, it’ll be too late to attend the Christmas concert of the community choir to which I’ve belonged for a while now. I know, I know, you’re gutted. But maybe it’s better that way: the weekly rehearsals have become such an oddly transporting highlight of my week that it almost feels too personal to mention in public. I’m not alone in this, I realise. These days, with amateur singing exploding in popularity, there’s no happiness advice less original than “Join a choir!” So it’s strange that we still don’t really understand why it feels so good.... Read the full article
© Guardian News & Media Ltd
Illustration: Thomas Pullin for the Guardian
Number one - make sure the Musical Director is a genius. Fortunately the MD of the Warwickshire Choristers is one. Number two, create an organisation where the parents are totally committed and supportive. Number three, remember that boys are not girls and they need a unique approach to rehearsals and concerts. Number four, work incredibly hard.
Garry Jones is a genius. He is a great friend of mine and a former Director of Warwickshire County Music Service. Since he retired from that job he has been working virtually full time creating the Warwickshire Choristers and, more recently, the County Male Voices; an equally excellent choir made up of all the boys that started singing with Garry 6 years ago.
The Choristers have been in the final of Music for Youth 5 times in the last 6 years and have received Choir of the Day in every BBC Choir of the Year competition since reaching the televised final in 2010. They produce CDs, go on tour and have featured on radio as well as television. They regularly perform at major concert venues including Symphony Hall in Birmingham, Truro Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral and the University of Warwick Arts Centre.
It is perhaps two things that stand out for me as I watch and admire Garry at work. A concert last night is a good example. The care he takes over the choice of repertoire for the boys is extreme - but utterly worth while when you hear them. Yesterday's concert started with a sublime rendition of Ubi Caritas by Albrecht. The pure young voices of two solo choristers soared around the Parish church of Leamington Spa and set the tone for the rest of their performance; including music by Jefferson, Poulenc, Frank and Schwartz.
The boys, aged between 7 - 12, perform music that you would not think they have the maturity to manage. Le Chien Perdu by Poulenc was simply sensational; unaccompanied and without a conductor.
The reason they can do this is because of the unique relationship that Garry builds with them. This is developed in no small part by his rehearsing style. I have sat in many rehearsals and it is not unusual for Garry to spend up to 10 minutes on one sound. The boys come into a choir where excellent is simply taken for granted and the hard work needed to achieve that is there for all to see.
The results of a research project by Northwestern University, published in July 2015, suggest that music training, begun as late as high school, may help improve the teenage brain’s responses to sound and sharpen hearing and language skills.
The research indicates that music instruction helps enhance skills that are critical for academic success. The gains were seen during group music classes included in the schools’ curriculum, suggesting in-school training accelerates neurodevelopment.
Professor Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at the School of Communication, and her colleagues recruited 40 Chicago-area high school freshmen (14-15 years-old) in a study that began shortly before school started, and followed them until their last senior year (18-19 years old). Nearly half the students had enrolled in band classes, which involved two to three hours a week of instrumental group music instruction in school. The rest had enrolled in Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), which focused on fitness. Both groups attended the same schools in low-income neighbourhoods.
All participants improved in language skills, but the improvement was greater for those in music classes, compared with the JROTC group. According to the authors of the report, high school music training might hone brain development and improve language skills. The stable processing of sound details, important for language skills, is known to be diminished in children raised in poverty, raising the possibility that music education may offset this negative influence on sound processing.
If your parents forced you to practice your scales by saying it would "build character," they were onto something. The Washington Post reports that one of the largest scientific studies into music's effect on the brain has found something striking: Musical training doesn't just affect your musical ability — it provides tremendous benefits to children's emotional and behavioral maturation.
The study by the University of Vermont College of Medicine found that even those who never made it past nursery rhyme songs and do-re-mi's likely received some major developmental benefits just from playing. The study provides even more evidence as to why providing children with high-quality music education may be one of the most effective ways to ensure their success in life.
The study: James Hudziak and his colleagues analyzed the brain scans of 232 children ages 6 to 18, looking for relationships between cortical thickness and musical training. Previous studies the team had performed revealed that anxiety, depression, attention problems and aggression correspond with changes to cortical thickness. Hudziak and his team sought to discover whether a "positive activity" like musical training could affect the opposite changes in young minds.
"What we found was the more a child trained on an instrument," Hudziak told the Washington Post, "it accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control."
The study found increased thickness in parts of the brain responsible for executive functioning, which includes working memory, attentional control and organizational skills. In short, music actually helped kids become more well-rounded. Not only that, they believe that musical training could serve as a powerful treatment of cognitive disorders like ADHD.
We need this sort of proof now more than ever. In presenting their findings, the authors reveal a terrifying truth about the American education system: Three-quarters of high school students "rarely or never" receive extracurricular lessons in the music or the arts. And that's depriving kids of way more than just knowing an instrument.
School systems that don't dedicate adequate time and resources to musical training are robbing their kids of so much. Prior research proves that learning music can help children develop spatiotemporal faculties, which then aid their ability to solve complex math. It can also help children improve their reading comprehension and verbal abilities, especially for those who speak English as a second language.
In these ways music can be a powerful tool in helping to close the achievement gaps that have plagued American schools for so long. It's even been shown that children who receive musical training in school also tend to be more civically engaged and maintain higher grade-point averages than children who don't. In short, musical education can address many of the systemic problems in American education.
Hudziak's research is an important addition to the field because it shows that music helps us become better people, too. One thing is clear: Learning music is one of the best things a person can do. Who knows — running scales may have changed your life. And it could change the lives of future generations too.
h/t Washington Post
County Music recently ran a very exciting programme to develop language skills through singing. We worked with children in nursery and reception (ages 3-4) and alongside their teachers. The children were put into small groups and taught songs and exercises. These songs and exercises were very carefully chosen to develop their listening and visual skills as well as teaching them specific vowel and consonant sounds suggested by their teachers.
There is plenty of evidence to support the use of singing to develop language skills within children. 'Parents should sing to their children every day to avoid language problems developing in later life', according Sally Goddard Blythe, a consultant in neuro-developmental education and director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology.
Singing traditional lullabies and nursery rhymes to babies and infants before they learn to speak, is 'an essential precursor to later educational success and emotional wellbeing', argues Blythe. 'Song is a special type of speech. Lullabies, songs and rhymes of every culture carry the 'signature' melodies and inflections of a mother tongue, preparing a child's ear, voice and brain for language.' The Guardian Newspaper 2010
'Singing songs teaches children about how language is constructed. When you sing, words and phrases are slowed down and can be better understood by your baby. Singing regularly will help your baby to build up a vocabulary of sounds and words long before they can understand the meaning'.
BBC CBeebies site 2014
The case for singing as the right approach to children with special needs is made by Dr. Michael Heggerty, an expert on literacy. 'How do teachers reach students with special needs that are included in their classroom? Music is a tool that is developmentally appropriate, facilitates language fluency, helps brain development and, above all else, is joyful’.
The Listening and Spoken Language Knowledge Centre 2010
The first results from our Early Years Language Development programme are encouraging. One of the many interesting observations was that the behaviour of the children in the singing sessions was different to that in the class situation. Teaching staff were able to watch and really observe how the children formed their sounds. The school has requested a continuation of the project and other schools are also interested in exploring the use of singing to develop language skills. We intend to work closely with Teaching Schools in the area to offer training programmes for colleagues working with Early Years and we anticipate considerable demand.
Find out why music is so good for your child's development. Click on the link to watch an amazing video about
how music can benefit the brain.
Play some video games
My wife Emma is an English teacher and she asked her class of 15 year olds about how they played video games and what they did to improve. The answers were fascinating. There was general agreement that video games set attainable targets at each level that the players strive for and they constantly raise the bar but only by a sensible and achievable level. A stimulating and even exciting learning environment is created and, guess what, they wanted to practise to improve.
Those of you familiar with the work of Professor John Hattie will recognise his comparison of effective learning with video games. His research focuses on what makes effective teaching and he has created what he calls his 'table of effect sizes' in relation to what has the greatest influence on student learning? Top of the list is Feedback.
He identifies 3 feedback questions and 4 levels of feedback focus and I have tried to explore how each of these might be applied to instrumental/vocal instruction and practise. Let us assume that we are discussing an individual music lesson with a student and a teacher working on the performance of a piece of music.
3 Feedback Questions
1. Where Am I Going? The end result will be the performance to the highest possible standard and the teacher will be modelling the final result to the student.
2. How Am I Going? A practically based lesson will be a constant exchange between student and teacher in which modelling and guidance will take the student ever closer to the 'ideal' performance.
3. Where To Next? Just as in the video game analogy the teacher will recommend the next piece to be studied that will challenge and stimulate the student without raising the bar too high.
The Focus Of Feedback - The 4 Levels
1. Correct or incorrect. The student is corrected when errors are made.
2. Process. The student is guided as to how they can correct errors. Perhaps by demonstration of a practise technique that will help them overcome a challenging part of the piece being studied.
3. Self evaluation and self confidence. The student is shown how to assess their own performance and have the confidence to do so away from the lesson.
4. Personal. The student is encouraged to make the performance their own and consider the subjective aspect of performance i.e. the mood and feeling that is required in addition to simply playing the right notes and observing the musical elements.
How often do we get as far as level 2 but no further in our teaching? How often do we consider levels 3 and 4 to be relevant only to more advanced students and that simply 'playing the right notes' is as much as beginners can manage? When I reflect on my own teaching these 3 Feedback Questions and 4 Levels Of Focus really help me to understand what I need to do in order to be an effective teacher and to ensure that the feedback to my students is the best it can be.
Do children learn instruments quicker than adults?
How often do parents praise their children's progress on an instrument with the words 'I could never do that'. Is it true that children learn instruments quicker than adults? There is surprisingly little research evidence to confirm or deny so opinion tends to be personal and anecdotal.
1. Neural connections. We are told that as we age we lose brain cells and therefore neural connections. Whilst it may be true that children have more neural connections than adults it is not just a question of how many connections there are in a brain but how well they are used.
2. Learning environment. Children are in a constant state of learning and therefore perhaps more 'tuned in' to gaining new skills and understanding. It is undoubtedly true that as we get older we can get into an environment where we are constantly repeating existing knowledge and experience rather than gaining new knowledge and experience.
3. Attitude. If we create a learning environment we are more likely to absorb new ideas and information and be receptive to new learning. As with all new learning, wanting to learn is perhaps more important than simply finding the time to learn.
4. Natural aptitude. It is always an interesting debate regarding nature and nurture. Why do some people appear to excel in areas where others do not. What does being 'musical' actually mean? Are some children/people better at playing instruments or are they simply the ones who are more determined and practice for longer ? There is a theory that 10,000 hours of practice as a child is needed to create a top class player so is it just about determination rather than so called 'musical' ability?
5. Distractions. Adults tend to have lives that are well established in terms of filling up the day. Things like going to work, cleaning the house, looking after children etc. create a timetable of activity that can leave little time for anything else without considerable self discipline to create that additional time. Children can have a much better attitude to their time management and can be very single minded when it comes to setting aside time for what they consider to be important to them.
For what it is worth, my father starting learning the piano after he retired. It is never too late and it always comes down to doing what you enjoy.