El Sistema in the UK – Directory and History

Posted on February 23, 2012

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If the watershed moment for Sistema in the American public consciousness was the 60 Minutes broadcast, that moment for the rest of the world was the performance of the Símon Bolívar Orchestra at the 2007 Proms. The United Kingdom (encompassing the separate regions and governments of Scotland, England, Wales and N. Ireland) has a long history with Sistema, developing núcleos and presenting Venezuelan ensembles. The situation in England proper is about to change dramatically: please read the History below the Directory component for the full story. The following list is not comprehensive, nor have the organizations therein been screened or ranked in any way. Amendments and additions are welcome and can be submitted via this form.


Directory

 
S C O T L A N D

Raploch/Stirling

Big Noise – Sistema Scotland website
Nicola Killean, Chief Executive Officer
Listing type: Organization – Educational/núcleo
Current status: in operation since 2009
Evaluation
Notes: Big Noise, chaired by the extraordinarily eloquent and insightful Richard Holloway, enjoys one of the oldest and closest relationships with the Fundación of any international Sistema program. As testament to this, Stirling will host the Símon Bolívar Orchestra and Gustavo Dudamel for a short residency this summer.


E N G L A N D

Liverpool

In Harmony Liverpool – Liverpool Philharmonic website
Peter Garden, Executive Director, Learning, RLPO
Listing type: Symphony Orchestra – Educational/núcleo
Current status: in operation since 2008
Evaluation
Notes: One of three government-funded pilots, In Harmony Liverpool operates in the West Everton district.

London

In Harmony Lambeth website
Gerry Sterling, Director
Listing type: In-school music provider – Educational/núcleo
Current status: in operation since 2009
Evaluation
Notes: One of three government-funded pilots, In Harmony Lambeth operates in a south borough of London in partnership with SouthBank Centre.

London Music Masters Bridge Project website
Victoria Sharpe, Chief Executive
Listing type: Organization – Educational/núcleo
Current status: in operation since 2008
Notes: A privately funded program, not explicitly self-identifying as Sistema-inspired but socially active. Musical emphasis is on Suzuki.

Richard Hallam MBE website
Listing type: Individual
Notes: Richard Hallam is former National Music Participation Director (2008 to 2011) and National Music Education Grant Director (2011 to 2012). He was chair of the Music Manifesto Steering group, a member of the Henley review team and consultant to the Department for Education for the development of the National Plan for Music Education. (See History for why this is important.) He has been extraordinarily influential in recent developments in all areas of music education in Britain, and will deliver the keynote address at the Symposium in Ottawa on March 31st, speaking specifically on Sistema in England.

SouthBank Centre website
Alan Bishop, Chief Executive
Listing type: Presenter/venue
Notes: Under former Head of Music Marshall Marcus, the SouthBank Centre regularly hosted ensembles from Venezuela including the Símon Bolívar and Teresa Carreño Orchestra, and has presented related symposia. Marcus is now leading an associated Sistema research institute hosted by SBC.

Norwich

In Harmony Norwich – Norwich & Norfolk Community Arts website
Marcus Patteson, Executive Director
Listing type: Organization – Educational/núcleo
Current status: in operation since 2009
Evaluation
Notes: One of three government-funded pilots



History
Click here to go directly to the link summary

In 2008, at the urging of eminent cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, the British Government instituted a tender process to choose three sites in which to test social music initiatives in England. The successful bids were given the mandate to demonstrate the effectiveness of Sistema–inspired programs, and more importantly, were funded to an extent to render “insufficient resources” null and void as an excuse for failure. By good fortune rather than design, the winning tenders reflected a cross-section of potential providers, with a major symphony orchestra, a community group and local authority music service represented.

Darren Henley

In parallel, the Government also committed to a national-level review of music education, a process entrusted to the Managing Director of Classic FM, Darren Henley. The review was announced in September of 2010, and after intensive public consultation was completed in February of 2011. Within the uncommonly readable, non-bureaucratic document, Henley and his team laid out 36 recommendations for enhancing music education in England. To its great credit, the government accepted the vast majority of the recommendations at face value, and committed to examining in greater detail the few that were not immediately agreed upon.

As part of his comprehensive review, Henley examined the impact of the Sistema pilots. While acknowledging the uncommonly high expense they incurred, he also recognized the potential of the programs and recommended continuing to fund them for another year pending further assessment (No.19). The government concurred.

Perhaps a more important recommendation (No. 10) was the development of a National Plan for Music Education for the strategic alignment, improvement and augmentation of existing music activity. Published in November 2011, this document (also very readable) lays out a comprehensive, pragmatic vision for music in England and actively endorses the expansion of Sistema programs under the existing In Harmony banner, while also proposing a funding system (Items 47-49, pages 19-20). The projected model of government support is quite reminiscent of Venezuela: funding will be centralized, but operations decentralized, subject to certain key quality/delivery requirements. In a very clever strategic and structural move, the requirements include a non-negotiable condition of the establishment of effective partnerships (the Fifth Fundamental of “connectivity”).This stipulation is part of a larger effort, as outlined in the Henley Review, to reduce the duplication and fragmentation – and resultant financial waste – that exists in any long-standing public and private music education industry.

As for the money for Sistema in England, it was cut from £1 million to £500,000 in 2011/2012, a figure that was subsequently matched by the Arts Council England to take the sum back up to £1 million each year for 2012 to 2015. In common with the severe budget cuts that have afflicted most European nations the overall financial commitment to music education in England was slashed as part of recent austerity measures, from over £100 million to just over £77 million next year, decreasing to £60 million in 2015, the final year of the funding commitment. Nevertheless, this money is almost uniquely still ‘ring-fenced’ or protected for music education and must now be more focused on specific activities.

The Plan is somewhat incomplete, given a national curriculum review is scheduled for this year; it didn’t please everyone or cover all bases (what plan would?); and the funding didn’t meet expectations, but the sum of these parts is still an extraordinary story and a triumph for music education advocacy in England. The level of commitment shown by the government; the alacrity and diligence with which this entire process was undertaken (18 months from the start of the Henley Review to the publication of the National Plan!); and the financial investment, even if diminished, should make England the envy of music educators the world over and solidify its position as an international musical powerhouse.

 


 
Link Summary

Announcement of Henley Review
Henley Review
Government Response to the Henley Review
National Plan For Music Education
Commentary on NPME
In Harmony – Sistema England
Evaluations of all In Harmony Programs

 

 

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