Monthly Archives: November 2014

Careers with a Music Degree Evening

On Tuesday November 18th the Music Department, together with the City University Careers Service, hosted a music careers evening with visiting speakers from different areas of employment, including a number of our own City music alumni.

The evening started with Laura Chiplin who graduated from City in 2009 and is now a Centre Manager at the Barbican Centre. Laura talked about the kinds of experiences and skills she built up whilst an undergraduate student that prepared her for the workplace, including managing a band and taking every opportunity to get involved in organising events. She also talked about her day to day duties in her job as well as informing students about the various internships currently offered by the Barbican.

Following this, Dr Jim Harrison from the Latymer School talked about careers in school music teaching: from the practicalities of gaining initial experience and applying for teaching courses, through to information on day to day life as a secondary school music teacher. He was accompanied by Connaugh Clarke (graduated City BMus 2012) who is currently studying for a PGCE at the Institute of Education and is undertaking teaching practice at Latymer School. Connaugh  talked about his experience of the PGCE course and teaching practice so far.

The next speaker was Grace Watts from the British Association of Music Therapy who introduced the broad area of Music Therapy as well as giving information on which institutions offer Music Therapy training, and the kind of work involved in being a Music Therapist.

Sophie Ransby – another City graduate who is in charge of the gamelan education programme at the South Bank Centre – then spoke about how she had become involved in gamelan education and the kinds of skills and experiences that had been useful in gaining her current position.

The final speaker was Luke Shrewsbury, who graduated from City in 2009 after which he took an MA in Sound Design at the National Film and Television School. Luke now works as a sound designer. He talked about his transition from university to workplace and the kinds of projects that he now works on.

The evening rounded off with a general Q&A session, chaired by Alexander Lingas.

The event was attended by about 40 people including undergraduate, MA and research students.

A report on Geoff Baker’s research seminar presentation, “El sistema: orchestrating Venezuela’s youth”

Geoff-BakerIt has to be acknowledged that not every research seminar plays to a full house. So what were the prospects for a seminar on music in South America that didn’t even feature the samba, or any other “Latin American” music? Despite the prospects, Geoff Baker of Royal Holloway, University of London, captivated a packed house of over 50 students and faculty on 29 October with his talk on “El sistema: orchestrating Venezuela’s youth” (a book of the same title is imminent). This project – whose origins are in the mid-1970s – has attracted much attention internationally, partly via its flagship orchestra, the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, headed by Gustavo Dudamel.

Baker is an expert in the music of South America and spent a year in Venezuela researching “The system” (well done to those who had achieved their own translation). El sistema has been lauded in the world’s press and replicated in many other countries. The Youth Orchestra has played at the Proms and at Carnegie Hall. Yet Baker’s story is primarily one of the PR exceeding the reality. Yes, thousands of children are taken and taught to play orchestral instruments in a way that is very impressive but is also harsh and authoritarian. They learn to play the instruments but without really learning music. Criticism is deflected by the hierarchy by claiming that this is primarily a social programme rather than a musical programme – yet the evidence about the social benefits is at best mixed and unclear. Baker casts doubt on the project’s claim that it uses classical music training to rescue vulnerable children. The founder and (still) head of the project – Abreu – emerges as a complex and controversial figure, whose project is shaped by his conservative religious education, economics training, and political apprenticeship.

Contributions from the floor were both numerous and very well informed. So extensive are the tentacles of El sistema that a number of people had questions and comments from personal experience. The debate was lively and could have gone on much longer that the allotted period. Chairman Pace’s calling of time did not deter the enthusiasts: they simply formed a queue in front of the speaker. Perhaps he is still there, answering questions.

— Peter Holgate