Tag Archives: music education

Music education ‘can improve reading & language skills’

Here at the Two Moors Festival, we do a lot each year to support music education in the south-west of the UK, doing workshops in schools, running our Young Musicians Platform Competition and many other initiatives.

And we’ve just come across a new study conducted by the American Psychological Association that suggests that through such training – be it classical music or otherwise – disadvantaged children can give their language and reading skills a serious boost.

As lead author of the study Nina Kraus says: “Research has shown that there are differences in the brains of children raised in impoverished environments that affect their ability to learn. While more affluent students do better in school than children from lower income backgrounds, we are finding that musical training can alter the nervous system to create a better learner and help offset this academic gap.”

Many of the pupils that took part in the piece of research are part of the LA-based Harmony Project, which offers instruments to students who rehearse or take musical lessons totalling over five hours a week.

Do you think music helped you be a better student?

To find out how the Two Moors Festival helps to support music education in the south-west, visit our website today.


£18m funding pot for music education

Followers of the Two Moors Festival will know how much work we do with schools around the south-west, bringing classical music to hundreds of children who are all eager to learn, so we’re very pleased to hear that the government has this week announced an £18 million funding boost for music education in the UK.

The extra money will mean that thousands more disadvantaged students will have greater access to music lessons and allow the national network of music hubs – set up in 2012 to provide more people with the opportunity to learn – to purchase tens of thousands more instruments.

“This is very welcome news, we’re delighted at the increased opportunity it will bring to support all young people to enjoy music and develop their talents through a connected music education landscape,” chief executive officer of Arts Council England Alan Davey said. “The increase is recognition of the important work of music hubs to make sure that every child has the opportunity to be motivated and inspired by music.”

If you’d like to find out more about how the Two Moors Festival supports music education in the south-west, visit our website today.

How do you tackle stage fright?

The Two Moors Festival’s main two-week event is drawing ever closer (taking place between October 15th and 25th) and no doubt the many classical musicians due to perform are already practising their pieces and getting as ready as they can.

No matter how long you have been performing, an attack of the nerves can strike at any time and you never know quite how it will affect you. We once heard of a singer who really suffered from nerves and had to keep a bucket at the side of the platform because she knew she would throw up at some point before she went on stage. However, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are ways you can deal with stage fright – and they don’t all involve buckets.

The first thing you need to remember is that you’re definitely not alone and countless musicians around the world suffer in much the same way you do (and if you don’t believe us, read this eye-opening article in the Daily Telegraph). It really does help to know that you’re not alone – and that no one is perfect!

It also helps to be as prepared as possible and to make sure you’re as well rehearsed as you can be, so practice, practice, practice before the day of your performance. If you do feel the nerves approaching, do your best not to fight them. You need to acknowledge that they’re there and accept them – the more you fight against them, the worse they become.

And of course, there’s the time-honoured tradition of having a quick tipple before heading out onto the stage. Just don’t overdo it, or you might find you are unable to play for quite a different reason!

How do you fight the nerves? Let us know in the comments below.

To find out more about the Two Moors Festival and to order a brochure for this year’s event, visit our website today.

Penny Adie writes…

Each week, Two Moors Festival artistic director Penny Adie will be here on the blog, letting you all know just what’s been going on down at Festival HQ in Devon.

Last Saturday (June 28th) saw an absolutely brilliant concert take place in the beautiful church in Cullompton, Devon. (This town, by the way, is pronounced ‘Collumpton’, which can be quite confusing!). The concert was given by the supremely talented string players Wells Virtuosi from specialist school Wells Cathedral School.

The school, one of four of similarly music-focused establishments, boasts some of the most exciting and promising players in the UK. Their skill, expertise and musicianship are second to none. What’s more, their sheer exuberance and love of music elevates their performance to a standard far beyond their years. They are extremely fortunate too in having well-known and superb artist Matthew Souter at the helm, whose strong beat and clear guidance makes it hard for them to evade his attention to detail.

The programme comprising Mendelssohn, Respighi, Barber and Richard Strauss was ambitious to say the least. However, they could manage this with ease and ‘tight’ playing, only letting go on occasions. The variety of tone, attention to dynamics and virtuosity was such that every member of the audience listened in the way they would with a professional orchestra on the platform.

As any reader can tell, I was truly wrapped up in this magnificent event and wish the team every ounce of success in their forthcoming tour of Europe. They deserve a pat on the back even before they go!

An interview with: The Multi-Story Orchestra

We recently discovered The Multi-Story Orchestra, a programme of classical music events run by composer Kate Whitley and conductor Christopher Stark that aims to take concerts out of traditional venues and into more interesting spaces… like a car park in the heart of Peckham!

When we heard that, it reminded us of the concerts we here at the Two Moors Festival have started putting on in Tiverton Parkway railway station, so we got in touch with Kate (who’s also a music fellow at Rambert Dance Company and is currently writing a choral piece to support the campaign against female genital mutilation in the UK) to find out more about this interesting project.


portrait_kate_different2MF: Where did the idea come from?

KW: The idea behind Multi-Story is that classical music might be able to engage new audiences and escape the traditional associations of the art form by escaping the spaces that it normally inhabits. When I was a teenager I wanted to find a way to get my friends to listen to classical music.

2MF: Why Peckham Car Park?

KW: I was actually looking for a car park to do a concert in – they are big, functional public spaces, and seemed to me to be a perfect blank slate. I was living in Cambridge and had tried to use a car park there but Cambridge Council had placed a ban on live music in these spaces, so we gave up. Then someone mentioned to me that a car park in London was being used for art exhibitions and events, so we got in touch with them and ended up doing our first performance there in 2011.

2MF: How successful has the scheme been in encouraging an interest in classical music among schoolchildren?

KW: To raise awareness of the car park concerts and reach children in the area we’ve been packing our orchestra into a tour bus and driving around schools in Peckham to perform to school children for the last few years. It’s amazing that most of them have now seen us play two or three times, and know that we’re the orchestra who play in a car park. Bringing a full symphony orchestra to a school always gets an brilliant response, so I think the project has had a big impact on their ideas about classical music – who does it, what it is and where it can exist.

Multi-Story Orchestra 3

2MF: Where else have you taken classical music?

KW: We’ve done many performances in clubs and warehouses – we work in collaboration with Gabriel Prokofiev’s classical club night Nonclassical frequently. When I was a student I had three operas performed in strange places: in a zoology museum, in a bike-polo warehouse, and in a underground bar.

2MF: How important do you think it is to take classical music into different venues?

KW: Personally I don’t like going to traditional concert halls; I don’t like the performance conventions of classical music and I find traditional venues oppressive. Taking classical performances into new venues is a great way to remember what is so incredible about the art form, and try to share that with as many people as possible.

2MF: What’s your opinion of music education in schools?

KW: I think that generally there is very little importance given to classical music – and particularly live classical music – in education in this country. We’re always really struck by the discrepancy between primary schools – where children’s delight and awe at even just seeing the size of instruments like the double bass and tuba can be overwhelming! – and secondary schools, where students seem afraid of showing enthusiasm for fear of sticking out from their peers. I think trying to change that is one of the most valuable things we could do.

Multi-Story Orchestra 2

2MF: What could/should be done to improve it?

KW: Music education needs more funding! The campaign to save local authority funding for music services – and free instrumental lessons for every child – is hugely important and open until Thursday. You can register your support here.

To find out how we here at the Two Moors Festival supports music education in the south-west, visit our website today.

What classical music did you listen to growing up?

As you may know from following the Two Moors Festival over the years, we’re big supporters of music education and do all we can to promote classical music to a new, younger audience. We’ve just heard about violinist Nicola Benedetti’s recommendations for ten pieces of classical music that children should grow up listening to and we wondered what your opinions of the list were… and, indeed, what you listened to as a child.

Here’s the list:

Beethoven’s Symphony No 4

Ravel’s Bolero

Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf

Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring

Dvorak’s Symphony No 9

Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition

Shostakovich’s String Quartet No 8 in C minor

Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons

Britten’s A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro

We certainly listened to a lot of them growing up, but the rundown appears to have caused a bit of controversy, with people writing to the Times to say how much they disagree with Nicola’s thoughts on the matter.

But what about you? What did you listen to growing up?

To find out more about how the Two Moors Festival supports music education in the south-west, visit our website today.

BBC Ten Pieces to boost classical music education

We here at the Two Moors Festival do all we can to promote classical music education in the south-west through workshops in schools, and we’re always pleased to hear of other schemes designed to teach young children about this particular genre of music.

So we’re very much looking forward to watching and listening to the BBC’s Ten Pieces, a year-long initiative due to start in the autumn that includes five BBC orchestras and intends to open up the world of classical music to kids and help inspire them to come up with their own creative responses to various pieces through dance, music and digital art.

The scheme is due to launch on October 6th with a week of free cinema screenings across the UK to introduce ten classical works, played by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

It has been conceived to offer support to the music curriculum, helping to teach children about composers and the art of performing – which we think is a brilliant, and perhaps much needed, development. Anything that helps introduce classical music to a greater audience is welcome in our book, so don’t forget to tune in if you can.

And to find out more about how the Two Moors Festival supports music education in the south-west, visit our website today.

An interview with: violinist Hannah Brooks-Hughes, Two Moors Festival competition winner

Earlier this month, we held the final round of the Two Moors Festival Young Musicians Platform competition, a very prestigious contest open to singers and instrumentalists either living or going to school in the south-west at grade seven or above.

It was hard work picking four winners (who each claim a £250 prize and the chance to play alongside professional musicians in our main two-week event in October), but we eventually came to a decision, with violinist Hannah Brooks-Hughes, cellist Willard Carter, cornet player Andrew Wingham and cellist Rebecca McNaught all taking the top spots.

In the coming weeks, we will be featuring interviews with each of our four winners so you can find out a bit more about them, their playing and their love for classical music, and we’re starting off with violinist Hannah Brooks-Hughes, our youngest-ever winner at the age of 10.

Q&AHBH2MF: What did you do first when you found out you were one of our winners?

HBH: I was at school and my dad had texted the head of music when the letter arrived at home, so it was Mr McVittie who came and found me in my history lesson. Of course inside myself I was thrilled, but as I was at school I had to remain calm! I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day though!
2MF: Did you ever expect to win?

HBH: As it was my first attempt, and as I was so young compared to most of the other entrants, I didn’t expect to win. I had set myself the target of making it through to the second round though. On the way down for the final audition my dad got lost, so we arrived late, and it was all very rushed, but I felt I played well, and I really enjoyed the performance with Alison Farr playing piano for me – she’s an amazing pianist!
2MF: How does it feel to be our youngest-ever winner?

HBH: I’m very proud, and I’m even more excited because I am younger than the other competitors. I’m used to playing in competitions where I’m competing against older musicians, but to win such a prestigious competition, and to be the youngest, feels quite special I have to admit.
2MF: How will you be preparing for the concert in October?

HBH: I’m going to give the repertoire I choose a lot of thought because I want the performance to be special. Then it will be lots of practise and I would hope to be able to perform the pieces I choose at other ‘practice’ concerts beforehand. And of course I will need to go shopping to buy a new dress!
2MF: Has winning given your confidence as a violinist a boost?

HBH: Most definitely – yes! Competing against much older competitors, and winning, has given me confidence, and since this competition in fact I have won an ‘Under 18 Recital’ class at the Cheltenham Festival of Performing Arts.
2MF: What are your future ambitions as a violinist?

HBH: I’d like to enter more regional and national competitions, and hopefully in a few years time the BBC Young Musician Competition. For the far off future I want to travel around the world performing.
2MF: Which violinist do you most look up to?

HBH: There are so many great violinists that I love listening to, but there are two that are special to me right now. Nicola Benedetti makes such a beautiful sound, and I admire the fact that she works so hard and always seems so happy. And my teacher, Matthew Denton of the Carducci Quartet, is a fantastic violinist who also works so hard for me.
2MF: What piece of music do you most love playing?

HBH: At the moment it is The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams. It is such a beautiful work and yet it also has such sadness about it. I love trying to create those emotions.

Want more? Check out our video of Hannah playing Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No 5.



What about Preloved for second-hand instruments?


Earlier this week, we were chatting on Twitter to a lovely lady (with the handle @wildwellies, who runs Wild Wellies – a group that encourages people to get outside and enjoy their natural environment) and she was telling us all about her five-year-old daughter who was keen to play the violin.

We recommended that she take her to see some professional violinists in concert to see if her daughter really is taken with the idea of playing the fiddle, which she duly did, coming back to us a few days later to say she was so absorbed for the full two hours that she just had to get her a second-hand violin.

If you’ve got a budding performer at home and are keen to nurture this interest but don’t want to spend hundreds of pounds on an instrument in case they lose interest all too quickly, then a second-hand one is definitely the right choice… and luckily, there are lots on offer on classifieds website Preloved, which is often a lot cheaper than eBay and auction sites.

Some instruments seem more popular than others on the site – we saw a lot of clarinets and recorders, but there were also saxophones, French horns and accordions so dedicate a bit of time to perusing the site to see what you can find.

Did you go second-hand with your instrument? Where did you get it from and how much did you spend?

To find out more about the Two Moors Festival and what we do to support classical music in the south-west, have a look at our website today.

10 days till our Young Musicians Competition 2nd round!

UK classical music festival fans will be pleased to hear we’re gearing up down here at the Two Moors HQ in the heart of the Devon countryside for the second round of our Young Musicians Platform Competition and can’t wait to hear what the 16 instrumentalists have prepared for us this time.

Taking place on May 3rd, the musicians have to play or sing a 12 minute programme of different pieces, with at least two works included that are (preferably) different to those we heard in the first round earlier this year.

There are some very talented youngsters coming to Barkham to take part, including violinist Hannah Brooks-Hughes, violinist Joel Munday, cellist Felix Stephens, guitarist Lara Taylor and singer Kerenza Hurr. The four winners will each win a cash prize and the chance to perform alongside professional musicians in this year’s Two Moors Festival main two-week event in October.

Our adjudicating panel this time around is Judith Bingham (whom we’ve commissioned to write a song cycle for famous singer Sarah Connolly for next year’s festival!), founder of the Southbank Sinfonia Katharine Berman and acclaimed bassoonist Jo Stark.

Good luck to everyone taking part – and if you’re part of the audience, don’t forget to let us know who your favourites are!