I’m very proud of this photo snatched at Sound and Music’s Composition Summer School. Have you ever seen more furious concentration? That’s what composing is all about. (Plus the various Pritt Sticks scattered around the table – the composer’s No.1 essential implement. And why is that cor anglais being brandished in the background?)
This well-established week of residential tuition, which takes place at the Purcell School, is the absolute highlight of our nation’s educational offer to young composers up to the age of 18. And it’s just as well it exists, according to the students themselves, who had many things to say about the lack of specialist music provision in their normal school lives. The last six years worth of government interference in the curriculum have not been good for arts education in state schools, and now we’re really starting to see the results, with many of the newly minted Academies quite happy to forget about music altogether. I could only advise the students to develop an instinct for optimism, and to cherish fortunate events, such as SaM’s Summer School, when they appear.
During my day’s visit, I travelled from class to class, meeting groups of students, studying instrumental and vocal composition, jazz and film music. The collegial generosity both of the teaching and the resources available (with numerous professional musicians standing by, ready to advise and perform sketches as they appeared) seemed the polar opposite of the situation we so frequently lament in educational circles. Around 75 students take part each year, and on leaving school, many of them now enter the composition departments of British music colleges, which themselves have greatly changed for the better thanks to the emergence of an already skilled cohort of young composers. Hats off to Sound and Music for masterminding this tangible improvement during difficult times for music education.