Music education in rural areas in jeopardy, but we have worked hard to find answers

In a new report launched today, youth music development charity NYMAZ spells out how digital technology could revolutionise the way schools provide music tuition. But it warns that poor broadband in rural areas is limiting young people’s access to equal life opportunities. “We’re adding our voice to the growing campaign for better broadband in the countryside”, explains Heidi Johnson, director of NYMAZ. “ Children in rural areas are missing out because it can be too expensive and time-consuming to provide them with a well-rounded music education offer. We have worked with schools across England to identify a high-quality, cost-effective...

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Do you want to learn the piano? We’ve got some free advice for you …

Learning the piano is great fun! It is something that you can do at any age. It is never too late! Each week in the UCan Studios, we welcome students from 4 to 74 each week for lessons and provide them with a mix of technique and exercise, classical and popular music. The key focus is on helping them learn to play the music that they enjoy listening too. We are often asked about what type of piano is best to purchase. We are able to give a range of advice and, through our links to company’s such as...

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Many congratulations on twenty years of innovation – the Roland V-Drums

Congratulations to Roland on the twentieth anniversary of their V-Drums. Digital percussion has come a long way in twenty years and Roland continue to lead the field in innovation, design and musical expressiveness. Whether it be the entry level TD1K, or the top of the range TD50KV, there is something of high quality for every young drummer in today’s V-Drum range. This feature on the Roland website charts the developments in this field over the last twenty years,  beginning with the TD10 (the first electronic drum kit to feature mesh head pads) and culminating in the launch of the...

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Funding Music Education in Your School

As we reported a couple of weeks ago, schools are braced for a tough financial time over the next few years. In addition to changes in the law that will mean they will have to contribute more to national insurance and pension costs for their staff, headteachers of larger schools are also having to implement the Government’s new apprenticeship scheme at their own cost too. Additionally, the new ‘fair funding’ consultation has revealed significant cuts to many schools on top of a reduction in school spending from the Department for Education. All of this has resulted in many headteachers asking serious...

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We are off to the Music & Drama Education Expo! Will you be there?

We are off to the Music and Drama Education Expo this week at Olympia! Will you be there? If so, do come and say hello to Jason (on Thursday) or Josh (on Friday) who will be located on the Roland/UCan Play stand in the centre of the exhibition (helpfully near the food and drinks!). We have three main focuses to our work this year. Firstly, we have worked hard with Roland to create four education packages that meet a range of common music education activities: group keyboard/piano work, looping, live streaming and DJing. Full details of each package can be found...

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Roland are ‘Go, Go, Go’ with their new products …

Following their fantastic 909 day, there has been a considerable discussion here at UCan Play around what the new product ranges for 2017 might include. As readers of our blog will remember, Jonathan and Jason had a great day out in Swansea with Roland but no clues were given (despite our questions) about what future directions the company might be pursuing. So, it was great to begin to hear news this week about a brand new range of Roland products entitled ‘Go’. There are three items to begin with, the Go:Piano, Go:Keys and Go:Mixer. Each product looks as though...

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This school is set to loose £151k next year

Times are tough for schools at the moment. The Government’s new formula for school funding has caused serious concerns for many headteachers. Today, I received a letter from one of my children’s schools (a local secondary which became an academy in 2013) outlining how the specific changes to the funding formula will result in a decrease of £151,000 in next year’s budget. Across the whole of Cheshire East, there is an average cut in funding of £87 per pupil under the proposed changes. This would result in Cheshire East becoming the worst funded Local Authority in England. This is bad...

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Musical Futures’ new resources and training programme

UCan Play is proud to be associated with Musical Futures as their approved and authorised retail partner. As we are sure you are aware, Musical Futures is an approach to music teaching and learning that is underpinned by pedagogies developed from informal learning and non-formal teaching approaches to classroom music. Musical Futures are now providing premium resources alongside our comprehensive programme of open and in-house training events.  Please note that these resources are meant as a starting point for curriculum planning; Musical Futures approaches can be lifted and applied to any content as well as adapted to suit the needs of...

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Not a New Year’s resolution, but a continuing resolution …

Happy new year to all our readers and partners! We hope you have had a good Christmas break and that you feel reinvigorated to face the challenges of 2017. Have you made a New Year’s resolution? Here at UCan Play we’d prefer to resolve to continue to provide an array of high quality services to education locally, within Cheshire, nationally and internationally. When we are asked about our work, we focus our response on a number of key themes. These include: Providing impartial and independence advice and support to schools, colleges, universities and other organisations working within the music...

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Ayo Oyerinde on his favourite Roland keyboards (and working with Jessie J & Rebecca Fergusson)

Roland UK have completed two great videos with the legendary keyboard session musician Ayo Oyerinde. In them, he discusses the foundation of his keyboard rig, the Roland RD800, and also gives us a brilliant lesson in how to use the hybrid digital/analogue JD-XA in live and studio environments. He highlights the importance of the sound inspiring the vocalists that he works with – including Jessie J and Rebecca Ferguson. “An artist like Jessie J or Rebecca, who have big voices, they really get inspired when they hear a sound like that coming out of the keyboards. It helps Jessie...

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An opportunity for young, talented musicians in Cheshire East

We are delighted to support the work of the Love Music Trust, the lead partner of the music education hub in Cheshire East. Alongside of our sponsorship of their percussion ensemble, we are also involved supporting a number of their partner ensembles such as the Lions Youth Brass Band. The Love Music Trust does amazing work supporting the development of young musical talent from pre-school all the way through to undergraduate study. As part of this, the Love Music Trust is coordinating a ‘Gifted and Talented’ programme in conjunction with the Royal Northern Collage of Music. This programme is ideally...

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UCan Play, Roland UK and the Musical Futures’ MLR2016

We enjoyed an excellent day at Musical Futures’ Music Learning Revolution event yesterday at the Royal Northern College of Music. We chose to work with longest partner Roland UK and exhibited their new DJ-808, a composite piece of technology that includes 4 virtual decks, a drum machine and vocal processor. Delegates enjoyed trying out their DJ skills under the expert supervision of Josh Savage (UCan Play), Richard Patt (Roland), Dan Taman (Roland) and Mac Tongia (Serato). Helpfully, our stand was set up right opposite the coffee and food, thereby ensuring a steady stream of customers once the event got going. Before … and...

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Are you ready for the Revolution?

UCan Play are proud to be the retail partner for Musical Futures. We provide a range of packages of equipment for Musical Futures at preferential prices for schools. Further details can be found here. We support their work and their programmes in other ways too and, therefore, we are really excited about the Music Learning Revolution event that comes to the Royal Northern College of Music on the 18th October. We’ll be there as an exhibitor and we’ll be showcasing the amazing new DJ-808 from Roland UK on our stand. We are really pleased to have booked the only DJ-808...

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It started with swans, and ended by the sea: Our trip to Roland UK

UCan Play Directors Jason and Jonathan have recently returned from a trip to Roland UK in, … guess where … Swansea! In this post they share some of their reflections from the day and some of the great sights and sounds from the Roland UK HQ. Our day started bright and early in Cheshire, but by the time we got to Swansea the swans on the lake opposite Atlantic Close were already enjoying their mid-morning swim. Roland UK’s HQ is in an unassuming business park, but once you get inside the front door there is no doubt that you...

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Roland’s 909 day reveals a tremendous collection of new gear

Roland’s 909 day (yep, the ninth of September!) was hotly anticipated around the world. In a 24 hour live streamed event, a huge range of thirty new pieces of equipment were revealed including, of course, a replacement for Roland’s legendary TR-909 drum machine. This pencil-case sized piece of kit uses Roland’s analog circuit behaviour technology to digitally emulate the original TR-909’s analogue sounds. Here’s an interesting video that situates the new TR-09 alongside the original TR-909, and also the TR-8 (released in 2014) which also contains the TR-909 sounds: Alongside a new range of Waza-inspired Boss amplifiers (the Katana range), other...

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Boss RC-202 Loopstation : Overview and Demo (Video)

The RC-202 is the latest innovation in looping and multi-effects from BOSS. The RC-202 offers the distinctive look and fingertip interface style of its big brother the RC-505, plus a host of new features, in a compact form. In this video Josh from UCanPlay presents an overview and practical demonstration of the RC-202. We feel the loopstation has great potential in a variety of performance contexts including sound design, live performance, and as a powerful educational tool delivering insights into recording and production. The RC-202 offers two stereo loops with dedicated fingertip controls and animated status indicators. There are also have 64 phrase memories for storing...

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Connect:Resound: Our work featured in the MMA Ensemble magazine

UCan Play Director Jonathan Savage was pleased to be asked to contribute an article to the recent edition of the MMA’s Ensemble magazine. The article focused on the use of live streaming technologies within UCan Play’s work with NYMAZ on the Connect:Resound project. A copy of the article can be downloaded from...

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Keynote Address to the Excellent Engagement – Music Technology, Progression and The Future event in Liverpool

Jonathan Savage, MD of UCan Play, was delighted to deliver a keynote address to the Excellent Engagement – Music Technology, Progression and The Future event held at Liverpool Hope University. Titled, Contemporary Approaches to Composition: Reframing composition in our schools (or ‘Thinking about Composition in Our Schools’), Jonathan presented this thoughts on composition in light of the work he has done this year for a new charitable trust that is creating a new undergraduate degree in partnership with the music industry. Here’s an outline text of what Jonathan presented to the conference. Contemporary Approaches to Composition: Reframing composition in our schools I’ve...

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Live Streaming a Musical Performance

Introduction Live streaming a musical performance is a brilliant way of sharing the benefits of live music with an extended audience that can’t be actually with you at the event itself. Although watching something on a screen is not the same as actually being there yourself, it can still be a very enjoyable experience and, within the context of our work as music educators, it can have many benefits for helping us provide engaging teaching and learning opportunities. Live streaming can also be a way of sharing young peoples’ musical achievements with friends and family, or of involving staff...

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Heads of Music? We need your help …

If you are a teacher or head of music in a secondary school, please read on and consider contributing to a vital survey into the state of music education in our secondary schools. Colleagues at the University of Sussex have recently launched an online survey to gather a longitudinal view of secondary school music provision in order to investigate and document any changes within the curriculum across Key Stages 3 and 4, staffing levels and uptake of music within and beyond the curriculum. Anecdotally, numerous factors appear to impact upon music education across secondary schools; the survey aims to document...

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