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Scottish and Celtic Music Discussion
Scottish music in Schools.
Posts: 40
Posted: 17-Mar-2008 15:19
I am not sure if any one will have opinions on this but i am very dissapointed with the lack of scottish music in school's now.
I wanted to sing a gaelic song for my exam, but alas, there was only one gaelic song SQA approved 'griogal cridhe' and although is a wonderful lullaby, it was not what i was looking for.
On an island, so rich with culture and heritage,and many great gaelic songs hailing from the island, why on earth are there no gaelic songs available? it didnt help that both my music teachers are either english or have no gaelic, (which is not their fault) but i had to learn it all my self, outside of school and got no form of tutoring from my teachers as they were to busy with italian classical songs.
There was plenty of great scottish tunes available for my fiddle, but was discouraged from choosing them and offered a classical piece in place.
Any one have any ideas with whats going on?
Posts: 306
Posted: 17-Mar-2008 15:50
Katieskye: I know there are problems getting Gaelic songs 'approved' by the SQA but I am certain there's more than one approved. You are right - there are hundreds of great songs and it's beyond me why the SQA has such a hard time understanding that Gaelic songs cannot be judged on the melody alone but that the complexity of the language also has to come into it. And even songs that are complex musically don't gain the SQA's approval.

Nìall Beag
Posts: 2237
Posted: 17-Mar-2008 16:54
It's a rock and a hard place, and no mistake.

Our school system is exam-led. If you want to do something it has to be measurable and markable.

If you want traditional music in schools, then you're effectively measuring up the idiom for a strait-jacket.

Is it better to have a fossilised "trad" in our schools or is it better to have no trad at all?

(That's not to say that the exam-led culture is a good thing, I just don't realistically expect to be able to shift the mindset in the near future.)

Posts: 1591
Posted: 17-Mar-2008 17:19
I sympathise with your predicament Katie but sadly it is not just Scottish music that runs into problems. A few years ago my step-daughter specialised in Percussion for her Higher Music. When it came to exam time, it turned out that there were no Percussion examiners in Scotland; and the exam board had to bring up someone from Newcastle to Dundee in order to carry out the assessment.

So the problem seems to be that there are certain mainstream forms of music that the system is designed to cater for, but anything out of the ordinary can cause difficulties.

Posts: 3461
Posted: 17-Mar-2008 17:50
I think there will be a problem about the 'examinability' of trad music in some places for some years to come but we should be working on getting access to the songs, tunes and instruments to all the children from nursery onwards. We need the push as well as the pull, as it were.

Posts: 215
Posted: 18-Mar-2008 14:47
I had HUGE problems trying to play trad music for exams at school, I wanted to play fiddle (rather than classical) and the music teachers told me it wasn't possable. It wasn't until I managed to come across the sylibus myself in SYS Music (I was the last year to do 'CSYS' before it changed to 'Advanced Higher') because there was a Highland piper in my class and he was playing trad music (dance music not pibrochs) for his exam and I managed to talk the teachers into letting me play trad music then. (I did standard Grade and Higher music before this playing classical)
I really didn't get any support from the teachers and even got told I'd fail because I wasn't playing 'proper' music!!! (I got an A with the best marks in my year)

I think it's terrable! - There should be more support given to trad music in schools. Maybe the teachers need training in it? Maybe the trad exams will help as teachers might understand if pupils are at certain grades of trad music. I think the sylibus could maybe get updated too.

Posts: 12842
Posted: 18-Mar-2008 14:56
Maybe Hermitage could teach spelling.
Posts: 2894
Posted: 18-Mar-2008 19:06
Sometimes I wonder if spelling suffers simply because people don't read as much and subsequently they don't see the words spelled (and/or used) correctly.
Posts: 34
Posted: 18-Mar-2008 19:17
When i went to bellbaxter in cupar ( a few years ago now!), i had alot of support from the head of our music dpt for trad music. He found exam lists of music to choose it was for higher level but i was able to use it for sgrades. Even when the trad course was about to start at the RSAMD, he was the one that got all the info to me about the course. EVen now at the school they have a ceilidh band, at the school concerts they always have some trad being played at it.
You do get some schools that have no support for it, i have had experience in the past with pupils coming to me for fiddle lessons on the sly as their school lessons would stop if they carried on with trad. There is a long way to go, but there is alot more on offer now
Posts: 38
Posted: 18-Mar-2008 19:55
Maybe Bell Baxter could teach punctuation.
Posts: 12842
Posted: 18-Mar-2008 20:03
Bell Baxter isn't so much a school as a bus station with a huge waiting room. Nice view of Elmwood though ;-)
Posts: 3461
Posted: 18-Mar-2008 22:05
Maybe people could stop making snide little remarks about the spelling and punctuation of other posters! The would-be-superior rudeness of some posters who are old enough to know better is pathetic. (I bet both Onny and AlasdairR pulled the legs off spiders when they were small boys! )

I am much more interested in the ideas which are being put forward.

tunemonster (I take her presence online to mean that Junior still hasn't arrived!) has a very good point about the difference that there is between schools, often in the same educational area. I once had a Fife music teacher, not from Bell baxter which incidentally is a very good school, tell me that she didn't think children should be exposed to Scottish music until they left school!

It's also a nonsense that katiekskye, living in the heart of the Gaeltacht, doesn't have a choice of SQA approved songs. Who does approve songs for the SQA anyway?

Only yesterday I had a secondary school music teacher ask if I could go in and really explain puirt and diddling to his Standard Grade music pupils. Considering that this has been part of the music syllabus for almost twenty years that is just a disgrace but he's by no means alone.

Posts: 29
Posted: 18-Mar-2008 23:01
'Who does approve songs for the SQA anyway?'
For S.G, there's a list of recommended pieces/tunes or songs for all examined instruments. You don't have to stick to the list, but it's the class teacher's responsibility to assess the difficulty of music played in the external exam. (i.e. grade 1, 2 or 3)
For National Courses (Int 2, Higher and Advanced Higher), there is also a list of recommended pieces/tunes or songs. If a candidate wants to play or sing something else, the class teacher has to send it off to the SQA by the end of October to have it 'approved' for a particular level.

During my two years teaching I've not yet sent a Gaelic Song for approval but I have seen a long list of Gaelic songs sent in by other schools that have been refused.
I have therefore been surprised at some of the songs (from musicals etc.) that they have approved for me, as I sent them in for Advanced Higher 'on the off chance'.

Posts: 3461
Posted: 18-Mar-2008 23:14
That's interesting, Patsy, and well done you for giving them a bit of a challenge! Do you know who the actual decision makers are though? I would have hoped that by this time they would have advisers with a sound knowledge and understanding of the Gaelic song tradition.

Simon Chadwick
Posts: 383
Posted: 18-Mar-2008 23:41
I would be very interested to find out who the individuals are who do this approving, what their qualifications for this are, and what criteria are used. I mean are they to be approved for how they fit into the 'difficulty' grading - i.e. they are refused because the piece is clearly at a lower / higher level than you suggested? Or is it rather that they are refused as unsuitable full stop?

Exposed to Scottish music - priceless. What do you expect from Fife folk though, bring on independence and close the bridges :-)

Personally I have had the luxury of being able to avoid all music exams and grades like the plague, though I appreciate this is not practical for many. It helps specialising in an instrument and tradition that officially does not exist. - there is no early clarsach grade anywhere in Scotland, no-one teaches it in any school...

If it's any consolation I am confident that many classical / historical conneisseurs are frothing at both ends at the lightweight fluff that passes for classical music in many places.

Catch'em young was always my motto, nursery trad song sessions are the way to go. And I like the sound of your black market fiddle classes TM.

David Francis
Posts: 680
Posted: 19-Mar-2008 00:22
Clarsach is taught at the City of Edinburgh Music School (based at Flora Stevenson's Primary and Broughton High School), St Mary's in Edinburgh, and in some of the fee=paying schools too. At CEMS the children are put through the Associated Board exams for clarsach. Not sure of the position in other parts of Scotland, other than the Centre of Excellence at Plockton High School, where clarsach is also taught. This may be apocryphal, but about ten years ago I heard a story to the effect that when the subject of clarsach teaching came up in one of Scotland's local authorities, its head of instrumental music at the time is said to have refused it on the grounds that the demand would be unlimited!

Footstompers might be interested to know that a recently commissioned report on the availability and quality of classroom materials for traditional music will be launched next month.

Simon Chadwick
Posts: 383
Posted: 19-Mar-2008 08:44
Thanks David but you are referring to modern clarsach whereas I was speaking of early clarsach - they are two separate things, more different than lute and guitar. I can't play modern clarsach, and people who have learned to play the familiar modern type haven't the foggiest what to do with my replica of the medieval Queen Mary harp.

And "demand unlimited" - very good, I suppose they are terrified of youngsters actually doing what they want, what moral degeneration!

Posts: 1766
Posted: 19-Mar-2008 08:46
Hello all,
I've been complaining for years that snobbery seems to be the reason for refusing to give trad music its place in some Fife schools (I only know about Fife schools)
I suspect I know the person tunemonster describes having to take trad lessons on the fly or their classical lessons in school would stop.
I was also amazed that the local schools to me seem to concetrate on songs from shows. (I personally HATE shows so that might colour my judgement), but surely trad ballads and Burns etc have at least as much merit as Andrew Lloyd Weber? Even amongst snooty teachers?
The difference between a quality and crap experience seems to come down to the personal preferences of the teaching staff in the music depts in each school. In these days of standards/outcomes/performance driven work etc I'd have hoped for a bit more from people being paid well to teach it. Or is music considered so irrelevant by educational governing bodies that that no effort is spent on ensuring a quality experience for young people?
Also Simon, I hope you were not intending to insult us Fifers by your independance remarks.
Posts: 12842
Posted: 19-Mar-2008 09:10
I'm astonished Auldtimer feels spelling and punctuation to be so worthless.
Posts: 7970
Posted: 19-Mar-2008 09:38
Onny, Auldtimer didn't say she thought spelling and punctuation were worthless. This was an important thread about Scottish music in schools until you chose to crash it with a snide remark about spelling. If you want to take up the issue of how children are taught (or not) spelling and punctuation in schools you should start another thread.

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