Saturday, 18 March 2017

Winston Churchill Fellowship research in USA

I've just arrived in Kentucky for the beginning of my Winston Churchill Fellowship researching guitar education in the USA. My travels will be taking me across America, beginning in Louisville KY and then visiting Loudoun County VA, Los Angeles CA, Austin TX, and Phoenix & Tucson AZ

My focus will be on how the American 'band' model of whole-class tuition is used in the USA to teach guitar and I'll be looking at the development of their programmes of study from the perspectives of curriculum, student engagement and progression, repertoire, training and support (for guitarist and non-guitarist teachers), access to shared resources and on-line networks, programme funding and impacts on social outcomes for students.

Interestingly, back home in the UK, the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music's 2014 "Making Music" study reports that more children now learn the classical guitar than any orchestral instrument, and when viewed collectively as a cross-genre instrument, the guitar is the most popular instrument learnt in UK schools today for children aged 5-17, with 38% of the market share. Despite its undeniable popularity, there are still very few opportunities for guitarists to engage in social music making, as the guitar has no role in traditional or orchestral settings. Considering the potential for engagement I find it disturbing that the according to the ABRSM's survey, guitar does not even feature in the 'whole-class ensemble lessons' published figures for schools nationwide.

Conversely, the USA has numerous well-established guitar programmes that would seem to be filling this void and an incredibly active and enlightened national body in the form of the Guitar Foundation of America (GFA); could this provide inspiration and a template to introduce in the UK?

First stop tomorrow is the GFA's regional symposium at the University of Louisville.