This article was published in Arts in Leicester magazine on 23rd March 2016; it has been transferred to this blog.
Arts in Leicester visited Loughborough today (18th March 2016) to look at the work of The Loughborough Music School.
Loughborough Music School is part of the Loughborough Endowed Schools (LES) and is housed in a purpose-built building opened in 2006 by the composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.
My host and guide today was Richard West, Director of Music. We visited several of the rooms in which classes and rehearsals take place; these are quipped with an impressive number of pianos, keyboards and drum kits. Richard showed me the IT room; again, another impressive display of equipment including computers that the students can use to compose music and edit the results.
The school also has a large hall suitable for staging concerts. Musical instruments were everywhere: guitars, cellos, harps… clearly this was a place where almost every imaginable musical instrument had a presence. Learning to play an instrument – any instrument – fosters a range of skills and a variety of mental facilities; these are things that stay with individuals throughout their lives.
The school focusses on the classical music repertoire but other genres also find a place in the many bands and orchestras populated by the students, including jazz. It’s not always about violins; there is plenty to suggest that students with an interest in rock music will have their needs met. These days musicians use a large array of things; gone are the days when only wood and cat-gut were all there was; now we have a a bewildering array of electronic gadgets, wires and boxes, all harnessing the new technology that has come to represent modern music-making.
The building had a light and airy feel to it; bright corridors and well lit study rooms made it welcoming and cheerful. The school is the second biggest specialist music department in the country, Richard told me.
I asked Richard about the career prospects of the more musically inclined students. The School provides musical education for all the students attending the LES. Only some of these will plan to make music their chosen career. It is clear that musical education needs to start at an early age and the classes begin at Kindergarten age, at around three years. Students continue to benefit from the work of the music tutors through to sixth form.
It was particularly good to see so many full drum kits; I have never seen so many in one room before. Pianos are, of course, stock in trade for music education and the school has the distinction of being one of a select number of Steinway partners.
Being able to see inside this prestigious school was a rare privilege for me. I was delighted to be able to attend the recent LES concert at the De Montfort Hall and was impressed by the high standard of performance shown by both the choirs and the various soloists who were on stage that night (see below for the link to our article.)
Music is an important part of the school curriculum; it always has been, even since the middle ages. There are many reasons why this important; not least the fact that the UK’s export of music is one of the country’s highest revenue earners. The music industry in this country has been thriving for several years and out-pacing several other sectors of the economy. Making music is good in itself but, as many teachers have found, it aids other aspects of children’s lives both personally and educationally. One more thing about music in schools is interesting, I think, it is a leveller. Children today come from a wide range of cultures and communities and all of them have their own musical traditions; being able to learn about the music of other cultures helps young people to appreciate and understand each other.
Loughborough is a town with a growing international notoriety in academia. Its University recently was voted top for students in the UK league tables and its contribution to sporting excellence has been known for a long time.
LES is not the only educational institution locally that has won positive acclaim. The work of Leicester College has also received many accolades, for its music courses and for its work in sound technology. The notable singer and songwriter Howard Rose, for example, is cited as one local musician to have benefited from its work.
We have also written about the work of De Montfort University in music education, technology and innovation (see the link below to our article about Arts Education.)
More information from