Tryptych Magazine. Japan Philharmonic Orchestra.

It may seem strange for a British person to be talking about Arts education in Japan. I have in fact been running projects here for over 12 years. The first were with the Japan Phil, and as the years have passed they have become good friends and passionate supporters of this work. My involvement in arts education however has not been restricted solely to Japan. I have been fortunate to have participated in the creation of special programmes for arts organisations in many other countries. Through these experiences I have learned how important it is to build sustainable programmes that will blossom over time. To enable this it is essential that their design is appropriate for the communities and stakeholders with which they will be linked. This strategy not only creates an improved profile with audiences and sponsors, but builds better connections with greater added value for the whole community To accomplish this, an arts organisation has to look at itself in a wider context. Performance may be a primary focus for an orchestra, but it should also consider itself a responsive, broadbased community resource. It needs also to develop the skills to create and implement effective programmes. An area in which this is particularly relevant is in supporting teachers to meet the demands of the national curriculum. Current requirements stipulate the need for a greater degree of creativity and participation in the classroom which reflects the change in modern teaching methodologies. This presents an opportunity to develop partnerships between schools and arts organisations, teachers and musicians. These are of benefit to all, not just the participating students. In January 2010 the Japan Phil will hold a workshop-based training project for teachers and musicians; an opportunity to build bridges between two areas of highly specialised professional practice. It will be based on the ‘Spring’ concerto from Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons. The expertise developing from this will be later extended to workshops for school students. Integral to the project, each participant (student, teacher or musician) will share the responsibility for creating a new version of the concerto. Working in groups they will use the same compositional ideas as those of Vivaldi. This process generates a richer musical understanding of the original work and its compositional process. However, the learning goes much deeper. There are opportunities for exploring creative writing (the 4 Seasons are based on sonnets written by Vivaldi), geography (Vivaldi’s 18th century Italian ‘Spring’ quite different from the Japanese equivalent), nature, and the environment. Recent research from the Kennedy Centre (Washington, US) and the Institute of Education (London, UK) has shown that this process: • improves perceptual cognitive abilities and intellectual development • increases self esteem, confidence and interpersonal communication skills • enhances the acquisition of language So, there is much more to be gained for participants than simple ‘musical appreciation’. And for the Japan Phil, there is the opportunity to build deeper and longer lasting relationships with its current and future admirers. MJS 02/01/10

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