Great expectations

17th November 2000 at 00:00
THE MUSIC TEACHER'S COMPANION. By Paul Harris and Richard Crozier. ABRSM Publishing pound;12.95

Like the supposed demise of Mark Twain, recent reports about the death of music tuition in our schools have been grossly exaggerated. There are many aspects of music education today that signify a tremendous leap forward from the fictitious golden age of the past. Teachers these days have to work hard for their money and have to meet far higher expectations than possibly at any stage in the past. Harris and Crozier's book is an excellent tool to help teachers meet these challenges and to raise expectations even further.

In 20 clearly presented chapters, teachers are given helpful, down-to-earth advice on issues ranging from the teaching of rhythm to beginners to preparing pupils for entry to college, university or the music profession. The authors manage to balance the needs of private teachers working from home with those who work in schools and other institutions. Refreshingly, the work of the instrumental teacher is put in a wider context and related carefully to improvisation, composition and listening activities. Therefore, in keeping with the title, the emphasis is clearly on helping teachers develop their pupils' all-round muscianship as well as their technical skills.

There is a very interesting chapter on group teaching that presents a clear challenge to the all too prevalent notion that one-to-one tuition necessarily produces the best results. The reader is presented with a series of well thought-out strategies to enable teachers to capitalise on the tremendous opportunities that group tuition creates. It is a pity therefore that the sample lesson plans in the appendix do not include advice on how to plan differentiated activities to meet the range of needs which are bound to be encountered in any group session. The authors have included useful cross references within the text and there is also a bibliography of further reading and references. It might have been more useful for hard-pressed teachers if these references had been related more explicitly to the topics discussed in each chapter. It would also have been useful to include references to specific musical publications related to the topics discussed.

These are only minor criticisms. Harris and Crozier have produced a book that few serious teachers of music would wish to be without.

Aelwyn Pugh is music inspector and head of the music support service for Liverpool LEA

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