Think electronic

16th August 1996 at 01:00
Gerald Haigh ("Stay composed under pressure", TES, August 2) raises important issues: need our music teachers be pianists, and if so, what qualities should we look for?

Why not appoint a musician who can play the electronic keyboard, not as a surrogate pianist, but as a performer on the instrument in its own right? This would surely speak in contemporary language just as well as a pianist. But, as Gerald Haigh rightly states, the teacher must "be something of a busker, able to produce accompaniments from nothing, play new hymns at sight, read chord symbols, transpose into different keys" as well as extemporising and being able to play pieces composed by staff and pupils.

Trinity grades in electronic keyboard encourage all these creative skills including especially performance, extemporisation and composition. So successful are these examinations that the underlying philosophy of a more holistic music education is being offered in the syllabuses for piano, voice and organ from 1997, strings, harp, brass, percussion and guitar from 1998 and, finally, woodwind and recorders from 1999. The buzz word is Option 2 for such syllabuses, but we must not discourage focused performance of a high order which the more traditional Option 1 offers.

Whatever the option, Trinity shares a vision of the broader musician, and will continue to examine what schools require of their teachers and promote in their teaching.

DAVID WRIGHT Chief examiner in music Trinity College London 16 Park Crescent London W1N

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