Beethoven rolls over as syllabus gets jazzed up

JAZZ GREATS including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Thelonius Monk are pushing aside Bach, Beethoven and Mozart in school music lessons.

Children as young as eight are studying exam pieces by Miles Davis and Charlie Mingus as the popularity of blues, be-bop and boogie-woogie soars among music teachers and pupils. Nearly 1,300 children have taken piano exams at grade one to five after just one year of teaching, putting jazz on a par with classical courses, and sales of coursebooks have exceeded 100,000.

The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, which administers school music exams, may now extend its pioneering jazz syllabus to a range of new instruments next year. Charlie Beale, professor of jazz piano at the Royal College of Music and co-ordinator of the new courses, said: "There is no hostility to jazz at all [from the classical music establishment]. Maybe it's because of the Blair generation of parents who were 17 to 25 in the late 1960s and have kids between 10 and 15. They have no problem with jazz. It has gained a respectability compared with rock, pop and dance music and has a Radio Three-ness about it."

Jazz courses are a far cry from the classical grades known to generations of schoolchildren. Learning to read music is optional, with children instead encouraged to learn in the time-honoured jazz fashion of listening to recordings by the greats.

Improvision is compulsory, even in the most basic grade one exams, where children have to perform five "solos" in their 10-minute rendition of tunes such as Miles Davis' Jean Pierre or Charles Mingus' O Lord Please Don't Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb on Me.

Other jazz greats on the syllabus include the saxophonist Sonny Rollins and the pianist McCoy Tyner.

Study aids include CD recordings of a backing band so children can get into the groove while practising their riffs. By contrast, traditional classical grades include sight reading and the theory of music. The introduction of the new courses followed a gradual move from traditional classical instrument teaching in schools.

A survey this year found more secondary schools were offering electric guitar lessons than teaching piano. Only 55 per cent of schools said they had an orchestra, down from 66 per cent six years ago. Professor Beale said: "The exciting thing is that people get off on the music. There are people buying CDs and listening to them.

"There's a revolution going on. There's no requirement to read stave notation, although people can if they want to; we advise everybody to learn this music from the CDs.

"When we started this, the assumption was that it would be a slow build- up as teachers got used to the music. But the books have been running out of music shops around the country. It's pretty clear there's something going on."

Cool Tunes For Children

Grade 1: Charles Mingus: O Lord Don't Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb on Me. Miles Davis: Jean Pierre

Grade 2: Charlie Parker: Now's the time

Grade 3: Benny Goodman: A Smooth One. Dizzy Gillespie: Birk's Works

Grade 4: Duke Ellington: I'm Beginning to See The Light. Miles Davis: Freeloader

Grade 5: Miles Davis: All Blues. Sonny Rollins: Oleo. Billy Strayhorn: Take the A Train

Suggested Topics
News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam