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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high