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ABRSM Announces Enriched Woodwind Syllabus Which Aims to Inspire Curiosity of Learners

A new, enriched woodwind syllabus designed to inspire the curiosity of learners and spark interest in music from all corners of the world and by people of all backgrounds has been launched by ABRSM.

Published: 30 July 2021 | 3:33 PM
A young musician is playfully holding up the seperated parts of a bassoon, looking through one end of one piece.
“The absence of diverse role models in music education cannot be understated, and more diverse syllabi is a fantastic way to start tackling that issue.” Photo credit: Shutterstock

The eclectic syllabus, which features 18 new commissions and work by dozens of composers new to ABRSM, aims to bring even greater richness to the music available to learners and includes pieces by everyone from Vivaldi and Leonard Bernstein to Hans Zimmer and Errollyn Wallen.

John Shortell, MU Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, welcomed this news:

“It’s fantastic to see ABRSM fulfilling the commitments it has made to create more diverse syllabi. The absence of diverse role models in music education cannot be understated, and more diverse syllabi is a fantastic way to start tackling that issue.

“Music students will be introduced to an inspiring range of composers that have previously been underrepresented and see themselves reflected in the music they learn. Taking action to improve diversity is something the MU will always celebrate and this is an important step forward for ABRSM.”

In August 2020 the MU sent a letter on behalf of over 70 organisations, musicians, music teachers and academics to ABRSM, demanding they take meaningful and measurable action to diversify their syllabi.

Creating a bridge to draw new people into classical music

Althea Talbot-Howard, who has contributed several of her own works as well as arrangements of Chevalier de Saint-Georges’ unpublished harp and flute sonata, said:

“Part of widening the syllabus is about stretching ourselves to find out more about the past. It’s also about remembering that we don’t have to be constrained by a narrow, traditional curriculum.

“We can go exploring for quality in other places – whether it’s with new faces, or with old faces that for whatever reason have been overlooked. As we do so, we can create a bridge to draw new people – including Black audiences – into classical music.”

Althea’s contributions are among more than 70 syllabus pieces written or arranged by composers from traditionally under-represented ethnic backgrounds and reflect ABRSM’s commitment to sharing the work of a greater range of musicians. They are also among around 220 pieces featured in the syllabus by women composers.

The beginning of a journey towards achieving far greater diversity

ABRSM Chief Executive Chris Cobb said:

“We want to encourage progression by inspiring the curiosity of learners and sparking their interest in great music by people from all kinds of backgrounds.

“Our new woodwind syllabus is designed to do just that and to celebrate the best work, old and new, from the four corners of the globe.”

The syllabus, which takes effect from 1 January 2022, covers flute, clarinet, saxophones, oboe, bassoon and recorders. It also features work by John Williams, William Grant Still, Lloyd Coleman, Dave Gale, Rachel Broadbent, Gillian Whitehead and Charlotte Bray.

Chris Cobb added: “We are committed to promoting a far greater diversity in what we do and, above all, to bringing an even greater richness to the music available to learners around the world.

“Publication of the new woodwind syllabus, and our recently launched mentor scheme giving opportunities to young composers from a wide variety of backgrounds to write for music education, are the start of our journey towards achieving this.”

Find out more about our anti-racism work and join our network for members who experience racism in our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion hub.

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