As I write the country has just entered week five of level four COVID-19 lockdown. We hope you are all well and safe in your bubble. We are very mindful of the toll the lockdown is taking on the arts community but also acknowledge that the fastest way to return to a new normal is to manage and eliminate community transmission. It is heartening to hear how schools are managing distance learning in music. Zoom and Google Meets (and other platforms) lessons are the order of the day and students are making recordings of their practice and sending them to teachers for review and feedback. Some students are participating in Zoom concerts. We are all learning how to manage in this new world while staying safe in our bubbles.
2020 Programme Music Futures started the year strongly with planning for our programme of awards, coaching in May and concerts in May and July. By end April we would usually have completed our awards round. Instead they are on hold but we have a number of strong applications. Chamber music coaching for school groups is also on hold at this stage as is our mid-year concert. We will take our cue from Chamber Music New Zealand once they have decided whether the secondary schools concert will go ahead this year.
The committee has decided that there is no option but to put the Annual General Meeting on hold too until it is safe to gather again. We will advise a new date as soon as we are able, which we hope will incorporate the usual concert. We will however send you the draft Annual Report for 2019 by mid-May.
Saving RNZ Concert One action we took earlier this year was to support the Save RNZ Concert initiative. Our letter to Government Ministers is pasted at the end of this newsletter. Fortunately the efforts of thousands of New Zealanders seem to have been effective. It is ironic that now, in this time of lockdown, the importance of RNZ Concert is truly underscored.
Membership renewal If you have renewed your membership for 2020 or made a donation, thank you. But if you haven’t, please do so if you can. We really rely on your membership fees and your donations to help fund our activities. If you make a donation over and above your membership fee, you can claim a third back on donations from IRD as we are a registered charitable organisation.
You can pay your subscription of $20 per person direct into our bank account by internet transfer and provide your name in the reference box or make a deposit at Kiwibank (once they re-open). Note that Kiwibank are no longer accepting cheques. Don’t forget to provide Annette Lendrum our Treasurer with your details by email if we do not already have them: ALMusicFutures@gmail.com. Our account name is Music Futures Inc. Our account number is: 38 9012 0747102 00.
If neither of those options are available to you please email Annette and let her know. You can make other arrangements with her to pay in cash.
We look forward to being in touch again soon once it is clear when we can resume our annual programme.
20 February 2020
Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister & Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage
cc Hon Kris Faafoi, Minister of Broadcasting, Communications & Digital Media Hon Grant Robertson, Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Hon Chris Hipkins, Minister of Education Dr Jim Mather, Chair, RNZ Board Mr Paul Thompson, Chief Executive, RNZ
Dear Prime Minister and colleagues
We are a charitable organisation, run by professional musicians, teachers and other professionals. We volunteer our time to work closely with children and young people aged between 5 and 18 in music education and performance. These school-aged students are tomorrow’s 18-34 year olds. In light of our experience, we are writing to you about future plans for RNZ Concert/Concert FM and a so-called youth music strategy for RNZ. We understand quite a lot about what young people want and need in music and we’d like to share these insights with you. We trust it will provide a useful perspective for your future plans.
It is important to note that we experience a diverse and lively group of young people learning and performing music in the greater Wellington region. We are aware that this is replicated all around the country because of the voluntary and paid structures that exist to support music for young people, e.g. The Big Sing and the Chamber Music New Zealand Schools Contest (both of which RNZ Concert records). In addition thousands of students around the country participate in youth orchestras – some in schools, some in the community.
It is simply wrong to assume that all young people who learn music are white or from wealthy backgrounds. Music Futures works with children from many backgrounds. We support players from Virtuoso Strings based in Porirua and Arohanui Strings based in Naenae. We receive applications for financial assistance where families, regardless of ethnicity, tell how much they strugggle to afford lessons and purchase instruments. We are glad to be able to provide some support to them. Classical music, and indeed music of all genres, is a great leveller, not a divider. It brings people from all walks of life together.
We believe that music is a universal language of learning and that music is therefore vital to the education and wellbeing of young people in our community. More and more research and experience overseas is telling us that young people do better in school if they are involved in some form of the arts, and especially in music. RNZ Concert currently plays an important part in developing and nurturing music understanding and appreciation in young people through its programming and recording. RNZ Concert has the potential to build on its current programming and do more that is specifically targeted at young people. Concert FM used to do more recording of youth concerts but in recent years this has fallen away due to budget cuts.
From where we sit, it is somewhat specious to differentiate between classical and ‘other’ music. Young people especially have the ability to hold more than one genre in their heads at any one time, whether it is classical or popular or jazz or kapa haka (or something else). Many great popular and jazz musicians have classical training behind them e.g. Elton John, Nina Simone and the brothers Wynton and Branford Marsalis. Plenty of examples exist where classical music comes together with ethnic music such as Yehudi Menuhin playing with Indian music exponent Ravi Shankar. Classical music therefore needs to be recognised as an influencer of contemporary music and film scores and flexible enough to blend with music from any other background. Trevor Reekie in his Worlds of Music programme is an excellent example of an RNZ Concert presenter explaining these connections very well.
Our experience tells us that a healthy music community, and indeed any healthy community, relies on an ecosystem of organisations that feed on each other, nurture talent and knowledge and create beauty. Music is no exception. There have been many stories by individual musicians shared on the Save RNZ Concert facebook page in recent days telling how they were inspired and motivated by Concert FM as young people. There is no need to repeat these stories here but we acknowledge them. The point is that RNZ Concert plays a hugely important role as a key connector within this ecosystem, as does say the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, partly because of its reach around the whole country.
Radio has the added advantage of being highly accessible to all. It is a connector because it can and does interpret and present music of all types in an intelligent, informative and entertaining way to all audiences of all ages. Replacing RNZ Concert with a streamed service – a play list - without commentary would be an immeasurable loss of expertise and knowledge, whether it’s the engineers, researchers, presenters or producers. All play their parts in the connecting role. While we think it is possible that more could be done to appeal to a younger, perhaps wider demographic, given the reach of RNZ, it needs to build on what already exists. Why not experiment with what works in 2020 to reach more young people if the resources are there to do so, but not at the expense of RNZ Concert.
It is worth addressing the accusation that RNZ Concert is ‘too white and too middle class’. It is certainly important to ask the question does current programming at RNZ Concert recognise the increase in diversity amongst the New Zealand population? Contemporary Pasifika and Maori music is significantly influenced by western music, notably church music, particularly in singing. Many of our world class opera singers, for example Jonathan Lemalu, began by singing in the church choir. Pene and Amitai Pati, Moses Mackay (who formed the award-winning trio Sol3 Mio) and recent Lexus Song Quest winner (2018) Joel Amosa were all clasiscally trained and ‘own’ their Pasifika heritage.
Finally, while all media outlets measure ratings, audience size and make-up and respond as best they can, the current marketing wisdom is to target audiences using shared values and interests. The outdated and limiting practice of only looking at age, gender and ethnicity will never be able to tell the whole story of the impact of RNZ on the population at large.
The real value of the role of RNZ Concert is in showcasing excellence of our music offerings in New Zealand, the numbers of New Zealand professional musicians who make it internationally but also in well-being of the population at large. Not everyone will be a professional musician but many will be amateur muscians and many, many more will be lovers of music and engaged citizens of civil society.
Lynne Dovey Chair of Music Futures Juliet Kennedy Secretary Annette Lendrum Treasurer Donald Maurice MNZM Brigid O’Meeghan Larry Reese Simon Brew Chris van der Zee