Size Zero Opera – summer season appeal

Support Size Zero Opera…watch our new Crowdfunder video to see how you can support us and find out more about the company….

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Children’s Corner live on the Radio


I am looking forward to working with Winnie the Pooh and Piglet today!


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Music education…

This is such a good article…..I had to quote it all! 


Music education does not just make children more musical; it unleashes their creative powers.

This year marks my 50th anniversary as a music teacher. Over the course of the last 50 years I have witnessed many changes to the ways in which music is taught. Not only changes to the teaching of classroom music to infants, primary and secondary students, for example, but also significant changes to the way in which instrumental music is taught. The changes to classroom music teaching are evident in the way in which many teachers of music have embraced in part, or sometimes wholly, the educational philosophies of musicians such as Jaques Dalcroze, Carl Orff and Zoltán Kodály. It is also quite common to see teachers adapting aspects of all three of these philosophies in conjunction with their own ideas, applying to their teaching methods the things that they know work especially well with their own classes.

The advent of the Suzuki and Yamaha schools, along with dozens of other approaches to teaching instrumental music, have altered the path of teaching, providing teachers with the guidance they need and often the repertoire they need to teach.

What I have come to learn in this time is that there is no one perfect method to teach music and no single solution which suits every circumstance. I have, however, learned that singing should be the basis of all music learning, irrespective of the method chosen. Dalcroze, Orff and Kodaly, were they alive, would offer a chorus of approval for this idea.

Before children can hold instruments, even simple hand-held percussion instruments, they can, given the appropriate assistance and examples, sing and reproduce pitch in some form or another. This requires the simultaneous learning of the texts of songs, nursery rhymes, games and the like, from which they build a huge repertoire of music they can perform alone and with others.

From singing they can also learn to analyse sound, learn to discriminate ways in which pitch and rhythm are used, learn how pattern and repetition work in music and subsequently build a vocabulary of sounds and ideas which they can use in their own compositions. Every child should have the opportunity to make his or her own music: it is the prime reason for teaching music in the very early years.

All this learning should be done in conjunction with movement from a very early age. The use of movement enhances all musical learning, as movement tends to assist the understanding of music’s essentially abstract concepts in a physical way, without having to find words to explain these abstract ideas. In short, singing and moving as early as possible in the life of a child will bear significant fruit in a special way.

We learn music because it is good. We learn music because it is unique. We learn music because it stimulates creativity at a very high level. No other reasons for teaching music are needed. If the Federal Government is serious about education then it should mandate music education in the early years of a child’s life. Australia has never been in greater need of creative minds.

The lines below from the insightful and erudite author and philosopher, Iris Murdoch, are lines I read often. I apply aspects of this philosophy in saying that music education doesn’t make you musical but may provide you with the resources to discover how musical you are or how musical you can become.

“Education doesn’t make you happy – nor does freedom. We don’t become happy just because we’re free – if we are – or because we’ve been educated – if we have, but because education may be the means by which we realise we are happy. It opens our eyes, our ears, tells us where delights are lurking, convinces us that there is only one freedom of any importance whatsoever, that of the mind, and gives us the assurance – the confidence – to walk the path our mind, our educated mind, offers.”

A truly educated mind has had music as part of its education. Every child in this country should have an opportunity to have a truly educated mind.


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Flying with a cello is one traveler’s nightmare – the Boston Globe

A fantastic account from Cellist Paul Katz in the Boston Globe.

In a state of panic and fearing catastrophe, I am writing this midflight as I travel from Calgary, Alberta, to Los Angeles on American Airlines.

I thought I did everything right: bought two seats, a ticket for myself and one for my Andrea Guarneri cello made in 1669. I checked in, got two boarding passes, and went to the boarding gate without problem. It all went smoothly — the cello and I were even pre-boarded — one of the easier of the literally thousands of flights we have taken together. Until . . .

As the cabin begins to fill, the flight crew informs me that this is a “code-share” flight, and that although I have an AA ticket, the plane is operated by WestJet, and my cello is not allowed. (Cellists beware: WestJet not only code-shares with American, but with carriers including Korean Air, Delta Air Lines, and Japan Airlines.) Of course, I object, at first pleasantly, eventually vociferously — to no avail.

In desperation, I try the overhead luggage bin. The cello is too big. “What about the coat closet?” I ask.

“Sorry, sir. This aircraft has no closet.”

I get testy, and the captain appears. I suggest strapping the cello into the (assigned and paid-for) seat and letting him inspect it for safety. But I am asking the impossible: The cello is not allowed, he informs me.

Check the cello in baggage or get off the plane. That’s my choice.

“Sweet,” I say. “If I get off, how will you get me there?”

“Please understand, sir, the cello will not be allowed on any other WestJet aircraft.”

“Will you put me on another airline?”

“That will be your own responsibility.”

My mind races: If   there is another carrier that flies its own planes to LA (and I know of no way to check), two one-way tickets bought at the gate would be más o menos [more or less] $2,000. And it’s late afternoon. Is there even another plane today?

“Hurry up, sir. We cannot delay departure.”

So I do the unthinkable — hand my love of 45 years to a baggage handler, a nice guy who promises he will rope it down so it will not bounce, and it will be delivered to me by hand in Los Angeles.

The violent takeoff on a bumpy runway and ensuing turbulence — beverage service has just been discontinued — make me realize I have made one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I am near nervous breakdown; my imagination is out of control. I see my cello in pieces, fingerboard off, cracks in the back and — worst of all — the bridge pushed through the top.

Turbulence now seems to be over, but I cannot calm myself. The flight attendant is now becoming concerned for me; she gives me a free sandwich, but it’s one of the only times in my life I can’t eat. She sees that I’m writing. I think I’ll show her this.

“It was made in 1669,” she reads. “No wonder you’re nervous. Could I ask what a cello costs?”

I whisper its value — at first she has little reaction, but it now looks like she is going to talk to the captain!

Time has now passed. It’s been a three-hour flight. We are landing.

I am holding my breath.

We are at the gate. I don’t know what they discussed, but the captain has just left the cockpit to go below and personally bring me the cello!

Something is wrong. Five. Ten. Fifteen minutes have passed. The other passengers have disembarked and I am alone on the jetway. They must be afraid to show me.

Writing this all down while waiting gives me something to do — I am furious. I will sue. I will blast this story all over the Internet. I will . . .

Here comes the captain with Miss Cello. I open the case, pluck the strings (still in tune). No cracks, all is intact.

I cry.

WestJet responds: Spokesman Robert Palmer forwarded to the Globe the following from the airline’s website:

“Musical instruments: Although seats may not be purchased for instruments, we will accept small instruments as part of the carry-on baggage allowance. Exceptions may be made for irregular-sized instruments. All instruments must be stowed in the overhead compartment, under the seat or in other approved locations. This is left to the discretion of the cabin crew and Customer Service Agent upon checking flight and baggage loads. Instruments may also be accepted in checked baggage when they are properly packed.”

Palmer added: “There is no rule banning cellos or any other specific musical instrument. However, they must be able to be stowed in the overhead bins. If they are too large or of an odd shape, they must go below the wing. You cannot buy a seat for a musical instrument because the seat and its restraint system are designed and rated for a person.”

Flying with my Cello

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Size Zero Opera go to Singapore!

Very exciting news! Size Zero Opera has been invited to perform in Singapore at The 2nd Performer’s Voice Symposium “Horizons Crossing Boundaries”. The company will be performing “The Boy Who Lived Down the Lane” by Diana Soh, a work which they performed to great acclaim in London last year. There are also planned performances at the Tete a Tete Opera festival this summer, premiering Laura Bowler’s work “The Sandman” and a commission and premiere of Christopher Mayo’s work in Canada in 2013.

To find out more, check out these links

The Performer’s Voice Symposium

Size Zero Opera

Laura Bowler

Diana Soh

Christopher Mayo

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For cellist, the music lingers after memory has faded

What an amazing story!! Music must have left a strong impression on this poor person…


A concert cellist whose memory was virtually wiped out by a brain infection may no longer remember the names of the composers whose work he once played before admiring audiences. But he can remember and recognize virtually every note of their compositions, and even more remarkably, can learn and commit to memory new pieces of music he did not know before a raging case of herpes encephalitis robbed him of his ability to recognize most of his family, recall details of his homeland or remember details of his own life before his illness.

The findings from this remarkable case study, presented Sunday in Washington at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting, suggest that musical memory may be formed, stored and retrieved using an entirely different set of brain structures from those used for verbal or experiential memories.

The case of P.M., a 68-year-old German cellist, may offer insight into and hope for the rehabilitation of people with grievous brain injury or disease affecting memory. Perhaps, said neuroscientist Carsten Finke of the University of Berlin, music may provide a way into the minds of patients cut off from their past by stroke, injury or brain disease – -or a way back for some.

His case study furthers evidence gleaned from studies of others with memory deficits — including patients with stroke and Alzheimer’s Disease — that musical memories often endure long after other memories have been destroyed or made inaccessible.

In 2005, a case of brain swelling destroyed some of the key nodes of the networks that manage memory for facts (semantic memory) and memory for events (episodic memory) in P.M.’s brain: Parts of the medial temporal lobes on both sides of his brain were irreparably damaged. Afterward, P.M. remembered no composers’ names except Ludwig von Beethoven’s, no rivers or states in his native Germany, and no one in his family except his brother. He lived, said Finke, “in the moment.”

But when Finke and his colleagues played music and asked him to identify the intervals, scales, rhythms and metrics of several pieces he had known well before his illness, he could do so with great accuracy.

Finke said Sunday that evidence that musical memory is stored separate from other memory might be used to help in rehabilitation — whether in reminding patients to take their medication, providing a rhythm that could help them walk or simply revisiting happier times.

via For cellist, the music lingers after memory has faded –

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The Gaza Music School: A composition in defiance and harmony

Reading this article made me feel so lucky to have been born and brought up in a country with no war. A bit of good news from a dark place….



It is late afternoon and in a room darkening by the minute because of an all-too-familiar power cut, Shaden Shabwan, just 10 and a study in concentration, plays a Czech folk tune on an upright Yamaha piano as her teacher wills her to avoid mistakes. It is test day for piano students at the Gaza Music School, where Shaden is in her second year. Across the corridor, her classmate Abdel Aziz Sharek, also 10, is just as focused. Accompanied on ouds and tabla, he dexterously picks out a mesmerising classical longa on the qanun, the zither-like instrument that has been central to Arab music for a millennium or more. Abdel Aziz takes his regular studies as seriously as he evidently does the music. “I want to be a doctor,” he explains. “But I will keep playing. I will be in a band at the same time.”

Back in the piano room, Sara Akel plays two études by the Austrian composer Carl Czerny and a Bach Polonaise, with such confidence that you would never guess, if you shut your eyes, that she was only 12. Sara prefers music to academic subjects at school. “I really love it here,” she says. “The teachers are so nice and talented. I’m really looking to be a professional musician.” In Gaza? “Why not?”

It’s a fair question. This centre of artistic excellence may conflict with Gaza’s popular image. But it is already nurturing a young musical generation worthy of its peers elsewhere. Each of the 52 boys and 73 girls come three times a week after school for two sessions of learning an instrument and one for theory. While many have never touched a musical instrument before, they have all passed competitive tests of ear and rhythm to get in.

Among several Gaza prizewinners who performed in the last national Palestinian music competition by video link – because students cannot leave the territory – a seven-year-old qanun player, Mahmoud Khail, came first in his age group. This April the school will become the fifth full branch of the Edward Said National Music Conservatory – the leading Palestinian music institution named after the nationalist writer and music lover who died in 2003.

But the school is also a powerful symbol of Gaza’s resilience. It was founded three years ago at Palestinian Red Crescent premises in Gaza City’s Tel el Hawa district with finance from the Qattan foundation and the Swedish government. The first crop of students gave their first concert on 23 December, 2008.

Four days later, Israel’s military onslaught on Hamas-controlled Gaza opened with an aerial bombardment which landed a direct hit on the Preventative Security HQ and damaged nearby buildings including the school. Director Ibrahim Najar, a music graduate from Cairo University and a maestro of the qanun, was in the building at the time. He suffered only cuts and bruises and came back two days later to store the instruments in the school’s innermost space, the bathroom.

But then on 14 January, Israeli troops entered Tel el Hawa. The PRCS building was hit, and the school and several of its instruments, including the precious piano, were destroyed. Thanks to the US NGO Anera, replacements were brought across the border despite the Israeli-imposed blockade, including two brand new pianos, and the school was up and running in new premises.

via The Gaza Music School: A composition in defiance and harmony – Middle East – World – The Independent.

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BBC News – How music is changing the lives of some children living in deprived areas

Following my earlier post Music lesson fees are cheating pupils, have a look at what the wonderful Big Noise are getting up to!

BBC News – How music is changing the lives of some children living in deprived areas.

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New World Symphony – Message to Applicants

I was doing my daily trawl for jobs and courses on the internet and came accross this…..what a fantastic truth! Couldn’t have said it better myself!

Dear Friend:

So much of our responsibility as classical musicians rests in our performing with energy, insight, and generosity of expression. It is these qualities that can convince even the first time listener that coming back to another performance is worthwhile, and even essential. In this way, the past and future of our art can be preserved and strengthened.

What does it take to do that? It takes playing with confidence and conviction that gets way past the notes and makes the points that composers took the time to imagine and write down. It means recommitting yourself to the powerful musical and communicative goals which you need to have for your own personal success and for the success of this art, which we so love.

To be a successful and happy classical musician, you have to love the process of making music itself. You have to love practicing and studying, and you have to love the idea that you’re going to be doing this your entire life. Through this process, in the same way that through the process of meditation or prayer, something important happens to you which will bring you insight and fulfillment.

Be absolutely sure about your commitment to being great orchestral musicians. No one respects more than I the incredible amount of heart, savvy, and virtuosity it takes to be a “large ensemble” player. You will be amazed to discover a real sense of individuality in the work that you’re doing, that a great orchestra can offer you opportunities to feel “this is my phrase, my moment” and to discover the kind of courage it takes to carry the full expressive weight of the message in the music. If you understand when those moments are, and can find in yourself the ease and generosity of spirit that says “I want to play this for people in a way that they’ve never heard before,” you’ll really be on the track to becoming great musicians and terrific people.

You yourselves have known veterans of music who were seemingly transfigured, energized, eternally made young by their relationship to the music that they play. That’s what your goal should be: to find the relationship right now that will carry you through your life. The real story in any art is “going the distance” and establishing the habits that will sustain you as your life unfolds. No matter what unexpected, sometimes thrilling, sometimes vexing things may happen, you will have that powerful inner core to find your own way and to find colleagues who believe as idealistically as you do in the real joy of music. With them you can reshape and form the greatest possible future for our wonderful art. To truly be for music and for your colleagues is the greatest responsibility and joy an artist can have.


Michael Tilson Thomas

Artistic Director

via New World Symphony – Message to Applicants.

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Britain’s young classical musicians deserve to be trumpeted

I recently read this article by Tom Service and I couldn’t agree more. Why is it that it is recognised that music helps people with illness or disability, can help people living in poverty and deprivation, but then is it considered a “luxury item” for our society in the U.K. There are hundreds of music charities in the U.K. (for example Music in Hospitals, Special Virtuosi and Youth Music) which is fantastic – but if it is so obvious that music works, why is it not an essential item in the school curriculum? It is very small-minded to cut spending in art education; the government is saving money now, but how much will it cost for the future?

Britain’s young classical musicians deserve to be trumpeted | Music |

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