Tuesday, 29 Nov 2016

Songwriting accepted as an NCEA subject

Some wonderful news from the education sector - "Songwriting" has officially been accepted as an NCEA subject in New Zealand schools.

As Mike Chunn explains in this excellent blog post for The Spinoff:

"This is a watershed moment. Songwriting is now an NCEA subject. Specifically – Level 3 with the Achievement Standard number of 91849. Write that on the wall. I suspect Level 1 and 2 standards won’t be too far off.

What does this mean?

It legitimises the imaginative craft of songwriting such that students and their parents, school administrators and teachers see songwriting as they do drama, art and the rest of the creative subjects: arenas of experiment, adventure, cooperation, performance and reward. And it widens the options for students interested in the pursuit of a life with contemporary popular music.

Perhaps the most relevant difference between Level 3 Composition (the time-honoured writing subject in Music) and Songwriting is the presentation of the ‘work’ for assessment. In Composition you present a score, you know – crotchets and quavers – as notation. If you are a 15 year old Douglas Lilburn, for example, this works in ideally with your ambition to have orchestras and the like perform your compositions.

In Songwriting, notation is a recording of the song. The only graphic requirement is having the lyrics written out and a chord sequence positioned in the appropriate places above the words. This ties in perfectly with how those who target a career/life in original songs work. My days in Split Enz and Citizen Band? We worked off cassettes. We never read any music. And of course there was an enormous amount of work that went into writing lyrics. Many top songwriters will tell you that writing the lyrics is the hard part – ask Neil Finn.

In January 2015, I met with Trevor Thwaites, a cool drummer but also a senior lecturer at the School of Curriculum and Pedagogy, Faculty of Education, The University of Auckland. Trevor has been involved in much of the music curriculum achievement standard writing to date so we ordered a beer each and we got talking about songwriting. It didn’t take long before a plan was made. Trevor went out to the music teachers online group, MusicNet, for comment on the subject of Songwriting in the curriculum. The responses were very positive. It was that response that led to a steering group getting together."

And now they've triumphantly achieved what they set out to achieve - a curriculum which recognises the importance of music of all types in our education system.

Three cheers for everyone involved.

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