Highlights from Music Education Expo

A round up of this year's Music Education Expo from Barbara Eifler, and why it's worth putting in your diary for 2016

From the start it has included talks by ministers, policy makers and funders, practical workshops, product demonstrations, panel discussions and debates, and I'm sure they have vastly contributed to its inordinate popularity from the word go. After three years at the Barbican Exhibition Halls next year it will move to the much larger Olympia, a testimony to its success.

So is it of interest to the amateur musician or group? 

It's an opportunity to come and say hello to us, your membership organisation, and this year many members dropped by, enabling us to put faces to names. The free entry ticket also gives you the chance to:

  • browse sheet music from many, many publishers (e.g. Oxford University Press, Banks Music Publications)
  • find out about the latest music stand and practice room technology (e.g. Black Cat)
  • talk directly to a wide variety of instrument retailers
  • discover useful organisations such as abcd (Association of British Choral Directors of which your Choral Director is a member – right? If not, s/he can get a discount if your group is a Making Music member) or ISM with their useful Music Directory
  • see whether you fancy one of Leeds College of Music’s short courses, ensembles or come & sing events for adults
  • purchase music related gifts from Lindsay Music (irresistible, I promise)
  • visit the stand of show organisers Rhinegold Publishing to find music, online resources, directories, Classical Music and other magazines…

So here's a round-up of some of the things I discovered this time which might be of use to you, in case you weren't able to come yourself:

The Full English Digital Archive, freely accessible from EFDSS (the English Folk Dance and Song Society), has 80,000 pages to explore of traditional songs, dances, tunes and customs, as well as free resources to help you use these materials in your groups. So why not try something different, musically, next term?

When I started at Making Music I had no idea handbells even existed, but I've become a fan: alongside the ukulele and ocarina, these are surely the most accessible instruments on the planet: you don't need to be able to read music, you can easily pick up (pun intended) how to play them, and they're a great 'gateway drug' to playing in a group as close listening and teamwork is required. Whitechapel Bell Foundry at Music Education Expo spread lovely sounds and infectious enthusiasm. Find out more and book a tour.

Another attraction – again in London, but then that's where he lived – represented was the Handel House Museum. It's a museum, yes, but also a live music venue, with many interesting concerts as well as, of course, guided tours.

Projects at Music Education Expo which you can get involved with as an amateur group included the BBC Ten Pieces and Aldeburgh's Friday Afternoons, this year taking place on Friday 20 November, encouraging performances of eight newly commissioned songs by Nico Muhly available free from their website. Perhaps particularly helpful if you have a youth choir or collaborate regularly with a school or music education hub?

Strongly represented, as ever, were tour operators, and in the past members have commented how they like the opportunity of actually talking to different providers in one morning, speeding up their planning enormously. Present this year were Rayburn Tours, Onestage Specialist Concert Tours, NST Travel, ACFEA, Specialised Travel, Halsbury Travel, Club Europe Concert Tours.

You can also find out about summer courses at Music Education Expo, for instance Sing for Pleasure's choral and conducting summer and weekend courses and Benslow Music’s offering. And for learning throughout the year, there are ABRSM grades or performance assessments: an objective view on your singing or playing, without the scary aural test bits!

Last, but by no means least – are you protecting your hearing? How close are you sitting to those timps or the trumpets? Attenuated hearing protection does NOT inhibit your ability to hear the music, but does protect your cochlear from the damaging frequencies. You can find out more at www.acscustom.com – they now sell generic (as opposed to personally fitted) attenuated hearing protection, which is really affordable.

Music Education Expo 2016 dates: 25 and 26 February, Olympia, London.

Free tickets available at www.musiceducationexpo.co.uk. See you there?