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ALL IS NOT WELL at the ABJM - otherwise known as the Association of British Jazz Musicians. Being somewhat miffed at the treatment dished out to jazz by Britain's radio broadcasters, they have launched a new campaign, "Is Radio Fair To Jazz?" As far the ABJM is concerned, the answer to this question is an emphatic "no!". In support of this they quote recent Arts Council research, which shows that while classical music commands 95 hours of weekly broadcast time on BBC Radios 1, 2, 3, and 4, jazz gets just four-and-a-quarter hours. And this is despite the fact that two-thirds as many people like to listen to jazz as classical.
"Clearly the jazz listener is least well catered for", argue the ABJM, "and a casual glance at independent radio schedules would suggest that jazz is even less well represented there. Even the proposed revolution in radio provision for the 1990s makes no promises over jazz programming. What can we do?" Launch a campaign, that's what.
The ABJM have been lobbying the major stations for the last year or so, but seem to be getting nowhere fast. The broadcasters believe they've got the balance between different musical genres about right, and Marmaduke Hussey, the BBC chairman, has even written to the ABJM saying: "It is with some regret that I think we are going to be unable to continue our correspondence. Clearly there is a difference of view between us which is irreconcilable." Is this what's known as a cold shoulder, perhaps?
Despite the frosty reception in Auntie's hallowed halls, the ABJM carries on campaigning. The broadcasting organisations themselves agree that programme policy is most strongly influenced by listeners' comments and letters, so the ABJM is asking concerned listeners to put pen to paper.
Write to radio stations asking for more jazz. Write with specific requests for your favourite jazz music and musicians. Write to your Member of Parliament. Write to the Queen. Write to Gorbachev!
Nobody is actually being asked to go through with the last couple, but their willingness to recruit hep-cat boppin' MPs to the cause shows how serious the ABJM is.
Could all this lead to a new Government scandal? We can see the headlines now. "Exclusive! Minister Involved in All-Night Sax Sessions!" No? Well, it was just a thought...
INFO: The Association of British Jazz Musicians, (Contact Details)
IN OUR FIRST ISSUE, we brought you news of Maxima gold-plated guitar strings. Well, these seemingly bizarre accessories are apparently going down like err... a beleaguered galleon loaded with Aztec bounty (or something). Huey Lewis & The News, John Entwhistle (The Who) and China Crisis all use Maxima strings. And because of the demand, the strings' distributors, Brazenrock, have decided to increase the range of products available.
A new line of strings for most types of acoustic instruments has been added to the existing gold and silver classical strings. For classical instrumentalists, there's now a wide selection of strings for most stringed instruments including the whole violin family, and a complete range of folk strings for unusual instruments such as autoharp, Hawaiian guitar, ukelele and others.
There are still no reports of durability problems, so perhaps soft metal strings are not the soft-boiled idea they first appeared.
INFO: Brazenrock Distribution, (Contact Details)
IF YOU'RE A longstanding devotee of 'FrontLines' you'll now all be aware of Musician Style 89. And if you grabbed this issue of PHAZE 1 as soon as it "hit the streets", you'll just have time to organise a trip to the Musician Style 89 Showcase. The Showcase is the culmination of the national competition and will take place at The Empire, Leicester Square on Tuesday 18 April. Doors open at 7.15pm, and the first band will be on stage at 8pm.
The evening will feature six of the best new bands from around the country who have won through the regional finals of the 'Live Musical Performance of Original Music' category. Prizes will be presented to winners of the other categories during the evening.
The finalists are: Sneak Preview from Bolton, The Story So Far from Surrey, Tribe of Dan from St Neots, The Steps from Port Talbot, Lindzi Morgan from Leamington Spa, and Highlander from Glenross. Just think: one or more of these could be household names by next year.
Mark Goodier of Radio 1 will be broadcasting his teatime show live from The Empire during the run-up to the Showcase, playing sessions from the bands involved, and talking to the organisers and performers behind Musician Style 89.
Although the Showcase is aimed primarily at invited dignitaries from the music business, members of the public can also attend. Admission is on the door in exchange for a paltry £5 donation to Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy. So why not go along and help the cause - and check out your competitors at the same time!
SCHOOL MUSIC DEPARTMENTS used to fit a nice cosy formula. "Folkie" music teacher, battered old upright piano, chaotic pounding of tambourines/bongos/tables/everything, and endless renditions of 'When the Saints Go Marching In' on warped acoustic guitars. Music teaching was a phenomenon still waiting to be dragged into the late 20th Century. Things are changing, but music is still regarded by many as unimportant, and something of a poor relation to subjects that relate more to the world of nine-to-five. Departments are often understaffed and underfunded - a situation compounded by the new GCSE syllabus, which places a greater strain on resources for "creative subjects" like Music. A Government scheme that exists to provide funding for the acquisition of technology in schools, the Technical Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI), has been running for some time, but tends to devote its resources to the provision of computer equipment rather than musical instruments - so if the two don't go hand in hand, music is the loser. In many schools, the battered old piano is still the beginning and the end of the music department.
Then along came the Musical Education Specialists at Roland UK. They came to the conclusion that one way to help the situation was for the music industry to fight in music education's corner. The result of much scratching of heads was the recent launch of Roland's Musical Education Project. It initially involves two schools: Pimlico School in central London (the only state school in the country with a special course for musically gifted children) and West Hatch High School in Chigwell, Essex.
When Roland chose these two schools, they were aware of the great contrast between them. Pimlico's catchment area includes a partly depressed inner city area and the special music course makes it unusual. Despite this, the music department proved to be no better equipped than any other school. According to one pupil: "We've only got pianos, a keyboard and a couple of Casio organs but they're really beaten up now. We've had them quite a few years". By comparison, West Hatch is a suburban school which has already benefitted from the TVEI scheme - although the money was largely spent on computer-aided design equipment, with the result that its musical instrument situation was no better than Pimlico's.
So, in step Roland to furnish the schools with the latest in musical equipment, and also to provide in-service training for the teachers. The pupils are asked to evaluate both hardware and software, and the information gleaned from the project will be passed on to Roland's head office in Japan to contribute to their research and development programme. At the official launch of the scheme Roland were pleased to see no evidence of "techno-fear" among the children, and were impressed with their innovative use of equipment.
For Roland to provide equipment for more than a handful of schools would clearly be commercially unrealistic, but they hope other enlightened manufacturers might follow their initiative. Considering today's music students are the music industry's future customers, maybe it's time the industry went back to school...
"HI THERE POP-PICKERS! I'm Cecil Pitt: rock entrepreneur, creative genius, friend and confidante to the stars. No doubt you've heard of me. I've been a starmaker for some time now, and I'd like to share my inside knowledge of the rock biz with you in this article: The Cess Pitt guide to rock management..."
So begins the guide to 'Rock Star', a new computer game that takes a less than serious look at the rock biz. If you're getting fed up trying to find gigs or sign that elusive record deal, then 'Rock Star' could provide some light relief. You play the part of a rock manager who has to guide the stars through major career decisions. With troublesome characters like Dross, Annie Smallpox, Dorrissey, the Festering Mulberries and Tina Turnoff to deal with, this could be quite a job. Record albums and singles! Make videos - anywhere from Hollywood to Cricklewood! Will you use an expensive well-known director like Cecil Bidet-Mills, or your trusty sidekick Clive? Have you got what it takes to hype a record to the top of the charts? Can you compete with Bazoomararooma, Sweat Sweat Sweat, and the Boring Old Gits from the '60s?
Whatever you do, don't get sued, ripped off, busted, pirated, bankrupted, extorted, embarrassed, exposed, or grabbed by the taxman! It's a hard life in the management game. 'Rock Star' will at least make it bearable.
The software even allows you to hear your band play, using a clever music generator. The computer can create a piece of music based on your band's particular style and ability, so if the music sounds off-key or off-beat, then your band needs more practice. With 50 caricatures of stars available, there's plenty of scope for forming some unlikely bands - and suffering the consequences!
By the beginning of May, 'Rock Star' will be available for Spectrum, Amstrad and C64 computers, and with the disk versions costing £15 and the cassettes just under a tenner, you've really no excuse not to snap one up before the writs start flying.
INFO: Code Masters Software, (Contact Details)
ACADEMY n. - a school for training in a particular skill or profession. MUSICIANS' ACADEMY n. - one of the above for fledgling musos, perhaps?
Yes, the Musicians Academy is yet another fine institute of learning for guitarists, bassists and drummers. Based in glorious Wapping, the Academy is a pretty ambitious project, consisting of 4500 square feet of classrooms, counselling rooms, recreation areas and concert hall. Operating as three schools under one roof, namely GAM (the Guitar Academy of Music), BAM (the Bass Academy of Music), and DAM (the Drum Academy of Music), the Musicians Academy offers part-time, fulltime and one-to-one personal tuition programmes. Choose from Foundation, Intermediate, Advanced, Heavy Metal, Sightreading, Jazz and Funk courses. Students who display "above-average ability" will automatically be referred to the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California, for more advanced courses at GIT (Guitar Institute of Technology) and BIT (Bass Institute of Technology). No doubt to receive this sort of treatment your strumming, thumbing, and thumping must be pretty sharp to begin with.
The Academy's prospectus is certainly impressive. There are four teachers for each instrument, and between them they appear to have every conceivable angle covered. As well as these expert workhorses, the Academy has an enviable executive staff. Robbie Gladwell (also known as 'Dr Robert' in PHAZE 1's sister magazine 'Guitarist') will be giving clinics on repair and maintenance for guitars and basses. ("So that's how you change the strings...) And Mark Melton of the Musicians Union has been appointed Music Business Advisor; he'll be giving students advice on record contracts, managers, the Performing Rights Society, and more.
That's the nice cuddly bit - but what is all this going to cost? Well, for a ten-week course, the damage clocks in at £140. Now, for this sort of money you could buy 700 Mars bars or a bus load of pick'n' mix. But ignoring the rock versus confectionery argument for a moment, this works out at only £7 per hour, which for the expertise and facilities on offer, is pretty damn competitive.
Anyway, how can you resist courses with sections called 'Logical Left Hand Fingering Concepts to Facilitate Accurate Reading and Ease of Transposition'? Get your thinking caps on.
INFO: Musicians Academy, (Contact Details)
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