As the new Chief Executive of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year and good health, prosperity and brighter times ahead. The vaccination programme is providing some light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel, and I am sure the prospect causes us to reflect on the changes we’ve been through in the past year and whether life will ever be the same again.
Like so many other aspects of life, 2020 has had a profound effect on music education. The determination, ingenuity and resourcefulness shown by music teachers has been impressive and I’d like to pay tribute to you all. Your perseverance has ensured young musicians have felt supported during these very challenging times. Your work has also given rise to some fabulous memories too, such as these events which you can get a taste of below:
• Make Music Day
• Global High Scorers’ Concert
• ICCR International Choral Festival
As we start a new year and a period of further national lockdown, I wanted to share with you our three clear priorities for the coming months:
Supporting our customers
Like many organisations, ABRSM faced significant adjustments during 2020, as we worked at pace to launch alternative digital assessments. Teething problems and bottlenecks sometimes left customers feeling frustrated with our level of service. My priority is to return our customer service standards to match our customer needs and expectations. We’ve already put in place more resource and a web chat facility to cope with the level of enquiries and refunds from cancelled exams in Session 2 will be complete in the next few weeks of January.
Continuing our digital investment
Our Performance Grades are a hugely popular new qualification and we will be adding extra capacity to future exam periods so that we can assess more entries. They use video uploads and do not require specific assessment in sight-reading, aural or scales, instead testing skills in communication, interpretation and delivery. Our transition to online theory exams has been transformative but sadly has not been as smooth as we would have liked. We’re working hard with our supplier to rectify the issues and deliver the long term goal, which is to be able to offer an on demand online experience, allowing candidates complete freedom to choose when and where to take their Music Theory exams.
These two digital advances will be the start of further digital innovations in the years ahead and I look forward to working with you to develop ideas in a more considered way without the urgency of the pandemic.
Music is what sustains us all – now more than ever. We will continue to support and inspire musical achievement throughout Lockdown 3 and beyond, so remember to keep checking our Play On web pages. You have been the source of many items of inspiring content so please continue to tell us what you would like to see featured.
In the meantime, I apologise for the disruption that you’ve experienced recently and ask for your forbearance and patience as we move ahead. The new lockdown and school closures will affect certain music exams but our aim is to provide more exam availability by extending the next practical grades exam session to span May to July, by which time hopefully face-to-face music lessons will be in full flow once again.