ABRSM attended ESTAs 51st International Conference in Cardiff at RWCMD. Rachel shares her experience at this conference.

The ESTA conference at RWCMD provided a lot of food for thought for me. With delegates and presenters from all over the world, it gave me a moment to pause and realise that ultimately, many teachers face the same struggles and challenges, and celebrate similar successes, wherever they’re from in the world.  

Many of the delegates were our European neighbours (I met some lovely teachers from The Hague, Germany and France), while others had travelled from as far as Australia and the USA.  

It’s always great to attend conferences with my colleagues, and over the course of the event,  ABRSM staff got the opportunity to meet teachers and be inspired by the sessions. I was there for two days, and here are some of my highlights. 

As the title of this article suggests, I listened to Dr Frank Pameijer discuss his findings of putting stringed instruments in CT Scanners (Quite a funny moment when he spoke about having to find a Vet to use a Horse CT Scanner for Double Bass). On a more serious note, he discussed his findings, old repairs to instruments that are invisible to the naked eye, as well as woodworm and other things that made me wince a little. I have a violin that is relatively new to me, and has an obvious repair, but I’d be keen to see if there are other, non-visible repairs I should know about! 

Christian Howes’ ‘Free improvisation and composition games’ was a great session. He spoke very eloquently about how scary free improvisation can feel and how to manage a pathway towards free improvisation, rather than jumping straight to it. Connected to this, he spoke about validating how classical musicians improvise, which is something that Hilary and I often speak about. Christian said that every contribution is correct, confident and valid.  

He also spoke about achieving the right balance of contribution and reception, and that as teachers we are often all about the contribution we make to the music made by others, while performers aim for reception. You can read more about Christian Howes on his website https://christianhowes.com/ 

Next, I attended ‘Playing Healthy’ with Julie Lieberman, which focused on the ergonomics of playing in a healthy way. I’ve had my fair share of injuries over the years - including a broken wrist 3 weeks before my Grade 8! - so it was interesting to hear her views on teaching and playing in a pain-free way.  

Chop Notation was very fun, and I’d never heard of it before. Dr Oriol Sana had travelled over from Barcelona to present this session. They’ve got a free book (www.worldofchop.com) which some of you might enjoy! It’s always great when even after many years of playing, someone shows you a completely new way to use your instrument.  

Sarah Drury shared her experience of working for ELLSO, the East London Late Starters Orchestra. By 2050, 1 in 4 adults will be over the age of 65 in the UK, so how we all work with adults in music education will likely continue to evolve. You can find out more about ELLSO on their website. https://www.ellso.org/about-us 

And finally, I had to mention the wonderful lunchtime concert given by Jennifer Pike and Jeremy Pike. The programme was 

  • Grazyna Bacewicz – Polish Caprice 

  • Jeremy Pike – Elegy for Ukraine 

  • Edwards Grieg – Sonata No1 in F major, Op. 8 

Jennifer Pike has always been one of my favourite violinists to watch and listen to - she really didn’t disappoint! 

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Last modified: Wednesday, 28 June 2023, 9:22 AM