A new year message from our Chief Executive

5 months ago
Chris Cobb


The new year brings an opportunity to reflect on what’s gone before but also to look forward. The last two years have been immensely challenging to everyone involved with music making, teaching or learning, but also provided opportunities to explore new kinds of musical interaction and, for us, to develop additional ways to support teachers and learners.

During 2021 we continued to focus on refining the digital performance-focused assessments which have given learners all over the world access to music exams during the Covid pandemic. Supporting the music education community in this way was hugely important to us and we’re delighted that so many people are taking advantage of these new exams with musical performance at their heart.

We also transformed the delivery of our online Grade 1 to 5 Music Theory exams to make them available anywhere and at any time. Doing this has given us a wealth of new knowledge and expertise which we’re keen to apply to our digital Performance Grades and ARSM diplomas. So this year we’ll be looking at how we can make these performance exams available in an equally flexible and learner-friendly way.

Alongside work on digital exams, we’ve been improving the systems and communications that support our exams and the teachers and learners all over the world who use them. There’s still much to do, but it’s our ambition that everyone’s experience of ABRSM is of the highest quality at every stage of their journey with us.

Where face-to-face instrumental and singing exams are concerned, we were able to offer these in the UK and Ireland throughout 2021 and in a small number of other countries towards the end of the year. During 2022 we very much hope to add other countries to the list of places where examiners can deliver face-to-face exams. Re-establishing these exams in countries where we have long-standing connections is a priority for us, but will be dependent on the Covid situation and the nature of travel and local restrictions. 

2022 will also see us creating additional ways to support music education more broadly. For teachers, with their vital role in inspiring learners and helping them to progress, we’re planning new digital resources and continuing professional development opportunities. We’ll also be looking at how we can re-focus our charitable activities to ensure we support music making and learning in a wider variety of ways. Working closely with our four Royal School partners is fundamental to this, but we’ll also be joining up with other organisations in the UK and around the world to support excellence in music education of all kinds.

As part of a wide ecosystem of music education organisations, it’s important that we contribute and make a difference. Our latest research, ABRSM Making Music 2021, published at the end of last year and providing a snapshot of learning, teaching and playing in the UK, is just one example of this.  Our composer mentor scheme that supported six young composers from a diverse range of backgrounds is another. After 2021’s successful pilot, we’ll be continuing with the scheme this year as part of our commitment to promoting music from a range of communities. Those of you who teach or play woodwind instruments may also have noticed that our new Woodwind Syllabus includes a greater diversity of music than before and this will be a feature of all our refreshed syllabuses from now on.

Finally, despite the ongoing challenges presented by Covid, we’re determined to make this a year when we celebrate music in all its forms while helping more people, of all ages and from all backgrounds, to benefit from the magic of music making.

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