British jazz artist Courtney Pine was the only black composer to appear on the A-Level music syllabus. According to the exam board, Pearson Edexcel, Pine has been dropped because of course changes.

The exam board says the change is due to COVID teaching requirements. The study of jazz music has also been removed from the popular course.

Other artists that have been removed include the Oscar-winning British composer Rachel Portman. The board says the decision is because of “feedback from teachers that the volume of work was too high and needed accelerated change in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Pine’s album Back In The Day was studied as part of the syllabus, alongside Revolver by the Beatles and Hounds of Love by Kate Bush.

Next summer, Pine’s work will be removed and the module will be renamed to ‘Popular Music’, with no jazz.

When initially added to the syllabus, Pine said: “I was deeply honoured to be included in the A-level syllabus, it is a place in the UK education system that I never imagined to be in.”

“As a musician that tours the world representing who we are, to have a place in the awareness of our young during these times has been inspiring. I have met so many students who have told me that studying my music has contributed to their musical development. They are as aware as I am of the absence of British jazz composers to the syllabus until now.”

He adds: “I hope that there will be more UK composers who will be asked to contribute to such an important, influential subject.”

Syllabus changes

Also dropped was Rachel Portman, who was the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Original Score for her work on Emma.  The board has reduced the number of compositions to be studied from 18 to 12.

Of the 12, only four women remain on the new syllabus.  This includes the sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar.

A spokesperson for Pearson says: “We completely agree it is vital pupils get to study music by composers from different cultures and backgrounds. We want to ensure A-level music remains as rich and diverse as possible and will be reviewing this specification again in time for students taking exams from 2022 onwards.”

The exam board says: “although six set works have been removed from the specification and will no longer appear in questions on the exam paper, centres should add these to the wider listening list as they can prove to be valuable pieces” when it comes to answering questions in exams.

Another exam board, AQA, also made changes. They opted to reduce the amount of performance and composition required from students, without reducing the number of set works.

AQA features artists including Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, Labrinth, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis.


Image via Alamy