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Tuesday, 12 December, 2000, 15:04 GMT
Folk music degree launched
Armstrong building, Newcastle University
Performance will be an important element of the course
Newcastle University is offering what it claims as the first folk music degree in England.

The four-year programme for 25 students leads to a Bachelor of Music, but students who only want to study for the first two years will be awarded a diploma.

We want to give students the opportunity to carry their study through to a new stage of depth and sophistication

Professor Richard Middleton
The course - starting in September 2001 - will have a strong emphasis on performance, but there will also be modules in composition, arranging and improvisation.

The university said applications were steadily trickling in, but admitted the new venture would take time to establish itself.

Course modules have been designed to cater for as wide a range of instruments as possible and applicants so far include fiddlers, guitarists, accordion and concertina players, but no pipers - traditional to the north east - as yet.

Students applying must have achieved Grade VIII (or the equivalent standard) on their chosen instrument.

In the first two years, undergraduates will receive weekly one-to-one lessons on their main instrument, and half-hour lessons on a second instrument.

Equal status

Head of the music department at the university, Professor Richard Middleton, said he was committed to the development of a department where all kinds of music are valued equally and studied and practised alongside each other.

Joan Baez performs at the Cambridge Folk Festival
It is hoped some of the students will go on to be performers
"We want to give students, who are interested in folk and traditional music, the opportunity to carry their study through to a new stage of depth and sophistication," he said.

It is hoped students on the new programme will go on to make a career out of the their study, he added, such as performance, teaching, arts administration or festival organisation.


The course was developed in association with Folkworks, a Newcastle-based organisation dedicated to the promotion of folk, traditional music, song and dance.

Folkworks co-director, Alistair Anderson - who is also a local pipe and concertina virtuoso - said the course was well-balanced.

"The opportunity to study the whole sweep of this genre of music across these islands and beyond, coupled with a chance to work in great depth on certain areas of tradition, make this a tremendously exciting course."

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