New RCO Academy transforms College education and outreach

New RCO Academy transforms College education and outreach

The Royal College of Organists has announced the launch of RCO Academy, marking a major expansion of its education and outreach work.

RCO Academy will significantly increase the number of events organised by the College every year, ensuring a wider range of opportunities for everyone from the youngest beginner through to more experienced organists looking to refine their skills.

The new initiative builds on the RCO’s proven educational programme which began in 1995 with the appointment of the College’s first Education Officer, Simon Williams. Simon now takes on the role of Director of RCO Academy, and has been joined by James Parsons in the new post of Head of Student Development.

Simon said: “Ever since we started our first education programme, the College’s commitment to lifelong learning has grown steadily in response to the demand for different learning opportunities from musicians of all ages and levels of experiences.

“RCO Academy is the biggest review of the College’s education and outreach activity since the 1990s, and is a hugely exciting moment. As well as bringing together a number of established strands and activities under a single banner, it provides opportunity to add a whole suite of new activities to the annual programme.

“The result should be that we can offer something truly motivating for absolutely everyone involved in organ and choral music.”

RCO Academy will run a range of activities across the UK, from single days to week-long events, covering five main areas:

1. Outreach, with events designed to raise awareness and appreciation of organ and choral music;
2. The recruitment and nurturing of the next generation of young musicians;
3. Support for those seeking accreditation in organ playing, organ teaching and choral directing;
4. Lifelong learning and continuing professional development for organists of all standards and aspirations; and
5. Opportunities to share common interests and explore the full glory of the organ and its associated repertoire.

James Parsons, who joins the RCO team as Head of Student Development in January 2010, will have a particular focus on the work with young musicians.

James is a familiar face in music and organ education; he has tutored and supported thousands of young organists through his various teaching and education roles, at Oundle School, St Giles, and Birmingham Conservatoire - and especially as Director of Oundle for Organists, a post he leaves this autumn year after 25 years.

Simon Williams said: “We are absolutely delighted to bring James on board as part of the new Academy team. He is undoubtedly one of the organ’s most articulate advocates, an instantly recognisable face to anyone involved in organ music and education in this country, and a long-standing and active member of the RCO.”

James said: “I feel privileged to join the College team at such an exciting time. The launch of RCO Academy is an ambitious and dynamic development, designed to support everyone involved in organ music and education. I am proud to be in at the outset.”

Among the first events under the new RCO Academy banner will be Raise your Game! workshops for young organists of all standards in London on November 14th and Newcastle-upon-Tyne on January 9th. There are also choral directing workshops scheduled for London and Edinburgh, and a new Finding Your Feet event at Windsor for young beginners and pianists wishing to explore the organ for the first time.

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