COURTNEY PINE, the only Black composer on the Music A-Level syllabus has been dropped due to course changes fuelled by the coronavirus pandemic.
The examination board at the centre of the controversy, Pearson Edexcel, has since defended its decision to axe the work of the British jazz saxophonist Courtney Pine along with five others.
The decision comes after teachers said that their workloads in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic were too high, and swift change was needed.
Pine’s album Back in the Day had been included in the Pearson Edexcel A-level course’s “popular music and jazz” section, alongside Revolver by the Beatles and Hounds of Love by Kate Bush.
Following next summer, Pine’s work will be removed, and the jazz genre dropped from the renamed “popular music” category.
Speaking to the Guardian, 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.”
Oscar-winning British composer Rachel Portman has also been removed, as were the notable Cuban ensemble La Familia Valera Miranda.
Pearson, however, retained the works from the US film and television composer Danny Elfman, best known for his theme tune for The Simpsons, along with JS Bach and Igor Stravinsky.
Just four women will remain on the new syllabus, including sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar.
A spokesperson for Pearson responded to concerns over the changes.
They said: “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 announced that although certain musicians will not be featured on exams, teacher should continue including the artists in wider listening lists.
It is claimed that this wider listening will remain beneficial examination prep.
In contrast, exam board AQA decided to lower the amount of performances and compositions studied.
Artists such as Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé and Black British composer Labrinth are all included in AQA’s pop music category.
Its jazz option includes the work of the Welsh pianist Gwilym Simcock, alongside Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis.
As these changes are made, Pine added: “I hope that there will be more UK composers who will be asked to contribute to such an important, influential subject.”