Taking ABRSM Further by our new CEO

2 years ago
Chris Cobb

ABRSM is rightly proud of its role in setting the gold standard for music education and its reputation as a world leading music education organisation and commissioner and publisher of music - but it can go much further.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with people across, and beyond, the organisation and gained a real sense of its strengths – the calibre of its staff, the loyalty of customers and the reach of its brand. The same discussions have given me a valuable sense of where some of the opportunities ahead may lie.

In my university world I often spoke of the potential of digital assessment to make examination more authentic and accessible. As the incoming CEO of ABRSM, I’ve been impressed by the success of the pioneering Performance Grade and the potential it demonstrates for digital music examinations to sit aside physical exams as credible alternatives, which are equal in quality and meet the high standards expected of an ABRSM qualification.

Beyond this, I’m interested in finding ways of reaching more people, making music learning accessible and making sure that ABRSM is relevant to the lives of everyone, and not seen as an elitist organisation which exists for the good of a small group of people in selected areas of the UK.

The key for me is for ABRSM to become more candidate centred: for us to be ready to examine a candidate when the candidate is ready to be examined, rather than when we’re ready to examine them. My mantra will be anytime, anywhere. I’d also like to give candidates choices over the mode of their examination (digital or physical) and to provide educational support and incremental steps towards achieving their grade. Formative testing and disaggregation of the practical grade into component parts (sight, aural and performance) which can be examined separately could be one way of achieving this. Ultimately, we all want candidates to succeed, we want to inspire their progression and for them to be able to demonstrate their musicality and musicianship in multiple ways.

ABRSM plays a significant role in advocating the value of music education and the contribution that music makes to a child’s development. Our support for the 2019 Music Commission is testament to this and we are proud too of our contribution to the collaboration on the new Model Music Curriculum. Continuing this journey, I anticipate ABRSM doing more to support music teachers and provide them with the means and materials to support music education. As well as the webinars, conferences and engagement with Music Education Hubs and other valued partners, I envisage more teaching materials being digitised and greater recognition of music teaching accreditation. I’d also like to do more to support the role that technology plays in music education, composition, performance and production.

One of ABRSM’s most precious assets is its links with the Royal Schools of Music who are among the world’s leading music conservatoires. In building ABRSM’s future I will seek new ways of harnessing this partnership to help us drive the quality of everything we do.

Another ambition will be to extend ABRSM’s international reach. We already operate in more than 90 countries and the advent of digital examinations will inevitably extend that reach further. When travel restrictions permit, physical examinations will return but 2020 has shown how much can be achieved both locally and virtually and I would hope that in the future, the environmental impact of ABRSM’s international operations can be reduced significantly.

As with many organisations adapting their businesses to the pandemic, ABRSM has had its setbacks and false starts. I’d like to personally thank all of ABRSM’s stakeholders for their loyalty and support during this period of adjustment and for their continued patience as we move from reactive digital substitution to more streamlined digital transformation.

I can’t begin to describe how proud and privileged I am to be leading ABRSM through this transformation.

At the heart of it all, will be the music, and you’ll be seeing and hearing an ever richer variety of music from an increasingly diverse community of composers included in our syllabuses and publications as we move forward. Our recently published Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, and commitment to working to represent the countries and candidates that we serve, will make sure of that.

Whether you are a candidate, parent or sector colleague, we look forward to working with you in the years ahead.





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