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‘State of the Nation’ Music – the APPG Speaks Out

As part of MWC’s wider engagement in music education, Artistic Director Maria Thomas attended two key music education events this month, the meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education and the 2019 ROH Bridge’s annual conference, The Thriving Child.

In this blog, Maria shares her thoughts about the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Music Education. We’ll take a look at the findings of the ROH Bridge Conference at the end of July.


“The APPG for Music Education meeting took place on Wednesday 19th June at the Palace of Westminster. The event was Chaired by Diana Johnson, MP for Kingston upon Hull North and Chair and Registered Contact of the APPG. In attendance were a wide range of people engaged with music education, from MPs to Music Hub heads, Conservatoire heads, music organisations, and small charities that support young people.

The first speaker was Ian C. Lucas, MP for Wrexham and member of the DCMS Select Committee. Mr Lucas talked about his experiences of music education in Wrexham and his concerns following the loss of the council run music service. He demonstrated how music is being used to bring people into the town centre through festivals such as Singing Streets. With reference to the work of his wife, who is a music teacher and very engaged with the local music community, he lamented that although it benefits schools, students and the community to put on school shows, Ofsted gives no credit for this work.

Lucas went on to discuss recent reports on Live Music including research from Arts Council England and Youth Music, and Participation in Culture and Sport, published by the DCMS Select Committee. He said that while it is clear all these reports give the same message concerning the value of music education, that message is not getting through to Government. 

When the discussion was opened up to the floor, Kevin Brennan, MP for Cardiff West, said that schools should not be awarded ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted unless they have a strong music offer.  Tracy Brabin, MP for Batley and Spen stressed that music should not be just about Head Teachers and Heads of Music.

Discussion about Music Hubs flagged up the fact that funding will be ending in 2020 and at present Hubs have no information about future funding. This naturally makes planning impossible and results in a workforce who have an uncertain future.

Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, explained that the focus on linking sports to health benefits has enhanced the delivery of sport. She suggested that stronger links should be made when it comes to the positive effect of music on mental health. She stressed her concern that music and the Arts are becoming only available to the elite. A suggestion was made that funding for music be ringing-fenced, as funding for sport has been, with a focus on schools working with their local music hubs. MPs agreed to explore this as an option.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the ISM, admitted that there is pressure on finances, but said that music in schools is also being squeezed by time pressures with the focus on SATs and other exams.

One Music Hub raised the point that Music Hubs are tasked with working with every school in their area, but schools are not pressured to work with their local Music Hub. It was also highlighted that some schools that join an Academy chain are told they cannot use their local music hub and must instead use suppliers identified by the Academy chain.

The second panel member, Zena Creed, Director of Communications and External Relations for The Russell Group, updated the attendees on recent developments at the Russell Group Universities, including the changes to their subject choice guidance and the decision to scrap facilitating subjects. She highlighted that the previous approach by Russel Group Universities of highlighting ‘facilitating subjects’ at A-Level had led to confusion and potentially impacted negatively on the number of young people taking Arts A-Levels. Their new website has more specific guidance and is now actively promoting Music and other Arts A-Levels.

The third speaker was Dr Alison Daubney, Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Sussex and author of the recent Music Education: State of the Nation report. She underlined the lack of KS2 and Year 9 music in some schools, and the decline in the number of young people taking GCSE and A-Level music – leading to Music becoming the fastest disappearing A-Level subject. She mentioned that some geographical areas have no A-Level music applications and that the strongest number of applications come from private schools: In essence, there is no equitable access to A-Level music across the country. 

Dr Daubney also discussed the lack of Ofsted reports exploring music, pointing out that where music is discussed, it is sometimes only mentioned in one sentence in the report! She emphasised her concerns that Music Hubs are being expected to be ‘all-things-to-all-people’, delivering early years through to A-Level.

It was mentioned that the system of bell curve marking severely impacted the number of students getting high grades due to the small number of applicants which may encourage high achieving students to select other subjects at A-Level.

Two key concerns for many in the room were the fact that Academies do not have to follow the National Curriculum and the impact of the EBacc, something the ISM have been actively campaigning against. The worry is that with no requirement to teach music in Academies and no focus on the Arts in the EBacc, many schools will choose to omit music from the classroom altogether.”

Are you a teacher or music educator? We’d love to hear your response to these points and your ideas for the future of music education. Let us know in the comments or find us on Facebook.

The New Tradition

How the National Youth Folk Ensemble offers opportunities for young musicians

The National Youth Folk Ensemble was set up in 2016 by the English Folk Dance & Song Society to provide a progression route for talented young folk musicians. Ensemble members experience intensive residential courses where they create new arrangements of folk tunes, guided by inaugural Artistic Director Sam Sweeney and a team of leading folk artists. 

Watch this film to find out more: 

During the courses, which are funded by Arts Council England, the tutors support the young musicians to develop their individual musicianship and ensemble skills in an environment of creativity and collaboration. 

National Youth Folk Ensemble playing instruments

Elye Cuthbertson, aged 14, melodeon: 

I discovered folk music for the first time when I attended a course at Cecil Sharp House when I was 9 years-old, and I loved it! So I kept going, and later joined the London Youth Folk Ensemble. When I first watched the National Youth Folk Ensemble perform, they blew me away and inspired me to try to take my folk music to the next level. Since then, the Ensemble has taught me a lot about my own solo playing and playing in a group. The tutors are great at challenging us beyond what we thought we could do and they guide us really well, while letting us contribute our ideas and make the decisions. On the last residential course, they helped prepare us for our gig, but they emphasised the point that it was our gig, not theirs! We were also encouraged to think about how we play music: that it’s the small, subtle ‘nuances’ that really give a tune its life. I’ve also learned a lot just from playing with the other young people. It’s not often you get about 20 talented folk musicians under the age of 20 (or even 60!) all playing together! But when it happens, I think it’s pretty magical.

One important aim of the Ensemble programme is to raise the profile of folk music by taking it to new audiences. During our most recent residency, in Giggleswick, North Yorkshire, the Ensemble performed for local school children and we collaborated with youth music charity NYMAZ to film the concert for an online audience. 

National Youth Folk Ensemble on stage

Visit www.connectresound.live/watch to view the film and download the teachers’ resource pack. 

Sean Spicer, aged 16, harmonica:

The Giggleswick concert was terrific. We played five numbers that we had arranged together, from Winders Hornpipe to the experimental Apple Processional written by fiddle tutor Emma Reid, which had an eerie improvised introduction. Even though this was my first public performance with the Ensemble and I was slightly nervous as we went on stage, my butterflies were soon replaced by exhilaration. It was very special to play collaboratively in a unit, and having such a supportive and enthusiastic audience of school students brought the performance to life. It is rare in a folk audience to see so many young faces. With the live stream also going out across the country, it really felt as if we were making a connection and spreading the message.

National Youth Folk Ensemble on stage

Another aim is to improve practice in folk music education, and we are encouraging the Ensemble members to develop skills as educators and leaders. 

Rowan Collinson, aged 17, 5-string fiddle 

For me, performing with the National Youth Folk Ensemble is one of the best feelings in the world and this gig was particularly special. Working with NYMAZ, we had a brilliant opportunity to showcase folk music to children and young people in the theatre and online. This made it a very different experience to a normal gig and it was great to be able to include interactive workshop sections to really engage with our audience. Actively demonstrating how we took a tune from an old manuscript and created an arrangement really involved the audience, and they all seemed to enjoy clapping and stamping the different rhythms of 3/2 hornpipes and jigs!

Of course, interacting with an audience is quite a challenge – there are no second chances! The tutors helped us prepare, working not just on the music but also on our stage presence and confidence to communicate with the audience. We had an amazing session with musician and theatre practitioner Tim Dalling who helped us to really be ourselves on stage.

It was amazing experience to share something that means so much to us with a new young audience in such a dynamic and innovative way. I really hope this concert has inspired children across the country to get into folk music!

Young musician with five string fiddle

If you are interested in learning more about folk music, or are inspired to apply for the National Youth Folk Ensemble, come along to a free Youth Folk Sampler Day! These are creative workshop days for 14-18 year olds, with optional auditions, taking place across England in May half-term. 

Visit www.efdss.org/youthfolk to book your free place. 

All images by Camilla Greenwell courtesy of the National Youth Folk Ensemble.


If you are interested in finding out more about the Music Workshop Company’s range of bespoke experiences, or would like to be featured in our guest blog, contact us today.

Music Mark Conference 2018 – Youth Voice

On Thursday 22ndand Friday 23rdNovember 2018, Kenilworth welcomed music educators from across the country to Music Mark’s 2018 annual conference to discuss the theme of “Youth Voice.” MWC’s Maria Thomas was there…

With sessions on topics such as Whose Music Education is it?, Trust the music – connection with young audiences, Youth Governance, Ensembles and young people, and Reaching out to Young People – Shake up your marketing and communications strategy, one key message was engaging young people in the music education discussion.

But there were also discussions on the gender gap in music – currently across the UK only 14% of music creators (composers and songwriters)  registered with the Performing Rights Society (PRS) are women – increasing investment in and access to musicmaking for deaf children and young people, mental health and wellbeing support for teachers within music services and hubs, careers in the creative industry, music workshops designed to support the development of speech and language  and wellbeing for children and young people.

Of course, with so many interesting workshops and discussions taking place, it is difficult to choose which to attend! So here are thoughts from a couple of sessions.

One session, led by Philip Flood from Sound Connections explored routes into music education as a career, with a particular focus on instrumental teaching and workshop leading. Three music hubs described their work in supporting early career educators and CPD.

Adam Hickman from Services for Education, Birmingham and Luan Shaw from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire discussed how they work together to offer Conservatoire students training and experience as instrumental teachers both at Undergraduate and Postgraduate level. They also reflected on how this has helped with wider CPD through the development of an online resource pack including videos.

Michael Davidson and Ije Amaechi talked about how Hertfordshire Music Service are focussing on diversifying their workforce of instrumental teachers and workshop leaders bringing together both teachers from a traditional teaching background and community musicians to share good practice. Ije talked about her journey from a participant on a songwriting course to being a workshop leader herself and highlighted how reflection sessions after workshops has helped her develop her skills.

Open Mic attracted me & then songwriting workshops were more appealing than grades. I’ve since performed at the Albert Hall & became a trainee tutor, shadowing across different projects & groups was useful to me, and reflecting after each session. 

Ije AmaechiTim Shephard from the University of Sheffield talked about his relationship as Chair of the Sheffield Music Hub, and shared his experience of working with Ian Naylor, Head of Music Education at Sheffield Music Hub to create opportunities for students to get involved in outreach through Music in the City and Music for Youth. It has also led to the development of a BA Music Education where Sheffield Music Hub offers training and opportunities to the University of Sheffield students.

An interesting question was raised in the whole room discussion:  

When are people good enough as tutors / workshop leaders?

This is particularly relevant to those who come to music education through non-traditional routes, and so the question was asked, “If a qualification is needed, how could it be completely accessible?”

One of the afternoon sessions, chaired by Youth Music’s CEO, Matt Griffiths explored inclusion in music education. As Matt stated at the beginning of the session, the debate has moved from, “Is inclusion needed?” to “How do we embed inclusion?” The first presentation was by Holly Radford of Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) who explained how music hubs around the Midlands had come together, facilitated by MAC and led by Phil Mullen, to explore how inclusion can be embedded in their work. The feedback from participants in the room demonstrated how useful the process had been for engaging with a range of local bodies such as local councils to develop support for music education.

The second presentation was by Michael Davidson of Hertfordshire Music Service discussing the work of MusicNet East, a collaboration between 4 music services (Hertfordshire, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk), supported by Youth Music who are all exploring inclusion in different ways. Michael talked about the work of Hertfordshire Music Service and how they are developing projects to fit the needs of educational bodies and participants, for example their work with Pupil Referral Units and their Songwriter programme. Delegates from Cambridge and Essex also shared their experiences of how these programmes are helping to get the value of music education as an aid to inclusion on the wider education agenda.

As Matt Griffiths, CEO of Youth Music tweeted at the end of the conference:

Main observation #MusicMark2018 was a collective will to innovate & change. Informed by & with young people, their lives in music, and acting on the school challenges we face. We can stand still, observe & moan or step up & transform. I’m totally for the latter #musicalinclusion


Music Award for Young People Highlights Mental Health

Applications are open for a music award that supports young musicians from South East London.

Designed for artists between 16 and 25 years old who display musical talent, performance skills, business acumen and are passionate about forging a successful career, the Ed Renshaw Award was set up in 2012 in memory of an accomplished young guitarist who tragically took his own life aged just 30.

Renshaw was a gifted musician. Born in Greenwich in 1981 and a student at Thomas Tallis School, he began learning guitar aged 10. Music broadcaster Sandy Burnett called him: “a supremely talented jazz and classical guitarist.” But Renshaw also suffered with bouts of depression, and in 2011 he lost his struggle.

Judged by representatives from Peter Conway Management, a music management and promotions company which runs the award, and The Albany, a performing arts centre driven by the cultural diversity and creative mix of south east London, the Ed Renshaw Award is open to solo artists and bands. Cash prizes of between £1000 and £3000 help young musicians fund their career plans. Prizes also include mentorship and support from Peter Conway Management and rehearsal and performance space at The Albany. Winners are invited to partake in four live concerts between October 31st and November 3rd 2018, with headline acts to be announced later in the year. Musicians are chosen for their originality, talent and commitment, regardless of genre.

In its third bi-annual outing, Peter Conway Management and The Albany welcome a new partner, the national charity Youth Music. Funded by the National Lottery via Arts Council England, Youth Music exists to support children and young people, to build their confidence, resilience and self-esteem, and to develop the skills they need to succeed.

Youth Music’s CEO, Matt Griffiths says:

We’re very pleased to support this award, which will provide vital career progression opportunities and support young musicians who might otherwise miss out.

Renshaw’s life is regularly commemorated by concerts at The Albany. Staged by family and friends in partnership with Peter Conway Management, proceeds from the events combine with donations from members of the public towards the award.

Winners from 2016 were Megan Tuck and Blinkz Virgo, and Jay Johnson and in 2014 prizewinners included Lucy Cait whose song Gabriel’s Wharf has been featured on the BBC’s Steve Lamacq’s Rock College.

The closing date for applications is Thursday June 28th and shortlisted applicants will be interviewed by the awards panel on Saturday 14th July. Application forms can be found at thealbany.org.uk.

If you or a friend or colleague is suffering from depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, use the links on this advice page from Help Musicians to find help. 

Those needing help and emotional support can also call Music Support on 0800 030 6789 or call the Help Musicians’ dedicated mental health helpline on 0808 802 8008. It’s free of charge and someone will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to take your call.

We Do Have a Voice

Sound Connections is a London based charity working to strengthen the music sector, bridge gaps in provision and deliver landmark music programmes. The charity’s Wired4Music council, made up of young people from a diverse cross-section of the community, all passionate about music, was set-up in 2009 to voice opinions on music education and raise awareness of musical opportunities. Since then they have established themselves as the only pan-London youth council with a music focus.

Wired4Music member Tyler Edwards, an emerging artist and producer spoke at the Music Education Expo about his vision for music education. 

“As a creative young person, I’ve found it ever more important to have the courage to express my ideas, thoughts and goals. But not everything can be done on our own.

Being given a platform and an opportunity to take responsibility for the things I want to achieve has been vital for my first steps towards being an adult and a professional.

The trust and belief that Wired4Music has had in me to take charge of roles that I would otherwise not have seen myself suitable for because I’m ‘young’ or ‘might not be ready’ has had a profound effect on the way I approach the challenges I’m faced with. The meetings and drop-ins that they hold have helped to foster a great working culture that inspires open collaboration and a way for us to manage projects ourselves, with a helping hand whenever we might need it.

I’ve had the chance to contribute ideas and facilitate events like the Wired4Music Rising Futures symposium at the Roundhouse, which is focused on empowering young people in their own music making. I’ve taken part in the Leadership Programme where we pitch our own music projects to be funded and brought to life and through the rest of my time at Wired4Music, I’ve been given the opportunity to guide workshop discussions and share my opinions with people who have the power to make change in their own organisations. 

We’re not asking to be isolated and completely separate from any form of guidance, we just want to know that we can openly discuss and suggest how we are involved with our progress and that we’ll be included in all aspects of our journey.

To me, youth voice is about having  a chance to prove to others and most importantly to ourselves that we do have a voice that can make a difference, breaking down the impractical barriers between educators and learners that stop the best work being made.

With these small steps we can work towards the trust and active participation of both teachers and students for true diversity, accessibility and collaboration to flourish in music education.”

Tyler’s opinion piece was written for a speech that he co-presented with Sound Connections Programme Manager Jennifer Raven at Music Education Expo 2017. It was part of a panel called “Hear me now: diversity, inclusion and youth voice in national music education policy and practice”, which was chaired by Pete Moser (More Music Morecambe) and also featured Carol Reid (National Foundation for Youth Music), John Kelly and Douglas Noble (Drake Music), Samantha Spence (Ealing Music Service).

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If you would like to hear more from Sound Connections, you can sign-up to their newsletter for the latest sector news, jobs and training or follow them on Twitter @sconnections

Give a Gig for Youth Music

Youth Music is a national charity investing in music-making projects for children and young people facing challenging circumstances. These challenges include disability, poverty, mental health issues, refugee status or being brought up in care. Founded in 1999, Youth Music runs more than 350 projects across England, facilitating music making for around 75,000 children and young people.

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This March, the charity is running a week-long music making extravaganza. Give a Gig week, which runs from March 24th to 31st 2017, is a nationwide project asking musicians to put on performances supporting young people. The aim is to see 100 gigs in settings from living rooms, local pubs and community facilities to legendary music venues or even more unusual spaces. York-based covers band, The Monotones, plan to stream gigs live from all Three Peaks in the Yorkshire Pennines!

Matt Griffiths, Youth Music’s CEO, says:

We’re really excited about Give a Gig Week. The money raised from the 100 gigs across the country will ensure that young people experiencing challenges in their lives can regularly make music. Musicians, bands and those making music for fun know first-hand the personal and social benefits of music making and how it can help overcome really difficult situations. I urge you to get involved and put on a gig so that many more young people have that opportunity too.

Youth Music supports practical, creative music making of every possible style and technique, with activities including songwriting, music production and performance.  Projects include the Songbirds project, which provides music making for seriously ill children at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, and Amies Freedom Choir in London, supporting young women who have been trafficked into the UK.

These opportunities improve personal and social skills as well as helping young people develop musically, and can give participants the tools to face difficult challenges in their lives. Communities divided by prejudice or gangs can be brought together to perform. Learning to write song lyrics can enable a bereaved teenager to express and process grief. Making hip-hop beats can help a young person to understand maths in a way they perhaps couldn’t grasp at school.

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Before their chart-topping success, hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks performed on the Youth Music stage at the Underage Music Festival in 2009. The duo explain:

Without Youth Music we wouldn’t have got to where we are today, honestly! We’re supporting Give a Gig ‘cause we want others to have the same opportunities for making music that we did.

Laura Mvula honed her songwriting skills with Black Voices, a project supported by Youth Music in Birmingham. Now working as an Ambassador for the charity, Laura says:

Give a Gig is a really good idea because it allows singers, musicians and venues to do what they’re already doing for the benefit of a young person.

 seb_hr_high-resAnd pop star Sophie Ellis-Bextor spoke up for the initiative:

Music is a huge part of my life and I feel so lucky to have been able to make a career out of something that I love so much. Youth Music creates music-making opportunities for thousands who would otherwise miss out. That’s why I’m supporting Give a Gig – so others can experience the joys of music as I’ve done.

It’s easy to get involved – Youth Music offers a useful support pack with advice on planning and promoting gigs, as well as an online poster generator for creating publicity materials. Sign up at www.giveagig.org.uk

Follow Give a Gig Week:

Twitter@giveagig  #giveagig

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/giveagigweek

Instagram: http://instagram.com/give_a_gig

Online: www.giveagig.org.uk

Give a Gig Week takes place nationwide from 24 -31 March, 2017. To register your gig visit www.giveagig.org.uk

 

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