After a week of attending some inspiring events, CEO Bridget Whyte reflects on why it’s so important to take a step back from meetings and emails, listen to the experiences of young people and remember why we do what we do.
I feel lucky to be able to lead a team from my garden office. My commute takes less than a minute and if I walk away from my desk for a screen break I can check how my veg patch is doing or pull a few weeds from the flower bed! Despite working from home, I feel very connected to the Music Mark team, our membership and the wider industry thanks to teams, zoom, emails, social media and of course the old fashioned phone. However, a week like the one I have just had reminds me why getting out and about can help me reflect on why it is so important that Music Mark continues to support, connect and influence on behalf of all those working in music education.
I’ve worked in music education for many years and I expect I’ve attended thousands of concerts and events in that time. I’m always inspired by seeing children and young people perform whether it’s a school concert or a mass event at the Royal Albert Hall (like the great Tri Borough Music Makes Me performance recently). I’m also excited when young people talk about their musical learning, experiences and aspirations. These irregular exchanges serve as an intermittent reminder of why I do what I do, but its rare for me to experience so many of these moments in quick succession as I have over the past week!
On Saturday 8th July I was in Birmingham. Music for Youth were half way through their two-day national festival. I arrived at Symphony Hall not to listen to the musicians performing in the auditorium, but to take part in a Youth Voice Citizen’s Assembly. Hearing from the young people who attended – from across the UK – was so valuable. Their requests for how music education might be provided gave me so much to think about. They reminded me that wanting to learn to sing or play an instrument can occur at any key stage, so support to help someone to start their musical journey needs to be available not just at primary. They also pointed out that ‘pathways to industry’ are needed, but so too are clear career paths within the industry.
On Monday I travelled to London and the Houses of Parliament. A guest of the Bath Phil, I looked forward to hearing more about their Young Carers programme. When one of the hosts asked me if I had brought tissues I should have realised what I was in for! The performance by children and young people from Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) was fantastic – music and words created by them in a 2-day project – but more than that it was a powerful and moving statement of why we must not forget our 800,000 young carers. The lyrics spoke volumes, but so did what some of them said about how the project had impacted their lives:
Elisa, a 12 year old Young Carer said:
‘Please don’t take our music away from us. Music is my safe and calm place.’
Ethan, a 7 year old Young Carer said:
‘Taking part in music projects has helped me make loads of friends and I don’t feel so lonely anymore.’
Gracie, a 13 year old Young Carer said:
‘Making music is a really great distraction from my day to day life; without Bath Phil I wouldn’t have got to play an instrument’.
On Tuesday I was back in Birmingham for the launch of a new resource – Count Me In. Linked to the fantastic Sounds of Intent framework, this new resource provides a set of pieces which schools can use for children and young people with a wide variety of additional needs to make music together. Adam Ockleford and his colleagues talked through the resource and played some videos to help us understand the different levels of musical engagement a teacher might expect. Great stuff, but the highlight of the day was the summer concert we attended after the launch. An annual event run by Services for Education, Students from SEND schools performed either individually or in small groups and the evident joy of both the performers and their peers reinforced why resources like Count Me In are so valuable in facilitating musical learning for all children regardless of disability.
On Wednesday I was back in my garden office – a day of back to back meetings – but by Thursday I was out again in London for an Orchestras for All Modulo performance at The Royal Academy of Music. The performance was joyous and clearly a very special event for both the young musicians on the stage and their parents, carers and teachers in the audience. However, what was particularly special for me was that young people from within the orchestra as well as some of the Orchestras for All ambassadors talked about their experiences both to introduce each piece being played but also at the reception afterwards. As was my experience in Birmingham on Saturday, what I heard was young people passionate about musical learning, talking about how their experiences were helping them with social skills, confidence and wider learning.
In the business of meetings and emails we can often forget the core purpose of what we do – that we are striving to ensure equitable, high quality music education for all children and young people. Events like those I’ve experienced this week have reinforced my determination to ensure Music Mark is supporting the sector to do that! I hope that everyone reading this gets a chance to attend a performance and/or listen to some young people’s feedback as we head into the summer.
The work we do matters, it’s life-changing!
Photos: Bath Phil