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Bridget’s Blog: Embedding Youth Voice in Music Education

27th September 2021

Music Mark CEO Bridget Whyte

It shouldn’t, but it always amazes me how articulate and thought-provoking young people can be and how valuable their contribution is to any discussion they are invited to be involved in about their music education.

In 2018 I decided that our theme for the annual conference would be Youth Voice.  It was a simple idea but as I unpacked what that might mean I realised that it might not be quite that simple in practice.  The year before I had run a fairly ‘standard’ music education conference – keynotes, workshops and some great performances by students from Warwickshire, Birmingham and Berkshire Music Services.  As I started to think about the 2018 programme however, I realised that for us to practice what we were about to preach, young people’s involvement would need to be more than just turning up and performing!

To develop our thinking and to better understand what a youth voice conference might look like, we asked Sound Connections to help.  They challenged us to avoid tokenism (so not simply asking young people to rock up and perform without any idea why they were there and who they were playing to) and not to just invite people to speak, but also give them a say in the development and delivery of events.  They shared lots of great guidance and ideas with us and the team began to get quite excited by the possibilities we might explore.

For those of you who joined us in November 2018 in Warwickshire you may remember that we had a number of youth-planned and led panels, a great young keynote speaker Faz Shar and we were ably supported across the two days by a group of young people who staged a ‘social media takeover’ – managing our Twitter, Facebook and (newly created) Instagram accounts. They also wrote reviews of their experiences to help us to learn from them.  I am hopeful that the conference inspired others to think about how to involve young people in the development of the work they do.  We all talk about putting children and young people at the heart, but how often do we ask them to advise us and lead us to provide their music education?

Three years on and although we know that much has been done by many to amplify the young peoples’ voices, we thought it might be useful to look again at ways we could inspire everyone to (further) embed youth voice into all aspects of music education.

As part of my research back in 2018 I discovered a great report on youth voice in governance published by the Roundhouse.  It was only when I was talking to the team a few months ago about the idea of doing some more work around Youth Voice that I discovered one of our consultants – Carmel Cardona – was in fact an author of the brilliant Roundhouse report! She had some really exciting ideas for how we might run a youth voice presentation; so exciting in fact that the original plan to a run a one-hour session has now expanded into a three-session mini-series taking place over the coming months. The first session of the series will take place next week on 7 October with a panel discussion exploring the possibilities of youth voice. We’re also hoping to develop a resource to share alongside these presentations, having made so many contacts and rich conversations in the process of developing these events. Carmel has shared some of her thoughts and the common themes emerging from these conversations here.

As if that wasn’t enough to look forward to in the first week of October, Sound Connections are not only continuing to help us support you, but on 4 – 8 October they are running their second Youth Voice week after its success last year. Take a look here.

Over the coming weeks why not get in touch to tell us more about what you’ve been doing to put young people at the heart of your planning and decision making, and we’ll see you for our first session on Thursday 7th!

Our Youth Voice webinar series begins on 7 October with a panel session exploring the possibilities for youth voice. Find out more and sign up here.