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Bridget’s Blog: Music, for goodness sake?

25th April 2022

Music Mark CEO Bridget Whyte

How we advocate for music is an ongoing discussion in the music education world. Should we celebrate music for its intrinsic value alone? Does promoting the additional benefits of music do it a disservice? As Get Playing relaunches for 2022, Bridget considers how Music Mark continues to advocate for music to a wide ranging audience. 

I never really thought about the benefits of learning an instrument growing up or studying music as a subject at school, I just did!  Looking back now however I can see how the discipline of a music education has shaped me as a person and contributed to my skill set which has helped me throughout the career I have pursued.

Of course I work in the music industry so learning about the subject has helped me get (and I hope do well in) the jobs I have had.  And gaining an understanding of how music works allows me to better appreciate the music I listen to and given me a life-long hobby.  But I also now realise that playing with others from an early age has supported my social skills, performing on a stage has helped me to be more confident in public speaking and I even think learning to sight read has helped with my dyslexia.

The argument about music for music’s sake versus music for goodness sake continues to rumble on and as a staff team we were talking about it last week.  Is it right to just talk about the benefits of music in supporting wider education, social skills and wellbeing, or does that belittle the importance of music as a subject in its own right? Why do we as a sector spend our time justifying musical learning by associating it with the wider benefits, when no-one does a that for maths or science?

Music Mark itself has a campaign for schools and for parent/carers which celebrates music as a subject with a wide range of benefits – take a look at Get Playing here. But as a subject association, should we not primarily be promoting it as just that – a curriculum subject which is important as part of a broad and balanced curriculum?

In the end we agreed as a team that music should be promoted as both a subject and a solution; it doesn’t have to be either, or.

‘People who start having music lessons because they’re convinced of the other benefits then also get to experience music for its own sake. I’ve heard of people who’ve been advised to take up a woodwind instrument to help their long-COVID recovery – so they’re doing it for medical reasons, but I’m sure they then also get all the other good aspects of playing music.’

For me it is the audience that should dictate where you focus your argument.  For some people, their priorities are focussed on other outcomes for children and young people and by championing music as a way to achieve those outcomes we are not necessarily dumbing down the subject but helping others to see how great it is!  Engaging more children and young people in musical learning, even if it is initially for other benefits, has surely got to be a good thing?

Like me when I was at primary school, the child will not necessarily think ‘I’m doing this musical learning because it will help with my confidence’ even if that’s why their parent or teacher has suggested they learn the violin!  But they will, hopefully see how great a subject it is.  It might result in them pursuing a career in the industry like I did, but even if it doesn’t it will be the start of a life-long relationship with the subject.