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#MusicMark10: Celebrating milestones and stepping into the next decade

17th April 2023

#MusicMark10, with Music Mark's 10th birthday logo and confetti background.

As we mark our ten-year anniversary, CEO of Music Mark, Bridget Whyte, reflects on the organisation’s milestones since its beginnings, highlights our new strategic priorities for the future, unveils our new video, and introduces the #MusicMark10 blog series.

Milestones celebrated over extended periods are becoming more and more popular. Celebrations for my last significant birthday lasted for about three weeks and included a trip to New York. Whilst perhaps not involving cake, surprises or a flight across the Atlantic, another significant milestone for me this year is that Music Mark has turned 10 years old!

We’ll be celebrating our 10th birthday throughout the whole year, but today we’re sharing the first instalment of our ‘#MusicMark10’ blog series featuring members, partners, and music education advocates. We’ll invite them to reflect on the past ten years whilst looking ahead to what the next ten might hold. I’m kicking off the series today by telling Music Mark’s story so far…

Where it all began
In 2013, as the newly formed UK Association for Music Education, Music Mark was created as a merger of two membership associations – The Federation of Music Societies (or Men in Suits as the late great Margaret Griffiths affectionately called it!) and the National Association of Music Educators. Led by Virginia Hayworth Gault under the skilled chairmanship of Nigel Taylor, this move was in response to Darren Henley’s comment in his 2010 Music Education Review that there were too many music education representative bodies. Admittedly reducing the number by one wasn’t seismic, but it was a start.

A growing network
When Jem Shuttleworth took over in 2014, she worked hard with James Devaney to reconnect with music services and other organisations across the country. By the time Jem left, the membership included all but seven music hub leads, a growing number of industry partners, a core of loyal individual members, a partnership with the ABRSM to support schools and some exciting projects – including Learn Music London and an Arts Council funded WCET report commissioned from BCU.

My Music Mark highlights
By the time I started at Music Mark in June 2017, we had a strong membership in England – and I am proud that we have seen ongoing growth since then. By 2020, our membership included every Hub Lead Organisation (and many of their partners in England), and earlier this year we were joined by every music service in Wales too. We support a growing network of schools and individual members – students, graduates, and other music education professionals across the sector. Other highlights across the past six years include:

  • 6 national conferences across the UK, and 6 regional conferences in the North West and South Yorkshire
  • 5 Spring summits (albeit with snow, pandemic, and train issues besieging some of them) and 2 Summer Summits (2018 and 2020)
  • A growing training and events offer in person and online, including 14 cohorts of our leadership training programme
  • Advocacy campaigns such as the relaunch of 10 Things and the creation of Get Playing
  • Talk into Action – an equity, diversity, and inclusion movement for the music education sector
  • A refresh of A Common Approach relaunched 20 years after the first version was published in 2002
  • Secured over £500k from Arts Council England to support Hubs from 2018 to March 2023

I’m honoured to have worked with so many great people over the years, as staff, consultants, Trustees, advisory committee members, and colleagues across the sector. To note just a few people who have made my job easier, I’d like to thank James Devaney who helped me get started,  Zoe Coakley who I appointed to manage my first annual conference and has been at my side and supported the team for the past six years (we’re going to really miss her this year!), and Stephanie Kennedy who came in as our first Comms and Marketing Manager and immediately made a significant difference to how we now communicate with everyone. The current team are of course amazing too, and excitingly, funding from Arts Council England as part of our three-year support as an Investment Principles Support Organisation means that we can expand. We’ll soon be welcoming Aimee Christodoulou to the team as our new Social Media and Content Officer, and Chris Buglass as our new Membership and Operations Director. By the time we head to Southampton for our Annual Conference in November, we will have 11 or 12 team members – a long way from the staff team of three when I joined Music Mark in 2017.

And what of the next 10 years?
Of course, despite these highlights, it’s been a less than smooth ten years for music education; funding centrally, regionally and locally has not kept up with demand and/or inflation, staff recruitment is becoming harder and harder, and the pandemic really hit Music Education hard. Although I’ve always been a positive ‘glass half full’ kind of person, I am not naïve and know there are continued challenges – known and unknown – on the horizon for the next ten years.

Although challenges persist, I am encouraged by the growing recognition of the transformative potential of music. To me, there does seem to be a stronger understanding in music’s power – as both a subject and a tool for learning – to build communities and promote wellbeing. So with the support of my skilled and expanding team, in the years ahead we will continue to be here to support the sector in navigating challenges, to build partnerships that strengthen our shared message, and to shout loudly for the power of music.

Find out more about just how we’re going to do this in our new three-year strategic priorities:

  • Support – we will provide an engaging, rigorous, and innovative programme of training and professional development that supports the diversity of individuals and organisation types across the sector
  • Partnerships – we will establish and foster partnerships at local, regional, and national levels, promoting the value of collaboration through a UK-wide campaign, and utilise these partnerships to expand access to music education for all children and young people
  • Advocacy – we will continue to advocate at a local, regional and national level for music education and collaborate with partners to develop campaigns and resources, inform policy-making, and highlight activity from across the UK on the international stage
  • Insights and Impact – working collaboratively, we will collate, commission, and expand on research and data that supports our members and ourselves to advocate for music education.

Together with our membership, the wider network, and the national and regional organisations we collaborate with, we will celebrate, support, and advocate for music education as a vital, essential part of the lives of all children and young people. Thank you for coming on this journey with us!

Get to know Music Mark: watch our short video below and read our full strategic plan to find out more about what we’ll be doing over the coming three years.

What have been your music education highlights from the last decade? Let us know on social media and use the hashtag #MusicMark10.