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#MusicMark10: Reflecting on our 10th Birthday

9th April 2024

White banner with the words 'Music Mark is 10' with the Music Mark logo inside the 0.

As we reach the end of our 10th birthday blog series, Bridget reflects on the other articles posted throughout the year and the changes the music education sector has faced in the last decade.

Well that’s our 10th Birthday year over! It’s been quite a year for many reasons, but in terms of our birthday it’s been a great way to reflect on the past and look to the future. There have been so many inspiring and thought provoking articles and I’d like to first thank everyone who has written something for us. The themes of change, diversity and inclusion, listening to the voices of everyone in music education and the value of partnerships have been really strong in all of them.

Change can mean many things and there are many areas of music education in which change is happening or needs to happen. Reflecting on the changing way we deliver music education Darren Canmore head of the music service in Northern Ireland noted that ‘technology has become an integral part of our day-to-day working…. an essential strand of our service delivery’. Our outgoing Chair at Music Mark, James Dickinson, also talked about change highlighting how ‘services evolve to represent the musical interests of young people’ a thought echoed by Charlotte Payne from Inspiring Music who commented on how children and young people’s ‘needs continuously change’.

For me however, Roger Wilson from Black Lives in Music, was perhaps the most insightful when talking about change. He was specifically talking about changing mindsets and practice linked to the music and musicians of the Global Majority, but his words could easily be expanded to consider change more generally. His statement that ‘fear continues to be a factor in the speed of change’ was a powerful one. That fear is something we all need to overcome to make changes.

In considering the musical interests of young people, listening to them and valuing their voices was also a theme across the year. Liz Coomb from Sound Connections perfectly summed up the development of youth voice – ‘From youth advisory groups to young people sitting on boards, to young people co-designing programmes and the development of different pathways to support young people from being a participant to a practitioner – we’ve come a long way in the past decade.’

2023 saw a focus on championing Equity Diversity and Inclusion through our Talk into Action Campaign. We continue to focus on this vital area of work across all protected characteristics, but reflecting back across the last ten years many of our contributors identified that as a sector, Music Education has made some significant steps in the right direction. Ben Sellers of Uprising noted that ‘music projects that integrate specialist and mainstream settings offer a simple yet powerful opportunity to use music as the context for increased integration.’ Whilst it is right to celebrate successes we must also continue to strive for a fully inclusive sector in every sense of the word, and Roger Wilson challenged us to think about this in his blog: ‘Structures both real and metaphorical can’t be razed to the ground and rebuilt in a heartbeat. The stones of tradition need to be replaced with the bricks of change and secured with the cement of relevance.’ We all agree there is still much more to do, but I was encouraged by this statement from Ben – ‘Fast forward a decade, and I see a transformation in hub-led inclusive provision’.

Inclusion can also be used as a word to describe how Music Mark works to support and connect individuals – to help them feel part of a community. Over the years there have been many reports and articles talking about the isolation of instrumental, vocal and curriculum music teachers. Thinking back to Darren’s point about technology, there were others who reflected on how Zoom, Teams, online training, and even social media platforms have brought people together. The Early Years article was a good case in point – the online community became a much more important part of practitioners’ support structure…. now we can take part in learning all over the world’.

Bringing people together in communities can also lead to partnership working which was another strong theme in the articles we published. Charlotte Payne again provided a great summary of why – ‘there is a real strength in us all working together… to enrich and empower our children and young people through music’.

So what about the next 10 years? For Music Mark I feel confident that we will continue to see change, hopefully most of which will be positive and transformational, although we know that some change may be more challenging. I am confident that young people will have a stronger voice and will help to lead the way in the development of their music education and that this will support a more inclusive, equitable and diverse offer. We’ll also see technology develop and hopefully that will have an impact on musical learning, but also on building communities of practice and partnership. And I’ll let Liz Coomb have the final word. I loved how when talking about what we do, she hoped that ‘…instead of [youth voice and participation] being seen as ‘best practice’ it is ‘universal practice’’.