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Recruitment, Change, and Alternate Universes: Inside the 2023 Spring Summit

12th April 2023

Having attended the 2023 Spring Summit as part of her placement with Music Mark, Julia Cusworth – second year undergraduate Music and English Literature student at Cardiff University – recalls and reflects on the event.  

March 31 marked Music Mark’s annual Spring Summit, an event for music services around the UK to congregate, to learn, and to support each other. Although the weather in London was not the best, the atmosphere inside Coram’s Elizabeth II Centre was a much warmer one as professionals got the chance to catch up in person; something that still seems like an exciting rarity in a post-lockdown world.

The day began with a session on recruitment and retention of music teachers – a topic that has been high on the agenda as of late for many. However, it was refreshing to see such a varied range of approaches to understand what young people are looking for and how to fund/design the qualifications and experiences to do so. To me, an undergraduate student with classmates who may want to go into the teaching profession, it reassured me how much music services value our wants and needs.

Spring Summit delegates sit around tables with their backs to the camera watching a presentation on screenFirst up was Robbie Gardiner from the RNCM, talking us through their PGCE programme and how they feed their students into the Bolton Music Service, giving talented, conservatoire-trained instrumentalists a streamlined and thoroughly thought-out opportunity to explore and develop their desires to become music teachers. From there, Edsential’s Alison Corton and consultant Gary Griffiths presented a still-developing plan to introduce an apprenticeship in teaching music – a concept which generated a lot of buzz in the room. Followed by this was Anna Lang from Berkshire Maestros, presenting what seemed like an amazing opportunity for graduate instrumentalists from the top conservatoires and universities to embark on a seamless, paid, and bespoke course to become music teachers. Finally, with one of the most impactful segments of the session for me, Yasmin Ali from Lewisham Music gave a stunning piece of acapella rap.  The piece highlighted the struggles minorities face when trying to be recruited – an experience that I’m sure hit home for a majority white, cisgendered cohort. Following this was a presentation by Charly Richardson, talking us through the process Lewisham Music are undergoing to diversify their workforce. Actions include making job descriptions more accessible, making interview questions available to candidates beforehand, and removing details such as names, gender and specific university names in initial shortlisting, to eliminate any unconscious bias. Overall, this morning session proved to be very beneficial to attendees, one stating that ‘… the session on recruitment and retention of teachers was particularly interesting as we were able to hear from other organisations on their work and best practice.’

After lunch was the much-awaited keynote by Vaughan Fleischfresser, titled The Alternate Universe we Create: Inspiring You and your Pupils. One particular quote from him that stuck by me was ‘we don’t need a recovery curriculum. We just need The Arts.’ He then elaborated on this in several areas: communication and expression, friendship and acceptance, actualisation of ability and engagement, provision of purpose, and the beauty of belonging. Listening to him speak so passionately about the significance of music education to young people certainly resonated with me. After all, I was one of the children he described who made a beeline for the practice rooms at break and lunchtime. Without the support of my A Level class teacher and my singing teacher in sixth form, I would not have had the confidence or drive to pursue music at all! Several attending members join me, saying, ‘Vaughan was very motivational and entertaining’. His words proved to be a brilliant Friday afternoon uplift for everyone.

Dr Ayesha Nathoo and Susannah Tresilian present in front of a screen. There are sticky post it notes on the wall behind them The final event of the day was interactive and focused on managing change – a session ran by Susannah Tresilian, Dr Ayesha Nathoo and Carmel Cardona. It was refreshing to collaborate with people on your table, and in breakout rooms for those joining online. Sharing experiences about the emotional variance when navigating change was very interesting, with some describing similar experiences where others noticed differences. From there, we were encouraged to remember three steps to navigating change effectively, both in professional and personal settings: pause and prepare, communicate clearly and attain and maintain. Although not directly associated with music services and education, these words of wisdom and collective sharing of experiences was a brilliant, different, and interactive way to end the day.

The Spring Summit ended with networking, tea and coffee – a great way to reflect on the three, diverse sessions we heard throughout the day. It’s fair to say that the event was both a success in-person and online, with a relaxed yet deeply productive and informative atmosphere.

By Julia Cusworth