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Remembering John Thomson

15th August 2022

John at the 2017 Music Mark Annual Conference

The Board and staff at Music Mark were saddened to hear of the passing of John Thomson earlier this month (August 2022) following a number of years battling cancer.  John will be remembered by all who knew him as a key advocate for music education at a local, regional and national level.

As an experienced teacher, manager, and musician he worked in secondary and residential education prior to managing the music service in Sandwell.  He managed multi-disciplinary teams delivering music and creative arts across all key stages and had a breadth of knowledge and experience of the school music curriculum including examining at GCSE and A Level.  His last role was as the Head of Music and Arts Service for SIPS Education and the lead manager of the Sandwell Music Education Hub.  This role demonstrated his real passion for the impact that music making has on the lives of children and young people from all backgrounds.

John in conversation with colleagues at the 2017 Music Mark Annual Conference

John was a key player in the merger of the Federation of Music Services (FMS) and the National Association of Music Educators (NAME) which was completed in early 2013 and was one of Music Mark’s Trustees until 2017.  The founding Chair of Music Mark, Nigel Taylor, had this to say about John:

I first met John in the late 1990s, when he was Head of Ingestre Residential Arts Centre and I had not long joined Staffordshire County Council. He immediately struck me as a thoughtful, intelligent, and passionate educationist. A few years later he had been promoted to be Head of Sandwell Youth Music where I know he made a significant impact in developing and growing the service. We became good colleagues, especially through the activities of the vibrant West Midlands region of the then Federation of Music Services (FMS). When FMS merged with the then National Association of Music Educators to form Music Mark, John was hugely supportive and often vocal in his advocacy for the new organisation. He was a tireless, and often fearless, professional who always put the needs of young people first. He was passionate for music education, for music of itself, but also for the wider benefits it brought, especially to disadvantaged young people. His work and achievements will be fondly remembered, as will his tremendous humanity and infectious sense of humour. He will be greatly missed.

John also supported his fellow heads of service in the West Midlands even after ill health meant he was no longer able to regularly attend meetings and was officially signed off work.  Many of his colleagues would rightly say that he provided a crucial role as advisor and mentor to them individually as well as collectively as they developed the regional alliance which has become West Midlands Music.  He also continued to provide advice and share his thoughts with all of us in the sector through his contributions on Twitter until just last month.

His legacy is the many, many children and young people who have benefitted from music education through the organisations he worked for and ran, and the staff he encouraged and coached who are continuing his work.  It is clear, as Nigel Taylor has said, that he will be missed and well remembered.