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Research Shorts: Music Education Partnership Projects

24th October 2023

a woman with dark blonde hair and a dark green top is smiling at the camera, against a white wallThis week I’ve been talking to Dr Emma Nenadic, who finished and was awarded her PhD this year on Music Education Partnership Projects (MEPPs) at BCU, where she’s now a research assistant. Emma’s work is particularly important to hubs and services planning new kinds of partnerships, and to teachers and researchers embarking on new activities between organisations to support music education activities.

I asked Emma about the key research question of her work, which is handily its title: ‘Where is the learning between young people, teachers, and professional musicians during MEPPs?’

This research draws on a range of backgrounds: Emma told me her work looked at MEPPS ‘spanning choral, orchestral, and contemporary music settings. This drew on the perspectives of children and young people, teachers, professional musicians, learning and participation managers and funders.’

I asked her what these kinds of partnerships provided, she said MEPPS offer ‘rich potential for learning. Connecting with musicians, access to professional performance spaces and inspiring future in-school music-making were key motivations for schools.’ And are there draw backs? ‘The twists and turns of each case study (of which there were many!) demonstrated that MEPPs are equally capable of being empowering and disempowering to participants.’ How could we work to mitigate these risks?: 

‘Communication is key to developing more effective learning cultures within MEPPs, including consulting with young people, music organisations developing deeper contextual awareness of partner schools, and facilitating spaces for musicians and teachers to explore how they would like to collaborate together.’

This project like several of those we’ve looked at before, was completed using a broad range of approaches, in this case observations of MEPP sessions, semi-structured individual interviews with adults, group interviews with children and young people, and document analysis. Emma also talked to senior leaders from Arts Council England, Youth Music, Arts Connect and a Music Hub to gain broader perspectives.

Emma told me that her thesis makes ‘recommendations for schools, music organisations, funders, policy makers and researchers’ on how to improve processes. After completing this major achievement, Emma says she is now ‘co-researching primary school composing, the development of creative pedagogies in primary school curricula and the impact of adapted instruments and equipment on access to whole class ensemble tuition. Partnership working is present in all of these projects, so I am never far away from my doctoral research!’

You can read the thesis online here, or follow Emma on X (yes, we’re really going to have to start calling it X) here.

Interview by Dr Sarah K. Whitfield – Research Lead for Music Mark 

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