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Tackling Professional Isolation: Bringing Vocal and Instrumental Teachers Together

6th March 2023

Catherine Brentnall is a Music Education Consultant and Editor of the resource ‘A Common Approach’

Music education consultant and A Common Approach editor Catherine Brentnall highlights the issue of isolation among vocal and instrumental teachers and introduces Music Mark’s plans to tackle this. 

Music education has opportunities for young people to learn with and from each other at its core. Group lessons, ensembles and performances all encourage collaboration, a sense of community, and the sharing of knowledge, skills and ideas. As vocal and instrumental teachers we are very aware of the benefits of peer learning for young people, and when asked to reflect I believe most would agree that peer learning is just as important for adults. But how many of us have regular opportunities to engage in it?

“Despite the fact that we thrive on creating opportunities for young people to come together, our job can sometimes be lonely.”

However skilfully we maximise the benefits of peer learning for those we teach, we ourselves may be working in isolation. Private vocal and instrumental teachers often work by themselves. Those working for music services/hubs and other organisations may have the benefit of belonging to a team of teachers, but in practice they may have few opportunities to connect with colleagues due to the timetabling and location of their work. Some may find themselves the only teacher of their discipline, or the only person with their particular job role. When teaching in schools it can be hard to find the time to interact with school-based staff. In short, despite the fact that we thrive on creating opportunities for young people to come together, our job can sometimes be lonely.

Last year the ISM published The Case for Change, a report on the peripatetic instrumental and vocal workforce which highlighted issues of professional isolation among peripatetic music teachers. The Case for Change recommended that ‘organisations should commit to reducing professional isolation and improving respect for music teachers, and provide support and opportunities for visiting staff to connect with others.’ Limited resources can make this a challenge at a local level, so can we benefit from casting the net more widely?

With supporting and connecting as two of its core roles, Music Mark has long provided opportunities for networking at a national level, including groups for heads of service, senior leaders, business managers and curriculum leads (check out the full list here). I am delighted to be extending this through the creation of a new peer network specifically for vocal and instrumental teachers.

This network is for vocal and instrumental teachers at all stages of their careers, whether you are just starting out or have been teaching for many years, and its aim is to bring people together and encourage the sharing of ideas and best practice. Ultimately its direction will be determined by the participants: this is your group, and your opportunity to explore what is most useful to your professional practice and development. I am really excited about the potential that this network has to connect people and develop skills and would urge anyone involved in vocal and instrumental teaching to join us.


The network will meet termly on Zoom with the first meeting being held on Thursday 23 March, 4:00-5:00pm. If you would like to come along then please get in touch to register your interest.