Stormy Weather

  • by HallamR

    Sunday, 17 September, 2017 - 11:47

A perfect storm is rapidly approaching in music education in England. Read on to see how you can help and gain support.

Playing Britten’s Four Sea Interludes as a member of the Leicestershire Schools’ Senior Orchestra in the 1960s was one of many events that influenced my life. The intensity and relentless drive of the storm interlude captured for me all the energy, ferocity and wildness of a storm at sea.

Almost forty years later I saw the film ‘The Perfect Storm’ (2000) in which a number of events come together uniquely to create a truly catastrophic outcome.

And of the past 20 years we have seen the devastating effects around the world of hurricanes.

Or maybe you are feeling more in a blues mood and Stormy Weather conjures up Lena Horne and Ella Fitgerald.

Why do I say this now?

It seems to me that a perfect storm is rapidly approaching in music education in England and in many places around the world. The damage from which, will impact on generations of young people and will take more than a decade to recover. That is, unless we act now to do something about it!

We still have time to take action to limit that damage in the short term and take action to build a stronger, storm-resistant music education infrastructure for the longer term future.

In England, the Music Education Council is doing something about this.

  • We are speaking to UKMusic (Oliver Morris, Director of Education and Skills, has recently joined MEC).
  • We are liaising with MEC members, including the ISM that has been campaigning around the EBacc and other colleagues and organisations who are looking to make a difference.
  • September 14th saw the third of four seminars contributing to ‘The Future of Music Education for All 2018 to 2020 and beyond’.

This is not a party political issue! We have advocates of all political persuasions, but they tell me that they still get conflicting and mixed messages from our sector!

The message is loud and clear! Music must be valued in its own right; and, through quality musical experiences, the evidence shows that music will have positive impact on other areas. Everyone has a human right to experience good quality musical education.

A fresh articulation of the vision for music education and music in education is needed. And to realise this we need to be clear about what needs to be done and by whom. Our music education sector must be proactive and representational in communicating this message.

Through MEC’s new constitution, giving greater voice to individuals and enabling organisational members to work more effectively together, through MEC’s Forum, Special Interest Groups and Task and Finish Groups, through consultations, seminars and news updates, we have all the structures in place, with the capability of enabling them to work in a collaborative way to maximise impact.

This is not a new message and it is invidious to pick out specific examples, so apologies to all those who are doing things not mentioned below! Here are some of the most recent within an English context.

  • Our best advocacy is our own quality work in music education. We need to celebrate and share this as effectively as we can. The MEC Music Education Awards close on October 9th. Why not find a moment to put in a partial submission to share what you are doing, even if you cannot complete the full submission? Last year long and shortlisted submissions featured in Music Teacher magazine, and the eventual joint winners (Bristol Plays Music and Portsmouth Music Hub) had substantial features. Portsmouth also appears in this month’s ISM Music Journal. (See also http://www.mec.org.uk/ Music Education Awards).
  • The articles in this month’s Music Teacher ‘Looking Ahead’ by Margaret Lawrence, Caitlin Sherring, Michaela Duckett, James Manwaring, and Jane Werry all give cause for optimism and food for thought. Rebecca Pizzey quotes Simon Toyne from the David Ross Education Trust with regard to the importance of working with ‘exceptional services in Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire’. He goes on to state: ‘we must also get over this view that one genre is superior to another. It doesn’t do anyone any favours: music is music. But what there is, is quality.’
  • MEC’s seminar on Sept 14th had a presentation by The Music Commission during which they were encouraged by delegates to have teacher and head teacher representation on their panel (http://www.musiccommission.org.uk/); and Mark Phillips’ (Ofsted) presentation gave a glimmer of hope in respect of what we can all do to ensure a meaningful and worthwhile broad and balanced musical education is available to all. (Presentation to be made available shortly via MEC news updates).
  • And, if you haven’t read it, Anna Gower’s contribution from January of this year is well worth a read: https://annagower.com/

Everyone I have come across sets out to provide the best music education experiences they can. But the reality is that some experiences are simply not good enough. This is not necessarily the fault of the individual concerned. The system and funding conspire against us. But at what point to we individually decide that our professionalism and integrity is so compromised that we must take a stand? Can we join with others so that we are not fighting alone? The Music Education Council members are listening and acting to enable our passionate, committed, diverse sector to work more effectively together and with others. If you want to know more about how you can contribute and get involved, simply contact Dick Hallam via admin@mec.org.uk; halla@globalnet.co.uk; or phone 07850 634 239 and leave a message.

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