Guidance for Music Education Organisations on Finding and Choosing Opportunities to Make Music

  • by Anonymous (not verified)

    Wednesday, 16 September, 2015 - 16:02

Finding opportunities to make or learn music can often be difficult for young people, and sometimes choosing which opportunities to go for can be equally difficult. The visual below offers guidance for music education organisations about some of the things they should consider, or do, or look for when they’re trying to work out how to find and choose opportunities for music-making -- building on their achievements to date, on what’s realistically available, in a direction that makes sense for them.

We've produced this guidance for five different groups of people who have a role in supporting young people's music making: for young people; for their parents and families; for schools; for music organisations; and for music teachers and music leaders. Click on the purple dots for further information.

Waypointwaypoint/group-and-individual-experiences-5Group and individual experiences98.0392.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/performance-and-showcasing-opportunities-5Performance and showcasing opportunities97.0334.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/accessing-creative-spaces-3Accessing creative spaces97.0274.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/experiencing-diversity-and-excellence-3Experiencing diversity and excellence96.0220.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/making-informed-choices-5Making informed choices261.0261.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/exploring-discovering-and-making-mistakes-5Exploring, discovering and making mistakes262.0289.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/progressive-focussed-development-4Progressive, focussed development263.0316.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/guiding-journeys-and-managing-transitions-4Guiding journeys and managing transitions472.0101.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/sustaining-motivation-and-commitment-4Sustaining motivation and commitment428.0163.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/identifying-personal-goals-4Identifying personal goals392.0218.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/nurturing-individual-journeys-5Nurturing individual journeys374.0297.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/enabling-young-people-support-themselves-and-each-other-6Enabling young people to support themselves and each other509.0225.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/personal-support-6Personal support511.0254.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/long-term-sustained-support-6Long-term sustained support511.0283.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/making-most-financial-and-other-resources-4Making the most of financial and other resources513.0311.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/support-and-encouragement-friends-and-families-3Support and encouragement from friends and families512.0345.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/embracing-whole-child-development-4Embracing whole-child development640.0195.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/identifying-strengths-and-weaknesses-5Identifying strengths and weaknesses642.0229.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/developing-appropriate-skills-and-abilities-4Developing appropriate skills and abilities644.0268.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/celebrating-progress-and-achievement-4Celebrating progress and achievement645.0313.0""#0000002

Finding opportunities to make or learn music can often be difficult for young people, and sometimes choosing which opportunities to go for can be equally difficult. The visual below offers guidance for music education organisations about some of the things they should consider, or do, or look for when they’re trying to work out how to find and choose opportunities for music-making -- building on their achievements to date, on what’s realistically available, in a direction that makes sense for them.

We've produced this guidance for five different groups of people who have a role in supporting young people's music making: for young people; for their parents and families; for schools; for music organisations; and for music teachers and music leaders. Click on the purple dots for further information.

This guidance is based around the ‘ingredients in an environment for musical progression’ that a wide range of people in and around music education have identified as being some of the key things to consider, if young people are to fulfil their musical potential.

Click here for a text version of this visualisation

Group and individual experiences

It is important for your young person to be exposed to the participatory, communal and teamwork elements of group and ensemble music making (performing, composing, improvising, listening etc.). This will build their teamwork skills as well as their listening, composing, improvising and performing skills.

Find opportunities for the young people to work in smaller groups and give them responsibility to lead the group.

Find as many group performance opportunities as possible. The communal and social benefits of this are invaluable during a child’s musical development

Performance and showcasing opportunities

Young people need to perform and showcase their hard work and abilities. This makes them reflect on their work and gives them confidence to progress.

  • Make as many performance opportunities as possible, not just big concerts but to other young people or family and friends.
  • Make recordings of rehearsals or performances that the young person can take home and flay to family and friends.


Accessing creative spaces

Access to safe and supported music making spaces are critical to a young person.

Make sure you’ve done a risk assessment on your building and have thought on a practical level which rooms are right for the type of activity and what resources will need for a particular group or session?

Young people will have a far more creative and positive experience if they feel safe, supported and comfortable in their environment.

Experiencing diversity and excellence

Children and young people should be exposed to a broad diversity of excellence –

  • Try to take the young person out of their comfort zone by introducing new techniques or musical styles.
  • Give them as broad a range of experiences as possible, for example if your organising a concert, let them get involved with the planning or marketing, perhaps when they are not performing they might want to have a go at the stage lighting or mixing the sound.
  • Encourage the young person to keep an open mind and give them your trust that by trying new ideas they will become a more confident musician with more options open to them.

Making informed choices

Young people need to understand the steps needed to reach the goals that they have set for themselves.

  • Spend time discussing their goals and find out what they think their options are and what steps they think they need to take to achieve them.
  • Explain what other options there may be and make sure they are clear about what those options involve.
  • Any decision that a child makes on their musical journey should be an informed one.
  • Use any resources available to guide them through their decision-making. Look on the internet, encourage them to use the library and talk to as many music professionals about their options.

Exploring, discovering and making mistakes

It is vital that you give your young person the space to explore new ideas and support them in their discovery.

Children and young people have probing, enquiring and resourceful minds and they need to be encouraged, allowed and enabled to explore and discover their own lessons.

Your young person should feel that they can take risks without the fear of undue recrimination

Progressive, focussed development

Getting better at music is not just doing more music.

Work with your young person to set goals along their journey. Talk about specific skills they need to practise that will enable them to ‘get better’ at that particular thing. Support them to learn in the way needed to improve at that particular skill.

At the same time, development does not have to be goal-based, it can also be haphazard and exploratory; an appropriate balance needs to be found.


Your young musician needs to be inspired. This is the creative fuel for development.

  • Show them how good a performer you are and talk to them about your own journey and who inspired you.
  • Make the sessions lively and draw life form the things around you. Music is storytelling…you wouldn’t listen to a story being read in a monotone voice. Young people respond well to lively and interesting content.
  • Spend time listening to the masters as work and reflect upon where they drew their inspiration from.
  • If a child is inspired, creativity will come much easier.

Guiding journeys and managing transitions

Those with responsibility for supporting young people’s music-making perhaps have a commensurate responsibility to recognise and admit when it is time for that young person to move elsewhere, to the next appropriate set of expertise. Those in music education should make it their business to be informed about what colleagues are doing and to be providing young people with onward referrals and signposting that best fit their needs and abilities.

  • Communicate with your young persons parents about your thoughts or concerns. Find out how their music making is affecting their home life.

  • Use your full network of contacts and resources to find the best progression route for your young person and support them as much as you can through the transition.

Sustaining motivation and commitment

In most cases, realising musical potential and becoming a successful, fulfilled musician takes a great deal of persistence, commitment and discipline.

  • Praise your young person for their motivation and aspiration at every point.
  • Look for new ways to stretch and challenge the individual.
  • In the cases where there is initial motivation and enthusiasm, these need to be nurtured quickly.
  • Sometimes a young person may leave the journey but always leave it open to re-join and find ways to encourage re-engagement.

Identifying personal goals

Young people sometimes need help and support to develop goals and a vision for the future.

  • Talk with your young person about the skills they have and identify what they have achieved so far.
  • Show them a variety of musical options based on their skills and aspirations and support them in their decision-making.
  • You could be a positive role model for your young musician and could play an enormous part in helping them choose musical opportunities and map out the next stage of their musical journey.

Nurturing individual journeys

The most successful and fulfilled musical journeys are almost always those where the individual journey is seen as central.

In other words, it’s important that any organisation or individual supporting young people’s musical development recognises the crucial importance of that young person’s own journey: the system, or the structure, or the organisation will be most effective if they question how they can best support individual journeys, as opposed to trying to see how the most young people can be put through the system.

The individuals need to come first – and the system to support them comes second. It’s often easy to fall into perfecting a system that works for the system, rather than for the individuals that go through it.

Enabling young people to support themselves and each other

The ability for young people to support themselves is a key part of their self-motivation and decision-making.

  • Find opportunities that will allow the person to discover himself or herself.
  • Guide them with high quality tuition but let them reflect on their own strengths, weaknesses and learning.
  • Respect their own musical styles and genres but enrich them with our collective musical heritage.
  • Many young people will not be given responsibility in the home or classroom but in a musical environment this can be easier to explore.
  • Inspire them to become leaders themselves, take responsibility for their section or group.
  • Find the balance between formal teaching and creative exploration, the two will compliment each other and will eventually bear fruit. Gaining the confidence to improvise will also increase confidence to perform and aid their formal training.

Personal support

Sometimes within any musical organisation it is both difficult and unpractical to give one-to-one time with students. Personal support however is vital to their music making and personal development.

Try to find ways to spend time with individual musicians, if only for a few minutes here and there. For a young person, the knowledge that they are being supported individually will bring them on in a much greater sense than just working within a group.

Long-term sustained support

Long-term support for children and young people’s music making is crucial if their potential, and music’s potential for them, are to be fulfilled.

Sometimes the nature of music education can be a transient one, but it’s important to make sure that your children and young people always have access to musical support of some kind.

  • Help them to build up their network of other musicians and organisations. Keep reminding them how far they have come on their journey and give them praise for what they have achieved so far.
  • If young people move on from your organisation, for what ever reason, make sure the door is always left open for them to come back and re-engage with activity.
  • Give the child/young person clear guidance on where they should go next or with whom…
  • Signpost young people to the wealth of online resources out there for music making.

Making the most of financial and other resources

Young people can require a huge amount of resourcing and commitment to fulfil a successful musical journey.

The chances are that your young person will be accessing your resources already in one way or another and that’s great. You could also support them by pointing them to other funding/resource possibilities in your area.

The Youth Music website is a good starting point for some sources of funding.

Support and encouragement from friends and families

Support from friends and peers can have a significant impact on the outcomes of a young person’s engagement with music.

Look for opportunities where your young person can perform to their peers.

Embracing whole-child development

To be a successful musician, your child/young person will  often need many other skills, including team work, self-discipline and self-confidence.

Try and find ways that they can improve their self confidence by giving them some responsibility – perhaps arriving 5 minutes early each week and filing music or searching for scores on the internet. This will give them a greater sense of place within the organisation and will bring out a greater self-expression.

Identifying strengths and weaknesses

It is a critical role in any musical education centre to identify the young musicians strengths and weaknesses and be sure that their journey is best suited to them.

It is also vital to be able to spot talent and potential in a young person and once identified find a supported route to strengthen the talent.

Talk to your young person about what they think their strengths and weaknesses are and identify if they think the journey is best suited to their skills, desires and aspirations.

Developing appropriate skills and abilities

Young musicians need to develop a range of skills appropriate to their goals in music, to the environments in which they make music, and to the demands of the circumstances they are in.

  • The young person may have a set of goals with a required skillset as well as the goals that you have set for them. It is important to find a balance between these goals and the skills needed to achieve them.
  • Talk to your young person about where they want to go musically and work out mutual milestones and goals that the musician can travel to supported by you.
  • There may be circumstantial or environmental factors involved that make it more difficult for the young person to gain the skills needed so it’s essential to look out for these factors and support the child through them in whatever way possible.
  • Encourage the child to keep an open mind about learning new skills. Support them to improve and learn the key skills they need but also inspire them to learn new skills and competencies. This way it leaves the options much wider for the future.

Celebrating progress and achievement

Young people need to be able to understand and assess the progress and attainment they have made, as a driver for sustained engagement and commitment and to enable them to see where they need to focus their efforts.

As a music education organisation you will already have ways in place of measuring young people’s development. This may take various forms like external assessment, reports, formal examinations, on-going evaluation and individual assessment.

You need to spend time with your young person trying to make them understand their progress and what they have achieved.

Your support and celebration of their progress will inspire them to be get better at their skills and give them confidence to move to the next level of achievement.

14 reads