Guidance for Music Leaders 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 leaders about some of the things they should consider, or do, or look for when they’re trying to help young people to work out how to find and choose opportunities for music-making -- building on their achievements to date, based 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 green dots for more information.

Waypointwaypoint/experiencing-diversity-and-excellence-5Experiencing diversity and excellence92.0208.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/accessing-creative-spaces-5Accessing creative spaces93.0253.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/performance-and-showcasing-opportunities-7Performance and showcasing opportunities93.0300.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/group-and-individual-experiences-7Group and individual experiences94.0346.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/making-informed-choices-7Making informed choices259.0262.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/exploring-discovering-and-making-mistakes-7Exploring, discovering and making mistakes260.0289.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/progressive-focussed-development-6Progressive, focussed development261.0317.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/guiding-journeys-and-managing-transitions-6Guiding journeys and managing transitions473.098.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/sustaining-motivation-and-commitment-6Sustaining motivation and commitment433.0158.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/identifying-personal-goals-6Identifying personal goals391.0221.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/nurturing-individual-journeys-7Nurturing individual journeys374.0302.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/enabling-young-people-support-themselves-and-each-other-8Enabling young people to support themselves and each other511.0225.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/personal-support-8Personal support511.0256.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/long-term-sustained-support-8Long-term sustained support512.0290.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/making-most-financial-and-other-resources-6Making the most of financial and other resources513.0325.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/support-and-encouragement-friends-and-families-5Support and encouragement from friends and families513.0362.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/embracing-whole-child-development-6Embracing whole-child development644.0193.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/identifying-strengths-and-weaknesses-7Identifying strengths and weaknesses646.0229.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/developing-appropriate-skills-and-abilities-6Developing appropriate skills and abilities648.0270.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/celebrating-progress-and-achievement-6Celebrating progress and achievement650.0313.0""#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 leaders about some of the things they should consider, or do, or look for when they’re trying to help young people to work out how to find and choose opportunities for music-making -- building on their achievements to date, based 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 green dots for more 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

Experiencing diversity and excellence

As a music leader you probably are skilled in a diverse range of techniques, genres and skills. Young people need as much exposure to this as possible. It will enrich their musical journey and give them a much wider understanding of the possibilities open to them.

  • Talk to the young person about the range of careers in music, not just the performance ones.

  • Get them involved in every aspect of the music industry from event management to music production. Quite often it is exposure to new things that sparks new interest in career choices.
  • Work in as many different ways possible, in groups, individually, participatory, appreciation.

Accessing creative spaces

Preparation of the workshop space begins with choosing the location. If you’re in a place that you regularly work in then you’re more likely to know where the resources are kept and which room has been sound treated, but sometimes in less familiar spaces it’s not that simple.

  • Always allow enough time in a new environment to choose the space if appropriate and set it up as well as complete a risk assessment for the session. This way the participants will have a far better experience.
  • It’s always good to look at a venue before a workshop where possible or at least phone the venue up to discuss the practicalities.
  • Always encourage your young person to look for safe spaces to make music and offer support when they have found somewhere to use the space most efficiently.

Performance and showcasing opportunities

Showcasing and performance is essential to the development of any young musician. It gives them constructive feedback, builds confidence and gives them a focus when working on a project.

  • Always encourage the young person to perform their music to others. This might be to their peers in small groups, bigger organised gigs and shows or to family and friends at the end of a session or project.
  • Work with the young person on developing their performance skills. Support them to be confident performers and make available any resource you can for this to happen.
  • Support the young musician to put on his or her own gigs and performances. Not only will it give them stronger performance skills and greater confidence but it will give them a wider understanding of event management.
  • Support your young person to share and showcase their skills and music wherever possible. Make recordings of their work and encourage them to share it with friends and family. Look to the online showcasing opportunities that are out there.

Group and individual experiences

Your young musician will have a greater chance of developing teamwork, listening, composing, improvising and performing skills if they collaborate with other musicians.

  • Make opportunities for musical collaborations to happen, make the young people work in smaller groups giving them the chance to lead the group.
  • Collaboration could be in writing new works or rehearsal or performance.
  • Support the young person to find group music making opportunities out of school. Point them in the direction of notice boards, flyers and other resources that may help them find other collaborative musical opportunities.

Making informed choices

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

  • Talk to your young person about their aspirations and goals and find out if they have an understanding of the options and opportunities available to help them get to where they want to be.
  • Talk to parents about their child’s aspirations and look at the options realistically. Does the child need to find further specialist help?, can you support the child in this? Encourage the parents to help the child to make informed decisions.

Exploring, discovering and making mistakes

A young musician need to feel confident in self-exploration and informal music workshops are sometimes the best place to take personal risks.

Often a child will make the wrong choices and make mistakes. This should be seen as a positive part of their learning process.

Support your young person not just in their decision-making but also through their mistakes. They will need to feel trusted and secure in their environment to be enabled to explore and discover their own lessons.

Progressive, focussed development

Becoming a ‘better’musician is not just about your young person doing more music. You need to identify specific skills that they need to improve and find ways to support the improvement.

  • Take an holistic approach to their learning and find what other skills they are developing outside of your contact time and work with the child to identify what you can do to help them ‘get better’.
  • Work with your young person to set musical and personal goals along their journey. Support them to achieve these goals.
  • 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.


Inspiration from someone or something was probably the reason you became a music leader. It is now your role to inspire your musician even if it is the smallest part of their journey. Those ‘light bulb’ moments are precious and only need to happen once for a child to be switched on to music for the rest of their life. It is also important to remember that a bad experience can turn the musical light off forever.

  • Always refresh the pad of musical workshop tricks. Keep your workshop practise in tiptop working order.
  • Use the world around to inspire and the world within. Use different ways of working, different genres, different stories and show off a little yourself. A young person will be changed in a positive way by the smallest of inspired workshop delivery.


Guiding journeys and managing transitions

As a music leader you may spend much time mentoring or working closely with individual musicians. It is extremely important to recognise and admit when it is time for that young person to move elsewhere, to the next appropriate set of expertise.

  • 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.
  • These timely interventions should consider, and perhaps coincide with, the stages of young people’s overall development – personal, intellectual, social, physical, musical.
  • Talk with your young person’s parents about how their music making is affecting their home life and ask them what else the child is involved in outside of your contact. Sometimes it may be a joint approach that identifies the need for the child to move on.

Sustaining motivation and commitment

With so many competing pressures on young people’s lives it’s sometimes hard for a young person to sustain their drive, motivation and commitment.

Celebrate your young persons achievements, commitment and persistence.

  • Talk with your young person about how important it is to be dedicated and committed.
  • Find 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 to your young person about the skills they have and their achievements so far. Discuss the options available to them. Help the young person to set personal goals that will help them develop a vision.
  • Inspire them to think wider than where they are now. Find out who there role models are and where they see themselves in a few years.
  • Developing a vision is important for the child to focus on particular goals and hone their skills as well as develop new ones.
  • Use any resources available to guide them in their vision making. Encourage them to use the library and the internet to find out what possibilities are out there.
  • You should be an important role model to your child. Talk with them about your personal journey and the choices and decisions you had to make.

Nurturing individual journeys

Each musical journey is unique to your child/young person who is travelling on it. As a music leader explore the idea of self-expression but also to demonstrate how that journey of musical exploration can become an identity.

  • Make the person become the centre of their journey by looking at their individual strengths, weaknesses, listen to their hopes and ambitions. When there is none, inspire the individual to believe they are unique and have an exciting journey ahead.
  • It is important to look for musical opportunities for the person. That may be working with other musicians or creative partners. It is important that the opportunity works for the individual and gives them a sense of place within it.
  • Your child or young person will then need support and encouragement when making decisions along their journey. You will need to build a sense of trust and respect with them so that the guidance you give will seem valid and worthwhile. This will also make the encouragement and support mean more to the individual.

Enabling young people to support themselves and each other

Giving young people the tools to support themselves is sometimes difficult when contact time with them is small. Simple thing like giving them a task to remember will help them to build up their confidence to do things independently.

  • Peer to peer learning can happen fairly quickly in a workshop environment and this in itself can be the starting block to becoming a young leader.
  • Watch for signs of leadership and support them by giving them realistic tasks.
  • Provide supportive environments where young people can work together build creative partnerships.

Personal support

A music leader needs to give one-to-one musical support wherever possible. It is a vital part of most musical journeys and can have far reaching implications to the long-term development of the child.

  • One-to-one support is where the real expression and learning can happen. This support may work together with support the child/young person is getting elsewhere i.e. at home or at school.
  • In cases where this support has to be short-term, it is important that a positive legacy is left in its wake.


Long-term sustained support

For a music leader it is critical to recognise that 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.

  • Help the young person 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.
  • Suggest other musicians that may want to work with them if you can’t anymore.
  • If time or resources doesn’t allow for long-term support, make space to help the young person plan the next part of their journey. This may be talking to other musicians or to the parents or giving the young person the confidence in them to look for the next step.
  • Young people don’t always realise they are on a journey until sometimes it’s too late or in adult life they hold regrets about what they never did. Sometimes the key to long-term support can be the young person’s acknowledgement that they are on a journey and to empower them to find the support they need.

Making the most of financial and other resources

A sustained supportive environment for music making can require huge resourcing and commitment. Adequate sustained funding, alongside making the most of available resources, is critical to a fulfilled musical journey.

  • Resources can vary from school to school and from place to place but it is important to identify what the young person needs and then look at all available options to find them.
  • The Youth Music website is a good starting point for some sources of funding and there are a whole set of online tools available to point you to the right funding available.

Support and encouragement from friends and families

The support and encouragement from a music leader is vital to a young person’s musical development but it is also important that they get support from their friends and family around them.

  • Find ways to share the work they are doing with their parents.

  • Look for opportunities for the young person to share their work with friends and peers.
  • Ask the parents about how their music making affects home life and talk about ways they can encourage the child.

Embracing whole-child development

It is crucial that you recognise the importance of whole-child development. Building on young persons non-musical skills, including teamwork and   self-discipline will help to unlock musical creativity and expression.

  • Try to find opportunities with the young person that you can encourage them to work with their peers in a team or support them to put on an event or help other young people to learn a song or piece of music.

  • This will increase their confidence and build their wider skillset.

Identifying strengths and weaknesses

It is a critical role for any music leader 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 that 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

As a music leader you will understand how critical it is to have the right skills for the job and how these skills get used in very many ways depending on the nature of the job at different times.

  • Spend some time talking to your young person about the goals they have set and find out what skills they think they need or already have. This can help plot points or milestones along the journey to travel to.
  • 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

A young person needs recognition for their progress and attainment. This helps them focus on where their efforts need to lie and it gives them confidence to ‘stick at it’

  • Spend time discussing their achievements and how they feel they are progressing. Reflect upon your own thoughts about their progression route.  Discuss milestones along their journey. This will boost their self-confidence and drive to achieve more.
  • Get the young people to talk with their peers about their personal progress.
  • Celebrate your young persons achievements and progress at all stages of their journey.
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