Guidance for Schools 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 young people about some of the things schools 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 red dots for more information.

Waypointwaypoint/experiencing-diversity-and-excellence-4Experiencing diversity and excellence88.0204.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/accessing-creative-spaces-4Accessing creative spaces88.0242.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/performance-and-showcasing-opportunities-6Performance and showcasing opportunities88.0287.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/group-and-individual-experiences-6Group and individual experiences89.0324.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/making-informed-choices-6Making informed choices257.0261.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/exploring-discovering-and-making-mistakes-6Exploring, discovering and making mistakes257.0291.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/progressive-focussed-development-5Progressive, focussed development256.0320.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/guiding-journeys-and-managing-transitions-5Guiding journeys and managing transitions407.0188.6""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/sustaining-motivation-and-commitment-5Sustaining motivation and commitment436.0152.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/identifying-personal-goals-5Identifying personal goals388.0246.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/nurturing-individual-journeys-6Nurturing individual journeys373.0301.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/enabling-young-people-support-themselves-and-each-other-7Enabling young people to support themselves and each other513.0225.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/personal-support-7Personal support515.0255.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/long-term-sustained-support-7Long-term sustained support516.0290.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/making-most-financial-and-other-resources-5Making the most of financial and other resources518.0326.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/support-and-encouragement-friends-and-families-4Support and encouragement from friends and families517.0360.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/embracing-whole-child-development-5Embracing whole-child development645.0200.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/identifying-strengths-and-weaknesses-6Identifying strengths and weaknesses647.0243.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/developing-appropriate-skills-and-abilities-5Developing appropriate skills and abilities649.0287.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/celebrating-progress-and-achievement-5Celebrating progress and achievement649.0333.0""#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 young people about some of the things schools 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 red 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

Young people need exposure to diversity and musical excellence. The wider this exposure this is the more confident they will become as musicians and better informed as to the choices available to them.

Encourage the young person to try different school clubs and bands. If they are a drummer in an indie band, get them to join the school jazz group or orchestra. It might not seem appealing to them and they may only try it out once, but it will widen their musical horizons and perhaps open their journey up to new musical challenges.

Where resources allow, bring in a range of different musicians to work with the young people. Arrange trips to the theatre or to community music organisations. Perhaps have themed diversity weeks where the young people all get the chance to do African drumming or song writing.

Encourage the young people to get involved with every part of putting on a production or assembly and make available resources for career guidance within the music industry.

Accessing creative spaces

Music making, in most cases, is a physical and often noisy activity. Having access to safe and conducive spaces to create, rehearse, experiment and play is therefore critical.

There are probably many potential music-making spaces within the school, some of which will change their suitability at different times of the day. Make a plan or the different spaces and encourage both teaching staff and young people to use them.

Performance and showcasing opportunities

Performance and showcasing is vital to a young musicians development. It gives them constructive feedback, builds confidence and gives them a focus when working on a project.

  • Encourage your young person to perform in front of others. Maybe in an assembly or in front of their class. In most cases their peers will look up to them and give them support.
  • Encourage and support the young person to arrange their own gig or performance at the school.
  • Find ways to showcase the young musician’s music, perhaps the school has a small recording studio that can produce a demo for them to share with family and friends or a school radio station that will play new music. Point the young person to online showcasing possibilities.
  • Always encourage family to support the child’s performance and showcasing opportunities wherever possible.

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.

  • Encourage your young person to join any school groups or find ways for them to work in smaller groups in class.
  • Give your young person the chance to lead a group, perhaps as a conductor or by writing a new piece collaboratively.
  • 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

A young person will have to make several choices along their musical journey. It is your role to help and support them make informed decisions.

  • Talk to parents about their child’s aspirations and look at the options realistically. Does the child need to find specialist help? Can the school support the child in this?
  • Encourage the parents to help the child to make informed decisions.
  • The child may sometimes want to go for the safest option, this might not be the best or most fulfilling for the child.
  • Encourage the child to use whatever resources are available within the school to help make these important decisions and support them to do this.

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.

Sometimes it’s hard within the framework of school discipline to view mistakes as a positive thing. It’s very easy to be negative to a child when they make a mistake. During their music journey they will make several, but it is important to realise that this is a crucial part of their learning.

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

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.

Work with your young person to set musical and personal goals along their journey. Support them to achieve these goals.

Take an holistic approach to their learning and find our what other skills they are developing outside of school and work with the child identify what the school can do to help them ‘get better’


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

  • Expose your young musicians to inspirational performers at school both from their peers and external performers.

  • Work creatively with them drawing on their own inspiration. Make up songs based on the things that excite them.
  • Find new ways to deliver music making, instead of singing class in the music block, go outside or perform in the local shopping centre.

Guiding journeys and managing transitions

A young musician will relate to many different people and organisations throughout their journey. Some will be more appropriate at different times.

School tends to be a constant throughout most of their young journey and is a good place to measure changes in the individual.

These periods of transition may take place outside of the school but wherever the change is happening it is important to support it in whatever way you can.

Talk to the child’s parents about what they are doing musically outside of school. There may be something the school can do to help move the child forward.

Make available all possible resources to support the young person through their transition.

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

Not all young musicians will end up working within the music industry but the chances are that some of the transferable skills that the have developed through music making will help them as they travel down their career path.

  • Developing a vision is important for many young people and being aware of the possibilities and opportunities plays a big part in the decision-making.
  • Spend time with the young person looking at their skillset and their achievements so far. Ask them to think about the progression route they want to take and support them in any decision-making they do.
  • It’s good for the child to think about where they want to end up and in most cases this will change over time, but what this does is give the young person a focus and a chance to set some achievable targets to reach.

Nurturing individual journeys

The musical journey of children and young people is as unique as those people themselves.

This journey is likely to be most successful and fulfilling if it really works for the individual rather than for other people.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the person becomes the centre of everything; in fact they will need to be encouraged to collaborate with other musicians and be encouraged to find musical opportunities that are appropriate to them. Once these opportunities have been found the person must be encouraged and supported to maximise the potential released from such opportunities

Enabling young people to support themselves and each other

Enabling young people to support themselves is vital to their personal and social development. It gives them confidence and empowers them to take control of situations and make rational decisions.

Although classroom learning is crucial to their educational development, taking an holistic approach to their musical journey will give them the best quality of experience. The relationships they make at school, both with teachers and their peers will have a long-lasting effect on their future decision making and independence.

The school should provide this all round approach by opening up as many opportunities to develop creatively and also to become a young leader. This will have a massively positive effect across the whole of their education.

Personal support

It is a critical element to most musical journeys to find high quality one-to-one support. This may come in the form of tuition, coaching, mentoring, informing, guiding etc.

Try to find regular opportunities for the young person to have one-to-one support from a specialist. This may be from the teaching staff or a peripatetic music teacher.

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

A young persons musical journey will often flow through their school years and transcend into their adult life. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes a teacher or person that was supporting them may have to cease their support and that may cause their journey to end.

Research from the UK and internationally suggests that unsustained support and intervention around music can be positively damaging: setting up an aspiration that is not followed through can do more harm than the initial work did good – ‘talent lost’.

  • Look out for the signs that the child is loosing or has lost interest in their music making, this could be because their support network is not there anymore. This may even be coming from the home.
  • Suggest other ways of support and talk to the parents to get a wider picture of what’s happening in their life outside of school.

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

A young person’s musical journey is more likely to have greater outcomes with support from their friends and family.

  • If your young person is actively involved in school music making then make let the parents know about it and encourage them to support this at home.

  • Active support form teaching staff will also have a significant impact on the young persons development.
  • Find ways that the young person can share what they are doing musically with their friends and peers.

Embracing whole-child development

Taking an holistic approach to the young person's personal, social, educational and musical development will bring about the best possible outcomes for that young person.

A young person who is developing in all areas is more likely to be more confident and thus more likely to unlock their own creativity and self-expression.

Find opportunities for your child/young person that will develop more than just their musical skills and abilities and be supported throughout the process. An example would be for them to help put on a school event or for them to help other young people to learn.

Identifying strengths and weaknesses

  • Try to identify the young persons strengths and weaknesses and ask the question, is their journey best suited to them?
  • Find ways to support weaknesses or build upon existing strengths.

  • Once spotted, find ways to nurture talent and potential and make sure it is channelled in a supportive way.
  • If a child is pursuing a journey that is not best suited find ways to move their journey somewhere where their skills and talents lie.

Developing appropriate skills and abilities

Your young person will need to develop an appropriate set of skills to reach the goals they have set. Some of these skills they may already have or may already be developing and some of them new ones.

  • These skills may come from different places including school so it’s important to encourage the young person to identify their goals and skills relevant to achieving them and then find ways that the school can help the young person to gain the skills and competencies.
  • 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

  • You need to help the young person understand and assess the progress and achievements they have made. This will give them confidence to keep doing what they are doing and help them see where they need to focus their efforts.
  • Spend time talking with your young person and discuss their progression route and which milestones they have reached.
  • Encourage and celebrate their achievements, this will give them fuel to go to the next level motivation to improve.
  • Ask the young person to spend time in personal reflection and let them trace their own steps back along their journey and find the points of achievement.


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