by Author Mary Schwarz

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How South West Music School ensures students have a greater awareness of the music industry and possible careers in music

Having a greater awareness of the music industry and possible careers in music comes from first hand access to industry professionals, which includes tutors who are also active performers. It’s also about providing an environment in which young people can engage with musicians and others on the national and international stage and take the opportunity to ask directly of people, ‘What’s it like?’

This practice write-up comes from an external evaluation of South West Music School, which looked at what SWMS achieves with its students, and how it does so. It is part of a resource collection: How South West Music School supports musical ability.


At South West Music School (SWMS), enabling young people to have greater awareness of music industry and possible careers in music is achieved through a combination of different elements of the SWMS model:

a)    Mentoring provides students with direct access to a relevant part of the music industry and mentors work with students on what sort of musicians they want to be, and the plans they need to put in place and implement to achieve this.

b)    Specialist tuition does not take place in isolation at SWMS and tutors often draw on their students’ experiences from other elements of the model.

c)    Residentials provide access to wide range of professional musicians which gives a real insight into different aspects of the music industry.

d)   Additional activities beyond mentoring, tuition and residentials meet and support students’ particular interests. They often make a significant contribution to students gaining a better understanding of the music industry and an insight into non-performance careers, for instance, through making recordings.

e)    The whole model represents a powerful combination of the separate elements.

f)     Life after SWMS One of the case study students had already graduated a year earlier at the time of the Spotlighting project and another was just graduating. While both expressed how much they missed, or would miss, SWMS, they both felt they had been well supported in being ready for their ‘life after’, in terms of having the self confidence to know what sort of musicians they are and having an understanding the industry context for pursuing their vision.

These ways of working demonstrate the importance of two ingredients – Identifying personal goals and Making informed choices


Supporting evidence showing how the SWMS model delivers this outcome and these ingredients is extracted from the case studies, as below.

a)    Mentoring