HP Foundation Blog: Industry professionals in support of music education
Lissy Kelleher-Clarke writes for Arts Professional
Supporting access to quality music education forms part of our core mission at the HarrisonParrott Foundation, so we welcomed the National Plan for Music Education (NPME) published back in June this year. It offers a much needed and refreshed strategy, with a focus on receptive as well as participatory music engagement, and appreciation for the multidimensionality of the music industry and related skills.
Access to quality music education must be democratised and simplified. For many years now, the highest quality music education has been reserved for those with privilege, namely those who have access to the time, money and resources that are required to acquire a musical instrument, attend lessons, and engage with ensembles, whether locally, regionally or nationally. Music’s transformative qualities, and putative array of prosocial and wellbeing benefits, must be attainable by all young people, whether their longer-term engagement is receptive or participatory.
The NPME offers a range of new initiatives and guidelines that truly put music back on the curriculum map, despite its non-statutory status. As an industry professional and charity manager, I now want to know how I can do more with my skills and resources to help the NPME meet its objectives.
The need for new innovation
The NPME identifies three key players in a young person’s music education; educators (both schools and higher education organisations), hubs and the wider industry. The plan is fantastically convincing on why quality music education is so important but, from an industry perspective, it falls down on presenting new and innovative solutions to how the music industry can support the plan coming to fruition.
In fact, the NPME only really offers two tangible proposals for how industry can and should play an enhanced role in the music education ‘ecosystem’: through the provision of paid internships; and through Music Hub partnerships, where hubs will facilitate workshops, careers fairs and other events that see students engage with industry professionals.
Both suggestions seem obvious and for good reason, as they are excellent mechanisms for young people to experiment with the world of musical work, learn core skills, and understand more about everyday operations.
However, as a music professional, I began reading the NPME brimming with curiosity and an open mind as to what new innovative solutions may be presented to industry professionals to help them to enhance music education provision. I can only speak for our organisation, but HarrisonParrott are already providing well-paid internships (in partnership with Creative Access) and enjoy a fruitful partnership with TriBorough Music Hub, amongst other organisations.
Can we not do more? The NPME itself states that ‘while there is excellent work already taking place, there is more that can be done in joining it up effectively’ — yet it offers no such inventions.
Funding to level the playing field
Initially, perhaps we need to level the playing field. Music professionals that do not work in hubs or educational settings are unlikely to have a clear understanding of current education provision, desired education provision or, most crucially, how they can help.
One of the suggestions in the NPME is that all music hubs engage a volunteer professional musician to advocate for music education and to act as a role model for young people. This does not offer clear direction as to how support can be most meaningfully applied. It is also disappointing to see, especially in this context, musicians’ services being sought at no remuneration (a perennial problem for artists).
Funding is outlined as a limitation of the NPME in the (highly recommended) Independent Society of Musicians analysis of the plan. Could the music industry plug some of these funding gaps as investment in the industry’s future by means of a sponsorship or bursary scheme? Such a scheme could help to fund travel to music lessons, concert tickets or ancillary skills programmes.
Involving the industry at every stage
The NPME offers clear strategies as to how the music industry can support young people in higher education with a view to entering music careers. But is there scope for the music industry to be more involved before to this entry point?
The plan suggests annual trips to live music performances as a way of exploring live music and meeting music professionals. Would it not also be effective to take industry resources and skills to schools, to showcase the diversity of roles, role models and routes into careers in the industry?
It highlights how a quality music education can lead to a wide array of careers. But it’s also important to invert this notion and demonstrate the music industry has a role for everyone. For example, lawyers, accountants, engineers and designers are all working in the industry, alongside the more obvious career pathways.
At a higher education level, the plan suggests all T‑level music technology students should engage in an industry placement scheme. Could this be extended to a broader group of music students? Similarly, could UK Music and the Music Academic Partnership broaden its industry partnerships? For example, there is little representation from any of the UK’s major classical music organisations, from whence I hail.
Searching for the answers
As a direct response to these reflections on ‘the how’, the HarrisonParrott Foundation, together with Tri-Borough Music Hub, conceived the ‘Music Industry meets Music Education’ symposium, held in November at Hammersmith’s St Paul’s Centre. The symposium is framed as an opportunity to gather all those professionals outlined in the NPME — educators, hubs and industry professionals — to discuss how partnerships and programmes can be established or improved to best meet the needs of young people.
We do not claim to have the answers. Indeed, the symposium aims to create a space where thought leadership from the experts themselves can flourish. It is an opportunity to share ideas, form partnerships and collaborations and imagine and creatively engineer solutions for how the music industry can better work with music educators to provide holistic and inspiring music education for young people.
Music industry professionals, as evidenced by their heavy involvement in the genesis of the NPME, are committed to supporting the next generation of industry professionals – now let’s jointly work out how.
- Lissy Kelleher-Clarke