Musician’s Corner: Our Director, Gail Dudson
Our director, Gail Dudson, has worked in the arts for more than 30 years, which makes her well-placed to give a brief overview of the various reports that have recently emerged on the current state of music education. Here are Gail’s thoughts on what’s happening right now…
Three reports in quick succession on music education have given us a rich, varied and not altogether rosy picture of the state of music education in the UK. In a nutshell, there are three different viewpoints on what’s happening in the sector.
The first report, Youth Music’s first large scale survey of young people for 10 years, shows that a much higher proportion say they are musically active than in 2006, which we think is great news. Access to free, intuitive music technology has transformed access to music-making, alongside on-line teaching videos (through sites like YouTube) which are also often free. It is easier to participate and easier to learn than ever, using a laptop or mobile device. Young people are also listening to a vast range of music and musical styles thanks to the digital revolution. We’re definitely encouraged by this proactive and forward-thinking attitude and approach to musical learning.
Less comforting is the picture in schools and formal music education. The Music Education: State of the Nation report (by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education, the Incorporated Society of Musicians and the University of Sussex) indicates that there are fewer music teachers, there is less time in the classroom devoted to music and music-making, and a steep decline in GCSE and A Level entries for music, alongside a drop in entries for instrumental ‘grades’ exams. It seems that music is being squeezed out of the classroom in state education, with a 13.5% decline in the hours of classroom music teaching over the last 7 years. Fewer schools offer GCSE and A Level music, leading to a debate as to whether Music Hub Leads (mostly local Music Services), rather than schools, should provide these courses to ensure that young people are not denied the opportunity.
Finally The Music Commission report is more about ‘where we should go from here’, through a series of ambitions: leadership, diversity, inclusion, partnerships, young people’s choices, progress routes, and delivery that is fit for the digital age. It is a big challenge to everyone involved in music education, from policy makers to on-the-ground educators. We think that there certainly needs to be a shift in the overall approach to music education and welcome the acknowledgement of both new technologies and new ways of thinking.
If you want to read the reports yourself, they can be found as follows: