Talking at the charity’s Fresh Thinking for Music Education seminar earlier this week, he suggested that music educators need to think more from the perspective of young people.
‘It’s important to recognise that learning takes place in all kinds of environments and we should avoid hierarchies of “good” and “bad”’, he said.
‘Music education should have the confidence and courage to take into account the music that’s making young people tick and respond to that positively. It’s a bit of a generalisation, but in order for young people to progress the way they want to, there needs to be several ways that they can. Enabling that progression is down to having a broader understanding that music is music.’
The event was chaired by Andy Parfitt, former Controller of Radio 1 and chair of Youth Music. Key speakers including music journalist Pete Paphides, BBC Radio 1 presenter Jen Long and music strategist Chris Price explored how young people’s passion for music could be harnessed.
Jen Long, presenter of BBC Introducing, highlighted the importance of young people learning about the different types of music careers available to them. Long said that learning should not be limited to the classroom, adding that work experience is the best way to learn your trade.
Renowned journalist Pete Paphides spoke about the importance of nurturing young talent in times of recession. He queried if there was now a class-based polarity taking place in the music charts. While acknowledging that music technology may be having a democratising effect, he noted that many more successful bands are emerging from fee-paying schools than from traditional working class backgrounds.
He said a multiplicity of voices was lacking in terms of the range of artists making it, adding that, for many young musicians, the gulf between turning their hobby into a full time job had become too difficult to breach.
Paphides said there was a strong need to support emerging talent, pointing out that bands like Pulp, The Specials and Oasis wouldn’t have existed without the dole. ‘The BRIT School is great but there is only one of them. That’s why we need Youth Music to give others that chance,’ he said.
The final key speaker was music strategist Chris Price. Highlighting the huge influence of dance music, he argued the need for young musicians to be able to learn music by exploration rather than solely in formal settings. He quoted world-famous bass guitarist and composer Victor Wooten: ‘As a baby, you were allowed to jam with professionals when you learnt to speak. The same should be true of musicians’.
Youth Music is currently raising funds to pilot a learning module for schools, drawing on the charity’s 14 year history in the music education sector. The module will be piloted in ten schools to assess its success in increasing pupils’ engagement with music.