• Siggy Patchitt, Head of the National Centre for Inclusive Excellence at Bristol Music Trust
News & Views
As far as the eye can see
Date posted: 07 November 2018
Sound Sense chair Siggy Patchitt looks out over the music education landscape

I have always been a community musician. But until I joined Sound Sense, I didn’t know it. I thought of myself as an inclusive practitioner, a reflective practitioner, a mentor, even a youth worker, but never a community musician. I even signed up to the code of practice. But it took joining Sound Sense for me to realise that all the things that I thought made me a good practitioner were also what made me a community musician. Because community music is the archetype of inclusive practice. But it took joining Sound Sense for me to realise that. And it took joining the Sound Sense board for me to understand it.

I pretty much winged it while I was a freelance music leader. This was during the ‘glory days’ of MusicLeader, when there was training and CPD everywhere. I happened to work in the same office as the MusicLeader SW team, so I went to endless residentials, intensives, conferences, one offs; all sorts of shapes and sizes of training. And that’s definitely what raised me from someone who happened to get on with young people and enjoy sharing in the creative process with them, to someone who understood that there was more to this than just a fun thing to do in between gigs. But when I joined Sound Sense, I was given access to a view of the sector that I would otherwise never have seen. Being part of that connected community of practice opened my eyes to what else was going on. It was like I had climbed a ladder and was looking out over the music education landscape, rather than standing on the ground, looking around me. ‘As far as the eye can see’ became far further.

From 2010-ish onwards, when funding started to become less-lots-of-it, I found the one thing that kept my skills sharp and kept me up to date with the cutting edge of practice was Sound Sense. I had the MU for my own artistic endeavour and the Youth Music Network for the funded work I was involved in but the thing that connected me to my actual profession, the thing that put food on my table and paid my mortgage, was Sound Sense.

When I joined the board in 2014, it was like getting a free upgrade. Board meetings are amazing. I don’t think anyone realises that until they’re on the board. It’s a room full of the most passionate and highly skilled community musicians, and you can’t help but walk away galvanised. So I found my knowledge bubble stretching and growing, as I soaked up the perspectives of people doing all sorts of work with all sorts of people in all sorts of places.

Nowadays, I’m an organisational member. And this brings a whole new set of benefits. I remember being involved in the Music Manifesto, when the now quite dusty terms of ‘formal’ and ‘non-formal’ music education were used (albeit in a rather binary way) to describe the areas of music education that were spliced together, to varying degrees of success, in what I can clearly see now as a precursor to Music Education Hubs. For me, having worked almost exclusively in community music practice before, it seemed to make sense that all music education ought to be safe and fun, and had be built around people. If music, then all the better. But, to my mind, if music wins at the expense of people, something is profoundly wrong. So when Hubs were formed, I was a bit confused by how community music wasn’t more visible. As a Hub lead organisation, an Arts Council NPO, and a member of the Alliance for a Musically Inclusive England (Youth Music’s Fund C grantholder portfolio), Sound Sense helps me to make sure that inclusive practice is at the forefront of our work. It keeps me focussed on why I do what I do. It ties me to the reason I got into this in the first place.

So that’s why Sound Sense is so great, for me. It’s been relevant, useful, and even instrumental, throughout my career, from the long-haired 20-something-songwriter-me, to the 40-something-funding-application-and-inclusion-strategy-writer-me that’s writing this blog, today in a café in Fishponds, Bristol, with a lovely Oatmilk Latte.

Every step of the way, the more I develop, the more I find Sound Sense has for me.