Musical Inclusion

Sound Sense’s comprehensive report on Youth Music's flagship Musical Inclusion programme calls for greater advocacy for musical inclusion, and more attention to the development of musicians and managers

The three-year long evaluation - by Kathryn Deane, Rob Hunter, Anita Holford and Phill Mullen - notes significant positive developments in formal and non-formal partnership working within music education hubs since the inception of the Musical Inclusion grants programme in 2012.

Twenty six projects were awarded Musical Inclusion grants across England for work with children in challenging circumstances. The aim of the programme was to support the hubs to be inclusive, both in terms of the children reached and the activities on offer, and to encourage strategic partnership working. The report makes a number of recommendations related to hub working, workforce development and developing a pedagogy for children in challenging circumstances.

Hubs should acknowledge the importance of work with children in challenging circumstances the report says, and both learn from and promote advocacy for music inclusion within the sector. Evidence of inclusivity in hubs' workings had developed positively; continued development suggests the direction of travel is right with good grounds to believe that non-formal organisations could continue to make progress, especially where hubs have a more open approach, and non-formal organisations were keen to take a strategic role in developing hubs, rather than being only deliverers of activity to a hub.

Progress was most marked in organisations that both adopted strategies for achieving influence and tactics to deliver these strategies. The ability to translate their understanding about 'education' into both formal and non-formal sector languages was important as well as understanding systematically what makes a hub lead tick. In terms of delivery strategies, the importance of being realistic and open-minded about what music services do, as well as supporting or brokering partnerships, are emphasised.

The report argues that a clear, unequivocal (yet still flexible) pedagogy for musical inclusion work needs to be developed. Applied research needs to be carried into what specific aspects of practice encourage specific personal and social developments within children in challenging circumstances. It notes that practice sharing is a powerful development tool in this field and needs to be practically encouraged in both face-to-face and online forms. With all that as a context, organisations need to have a properly developed, thought-through and written down workforce development strategy, universal within the organisation and coherent across the sector.

The report says that musicians working with children in challenging circumstances do extremely complex work combining musical, social and personal skills and that this should be acknowledged across the sector, including by hubs. Managers working in the sector should also be championed and cherished more.

Matt Griffiths, Youth Music chief executive said: "We're very grateful to Sound Sense for producing such a comprehensive evaluation of our Musical Inclusion programme. Their very detailed and insightful analysis provides a solid foundation for the further development of musical inclusion work across the sector. Most importantly, it's clear that the basic framework exists for good partnership working within music education hubs. The more seriously the report's recommendations are taken and acted upon in this context, the closer we will move towards a musically inclusive England where all children in challenging circumstances will experience the multi-faceted benefits of music-making."

Kathryn Deane, Sound Sense director said: ""The benefits of excellent inclusive music work with young people are well known and our evaluation has uncovered the key ingredients that need to be further developed to achieve that excellence universally. We felt privileged to have spent three years exploring the practice of musical inclusivity with Youth Music and the 26 organisations involved. What struck us most, even beyond the care, passion and thoughtfulness of those we interviewed and heard from, was the complex and wide-ranging nature of the work. The demands placed on those who work with sometimes very challenged young people are heavy and require highly experienced musicians and project managers to fulfil them. We look forward to supporting the work we have recommended that now needs to take place."

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The Power of Equality 2 front cover
Sound Sense’s comprehensive report on Youth Music's flagship Musical Inclusion programme calls for greater advocacy for musical inclusion, and more attention to the development of musicians and managers
Sounding Board

Originally published in Sounding Board Winter 1990-91

In this double-page interview, Search & Reflect author John Stevens discusses creative freedom, improvisation and the nature of community music.

"To me community music really happens when somebody feels that they have got the energy, inspiration and skill to go and help people to create music for themselves in a free way. And whatever it turns out to be, that is the identity of that group. It doesn't have to have anything to do with what we see as being officially music. There's all this potential for new music that none of us has heard, because it's too wide for us to conceive of how it could be. That's where I see some of the aid to what needs to be a re-balance in society."

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