Business News Education & Events The Great Escape 2018

The Education Conference: Mapping music education

By | Published on Wednesday 23 May 2018

Book stack with headphones

Over the coming weeks, we will be summarising all the key conversations that occurred during the CMU Insights conferences at The Great Escape this year, starting with The Education Conference.

CMU Insights MD Chris Cooke kickstarted The Education Conference at The Great Escape by providing some context for both the event itself and the major research project it was launching: ‘Redefining Music Education’.

Acknowledging that there had been plenty of research on music education already, Cooke said that the starting point of this new project – a partnership between CMU Insights, Urban Development and BIMM – was to gather and assess what had gone before, and only then embark on new work specifically focused on the link – or not – between music education and a career in music.

In his opening address, Cooke declared: “Even though as a music business journalist I write a lot about conflict and decline and all the challenges, actually, the 21st century is a great time to be a creator. In fact, it is probably the greatest time in human history to be of a creative inclination – to want to create music, songs, recordings or – indeed – any form of creativity. Because creative tools and a potential global audience are now sitting online to be grabbed by all”.

He went on: “I’m a great believer that creativity isn’t just about creating. It’s about creating something, and then sharing that something, and responding to the people who consume and listen to and enjoy your something. What the internet and the web and all the digital tools have enabled is for young creators to not only create, but also to share their creativity and respond to an audience around the world”.

“All of that said”, he continued, “we know that building a business around creativity and building a career around creativity is as challenging as it ever was. And while the tools and the potential audience are out there for everybody, do all young people have equal access to the skills and knowledge they will need in order to actually build a business or an audience or a career around their creative work?”

“Which brings us to this question”, he said. “Is music education – in whatever manifestation – preparing and enabling young people who are interested in pursuing a career in music? Is that even what music education is for? Should it be? Could it be?”

“If we think about music education”, Cooke then mused, “obviously when we are teaching music to young people there are various aims, various things we are trying to achieve. Part of it is about music participation. Part of it is about music appreciation. But is part of it about music careers? Is part of it about exposing creative young people to the business and industry side of music – both onstage and behind the scenes – and to the entrepreneurial side of music creation?”

Cooke reaffirmed that the key focus of the ‘Redefining Music Education’ project was to consider the link between music education and careers in music. This, he admitted, posed two questions. What do we mean by music education? And what do we mean by music careers? The Education Conference was split into two, the first half tackling the first question, the second half the latter. To inform those conversations, CMU Insights has started to map both music education and music careers, the former mapping being the focus on the initial session.

Showing a chart that split music education into its constituent parts, Cooke said: “When it comes to music education, obviously teaching develops as students work there way through the education system, through primary, secondary, FE, HE and formal education beyond”.

“Here we are interested in everything that happens in the classroom and extra-curricular activity. Then we go through GCSEs and A-Levels, and into the colleges and universities, with their production courses, performance courses and music business courses, and so on”.

“But that is by no means music education in its entirety”, Cooke continued. “For starters, throughout that entire process we have individuals learning the craft of playing an instrument, of performing and being a musician. There are then an assortment of fantastic educational programmes that happen outside the classroom”.

“For those who go to college or university, there is the extra-curricular activity that happens there. For many people of my generation working in music today, those were the key moments. It wasn’t what they were taught, it wasn’t what they did in the classroom – it was what else happened when they were at college – when they had the time and the freedom to experiment – that enabled them to pursue a career in music”.

“In addition to all that”, he added, “we have industry events like The Great Escape, and an assortment of other activities run by trade bodies, music companies and festivals like this. And then, of course, we have the good internship programmes and the apprenticeships schemes that have emerged in recent years”.

Referencing the chart that displayed all these various kinds of music education, Cooke said: “This is a basic initial sketch of all the different aspects of music education. We are interested in everything on this chart, and anything else we forgot to include!”

He added: “We are especially interested in how all these different segments impact – or not – on the careers that people pursue in music. And we are interested in ensuring that every young creator with a passion for music has access to the knowledge and skills they need through one or more of these segments”.

The main aim of the first half of The Education Conference, Cooke concluded, was to flesh out the basic map he had put together, and find out more about what the different segments did, how they worked, how they were funded, and the issues faced by the people doing the teaching. To that end a series of short conversations with music educators followed – more on which in the next few editions of the CMU Daily.

You can download the CMU Insights slides presented at The Education Conference here. For more information on the Redefining Music Education research project click here.