THE BLOG
29/09/2015 13:36 BST | Updated 28/09/2016 06:12 BST

Embracing a New Mindset in Music Education

If, as conductor Marin Alsop said at the Last Night of the Proms, inequality is one of the greatest challenges facing us today, then music has a way to catch up.

I've recently researched and written a report into opportunities for musical learning for children and young people in England. There is much to celebrate - UK ensembles have world leading education teams of extraordinary imagination and verve, Music Education Hubs work in 85% of primary schools giving group and individual instrumental lessons, local opportunities for music-making respond well to specific need.

Outside a school setting, however, the demographic remains decidedly affluent, with low engagement amongst children from black, ethnic and minority backgrounds and continuation with music in secondary school worryingly low.

Many organisations are working hard to address these inequities, but the music education sector's own attitudes to musical learning are inherently problematic. Many children enjoy musical learning in less formal ways - through participatory workshops, choirs, bands (the list is endless) and across an eclectic range of musical genres - but these routes to musical progression seem to accrue less value than those which follow the traditional exam route.

Children and their families, especially those who are not from the 'pushy' middle classes, find it difficult to find out about opportunities to learn, and there's no national picture to show what's out there, and what musical progression might look like. Add to this a postcode lottery, with some parts of the country awash with music and others - particularly rural areas - something of a desert, and the picture may look somewhat gloomy.

However, the raw materials for rectifying these difficulties are already there - as is the will of musicians who understand and care passionately about music education.

We can start by a change of perception, and simply better value all routes to musical learning so that all young music enthusiasts might fulfil their potential, whether as the professional musicians, amateur music-makers or keen listeners of the future.

Read the Musical Routes report at: www.royalphilharmonicsociety.org.