Burning platforms

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Marc Jaffery’s article in the recently returned to print – and rebranded – Music Education UK is timely. It is a worth a read at http://jsavage.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/musiceducationuk-issue-1-the-view-from-walesv2.pdf. Marc’s holistic view of the state of play regarding music education in the UK is welcome as this lack of cohesion through an over diversity of professional bodies has led to a fractured and perhaps disconnected – and weaker – music education strategy. I was shocked to think of the number of associations that exist for the various niche music groups yet I can imagine the membership is low. Why are so many music educators reticent about coming forward and supporting such associations? I wonder if insecurity about competence keeps some music educators away from joining associations and getting involved in improvements. More of us need to be involved yet there needs to be a singular vision if music is going to retain some form of place in the revised national curriculum and a holistic approach is needed.

Marc talks about the (potential) loss of music as an academic subject. I would like to suggest this loss of music as an academic subject happened some time ago with the gradual erosion of the curricula offered by GCSE and A-level music courses. I fear that an interest in the wealth of music afforded by a vast history of music is waning, as there is little scope – and time – to delve deeper into this vast history. There is an obsession with the practical aspects of music making and little concern for the content. We have an opportunity to develop deeper understanding and love for the Western classical tradition and non-western musics in the earlier stages of classroom music rather than cramming in minimal “academic” content through a selection of set works. There needs to be a concern for this content with greater rigour if we are to justify the inclusion of music as a compulsory part of the curriculum.

I look forward – perhaps with some fear – to how music will fare in the national curriculum review. Music needs to justify it’s position through an education based on a canon of works that show how music remains an essential fabric of our culture. I wonder if the burning platform of which Marc Jaffery speaks is made up of the music history books…

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