Schools and music
Editorial, September 2023
I cannot begin to imagine a school without music. Any school, whatever the age range. Music is as important to 18 year olds as it is to 3 year olds, not to mention all the adults in the school community.
The sound of a choir in rehearsal, of a class enjoying a music lesson, of a band practice, of a pianist and director putting performers through their paces as they all prepare for the latest production, are among the most evocative sounds associated with a school.
It’s true, in general you’ll find a lot of music going on in most international schools.
And yet, do we value music education as we should? It is rarely seen at the centre of the curriculum and although it is regarded as a major component of an extra-curricular programme, music during the school day has become a diminishing experience for many children as they grow older.
Few secondary schools would expect many of their students to choose a university course that would include the study of music.
The idea of music as a ‘luxury subject’ for a handful of extremely talented older students who have somehow managed to fit in a course of instrumental tuition on top of their other studies surely does not serve the majority of our students well. The International Baccalaureate has of course done a great deal to keep the Arts as an essential part of a well-balanced curriculum for children of all ages and this should be applauded. International Educators might also take note of the powerful new preuniversity courses emerging from the UK offered by the University of the Arts, London (UAL).
But surely, all children deserve – and need – more access to a music education than they have now. This is no nostalgic aspiration harking back to a pre-national curriculum ‘golden age’ of music in schools. It is an urgent and modern need. Music affects people in powerful ways. In times when we are increasingly concerned about student and staff wellbeing, music has the power to uplift and inspire. If we are concerned about physical health, it has the ability to get people moving, and, as has been increasingly shown (think of recent TV favourites like The Choir or The Piano) to have a unique ability to bring people together in a wide range of social experiences – in choirs, in bands, in church and simply as individuals enjoying a day out who encounter a street performer and find themselves as part of an impromptu audience on a station concourse. You can see the smiles.
A good musical education enriches the lives not only of music specialists who go onto to become professioanl performers but also of the rest of us who become their audience. The more we experience music, the more we can be transported by the emotion of a musical moment or transfixed by a performer’s skill, because we have ‘had a go’ at playing an instrument, however badly and have come to appreciate just how wonderful their performance is.
This month ITM takes a special look at music. The authors of three articles in our first edition of 2023 – 24 highlight its special qualities and in effect invite us to re-evaluate music as one of the most important 21st Century subject areas. The connection between music and resilience is powerfully demonstrated by Anna Azarova when she looks back over 2022 – 23 as experienced by the British International School of Ukraine, while Martin Barraclough, Director of Music at Cranleigh School Abu Dhabi examines the importance of music for developing wider academic skills. Finally, Jordan Laidlow and Dr. Winston Wuttenee tell the compelling story of how music is playing a critical role in facilitating social and cultural reconciliation in Canadian schools..
Music. It’s powerful stuff. Let’s get as much of it into our schools as we can!
Andy Homden is the CEO of Consilium Education, publishers of International Teacher Magazine.