This week is Chinese New Year – the Year of the Dragon. Apparently this is the luckiest year in the Chinese zodiac, so here's to a year of opportunity!
Of course 2012 is perhaps going to be better known in the UK as the year of the great sporting event in North East London (I am not sure if I can use the O-word without getting into trouble with LOCOG so I won't go there….), indeed it is hard not to feel that the four-year countdown has been gearing us up a little too soon for something which isn't going to take place until July! But for me, and I expect for many in the music education sector, this year is likely to be remembered as the 'Year of the Music Education Hubs'.
I have to say I am very excited by what is happening following the publication of the National Plan for Music Education. I say 'the', although technically it is call 'A National Plan….' Why the government didn't take the opportunity to use 'the' is a little unsure. As far as I am aware this is the ONLY National Plan for Music Education they have ever created and in my opinion it's quite groundbreaking in it's content. Yes, government has tried to develop ways to ensure that 'every child has the opportunity to learn a musical instrument' over the past 10 (or so) years, but this plan goes so much further than that.
I guess what I am most excited about is how the plan requires everyone to work together to deliver the core and extension roles government are funding. A 'joined up' approach to music education which ensures that all children and young people receive initial, developmental and, where appropriate, advanced practical musical teaching to ensure potential is given every chance to thrive.
Yes, the money isn't as much as has previously been allocated to music education…. but it's ring fenced, the per-pupil calculation to allocate per local authority seems fairer and how it should be spent is clearly laid out. Government recognition of the importance and value of music education in this country has been demonstrated – even in these 'tough economic times'.
My hope now is that the new hubs will encourage and cement links between our great national and regional orchestras, opera companies, ensembles, choirs and venues and the music services, Youth Music Action Zones, schools, universities and community musicians, as well as building relationships with the more commercial music industry – instrument makers, record companies, broadcasters and so on. That way, whatever a child's musical dreams – the hub can support them to flourish.
We have, and have had for decades, a world-class music education provision in this country – supporting and producing world-class professional musicians (as well as a mass of amateur musicians who continue to make music into old age as part of a thriving network of orchestras, ensembles, choirs and music clubs). But over the decades musical interests and opportunities have changed/grown. There are still plenty of children and young people who want to learn the violin, flute and trumpet or to sing, but there also those who want to learn the sitar, African drums, bass guitar or to DJ. We need to be able to support ALL children and young people and that means Hubs should include skilled teachers of music technology, world and folk musics and the many genres (and I don't profess to knowing most of them) of what my generation call 'rock and pop' music.
How can we help the next Adele to keep the music industry alive? (As reported in the press in December, Adele apparently single-handedly saved the music industry in 2011 with sales of her album 21).
We also need to ensure that support is truly available to ALL children and young people – so organisations like Drake Music, Live Music Now! and Music and the Deaf (and there are many more) will, I hope, have been inundated with calls/emails asking for advice and invitations to join Hubs.
My hope is that those developing bids to run hubs are talking to everyone and anyone and will continue to do so over the months and years to come. If the sector can truly work together through these Music Education Hubs then this will be the luckiest year for children and young people's musical education ever!