Music and Reviews from Clare, Limerick, Waterford and sometimes further afield

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Music Education Matters: Putting Music on the Curriculum

Students in Ennis NS at their first violin lesson 

I was privileged to be invited to offer some thoughts on the state of music education in schools and my article appeared last month in the Irish Examiner . You can read the full article here .

The Journal of Music posted a link to the article and added some further comment, picking up on the reference to the suggestion that the GAA school sports programme might offer a useful template . You can read that piece here. Here is the link to the GAA website outlining their schools programme

The Journal of Music points out that there is a national programme of music education launched in 2010 -Music Generation. While I am aware that the programme is being rolled out, I did not refer to it as I am commenting on what I see in my own experience. In the four counties I have recently worked in, there is no Music Generation programme . In Clare, there has been much discussion about the application process and two exhausting and unsuccessful applications  and another pending but as yet no funds. The process of pitting counties against each other in rival bids to secure funds seems to me unseemly and counterproductive.

At the initial briefings on Music Generation in Ennis, it was stated that music education in state primary schools would not come under the Music Generation umbrella. I note from statements by the Dept. of Education, that that approach has softened and indeed the Department is now saying that Music Generation programmes can happen in schools . This is a response from the department press office on a query relating to music education provision in schools

    '  Music Generation, through its work with Music Education Partnerships, co-funds a range of access programmes, including programmes that can happen within primary school. Instrument banks are also funded. Music Generation is currently a philanthropically funded organisation, but the Department of Education and Skills will begin funding it on a phased basis from 2014. 

Applying to Music Network for funds for instrument banks in my experience is not straightforward and again pits schools against groups such as local  brass bands and private music schools. In Ennis,  applications to the Music Capital scheme by two primary schools were turned down whereas a private music school was granted funds for new instruments.

While it is encouraging to read of pilot projects here and there happening in schools,  there is a danger though that by passing the responsibility, the government can use Music Generation as a convenient excuse for not funding a basic music education for all primary school students.

I believe that if we rely on extra curricular model of music tuition without the involvement of the main players in education , the primary school system,  it will continue to be accessed by the homogenous pool of students,   not too different from the group that would avail of private music tuition in any case. To quote my own closing remarks in the Irish Examiner.  'If Ireland wants to forge a common culture of participation in the arts, we need to put musical activity on the curriculum in more than a token way for all our students and not just a chosen few.' 

Related articles  A  Quality Music Education only reaches a minority of students in British Schools, an Ofsted report has said

Α  response

An inclusive approach to developing a School Orchestra  Cathy Desmond IAYO Newsnotes

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