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Championing the determination and resilience of young people and the music education sector

As another academic year draws to a close our Director, Philip Flood, reflects on the achievements, challenges and opportunities for young people and the wider music education sector in London.

The young people that Sound Connections work with, and who help inform everything that we do, never cease to astonish me with their determination, resilience and pure grit in what has been another extremely challenging year in the world of music education and the wider arts.

Wired4Music, our network of musically minded Londoners age 16-25 has grown to over 1,000 strong, with representation across every borough in the capital. Through our ‘Generate’ programme we supported 17 personal development and community projects ranging from the production of music zines, EPs, videos and performance events.

Three Wired4Music members produced our sixth ‘Rising Futures’ event as part of the Roundhouse Rising festival which included workshops on vocal health, a panel on women in music, and an open mic session. This comment from Jess, our Wired4Music Producer, highlights how much one of them benefited from being involved:

“At the first Rising Future co-producers meeting, S was a little quiet and the conversation was led more by the others in the group. She also acknowledged being nervous, later on, about presenting at the event itself. However, on the day of the event she presented confidently and effectively, and expressed pride in the achievement of producing such a successful event, as well as presenting part of it.”

Our monthly drop-ins at our offices in Shoreditch have become an opportunity for members to access informal advice and guidance on topics including CV writing, job applications and signposting to artist development opportunities. We have also benefitted enormously from having two Wired4Music interns, paid at London Living Wage, working alongside us. And one of the newer members recently commented:

“Joining Wired4Music was a little step I took without realising how much it would impact my career trajectory. Since working with them I have never had such a feeling of self-worth and knowledge to do what I want to do in the industry and I am incredibly grateful to them as well as excited to work with them in the future.”

Two Wired4Music members have also joined our Board for the first time giving much needed advice and support across Sound Connections. It was refreshing to hear their perspectives on our work with young people and see how they grew in their understanding of being a trustee. They served a 12 month tenure and we look forward to welcoming two new young Trustees later this year.

Our role in supporting the music education workforce has developed significantly in the last 12 months. The music and social justice conference in November raised important issues around power, equity and structural injustice. This theme has continued across the year with a more recent event which looked at going ‘Beyond Diversity’.

We know that music leaders can feel very isolated and there is much uncertainty at present in terms of a sustained career. This is why our networks matter so much, giving practitioners opportunities to share experiences and learning. Our Early Years network included five year-long apprenticeships, consisting of peer learning, work shadowing and skills developments. One of the participants commented:

“The apprenticeship has been an absolutely invaluable experience. I met so many amazing and inspiring people and attended incredibly interesting workshops and conferences. I really benefited enormously from the programme in terms of my confidence, and would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in Early Years music.”

Music leaders were also able to apply for partnership investment via our Innovate programme. The Innovate programme, and the focused intensive way in which we work with recipients, has been particularly successful in supporting individuals and organisations to increase confidence in working in musically inclusive settings. The one to one focused support offered, particularly to those who are at the earliest stages of developing their work in inclusive practice, has given them time and space to reflect in a safe and supported environment. One recipient commented:

“I have learned a huge amount, I have grown in confidence and my own teaching practice has improved as a result. Most of all, due to the amazing support and resources that you have provided me with, I now feel confident to go out in to world and take this project forward. Thank you.”

Sound Connections supported and partnered with a wide range of organisations who directly work with children and young people across London. Relationships with the 29 Music Education Hubs continued to improve with staff siting on a number of strategic advisory groups, presenting at events and developing bespoke projects for Ealing, Enfield, Hackney, Havering and Lewisham music hubs.

Our work with major venues such as Barbican and Roundhouse continued as well as our support for small emerging grassroots organisations such as Girls Rock London who were part of our Innovate partnership programme.

Last July I was invited to be a keynote speaker at the Westminster Education Forum at the Royal Overseas League where I outlined the importance of inclusion and equity in music education. The event was attended by over 100 representatives from music hubs, arts and cultural organisations. I was also fortunate to be part of a panel discussion on underage events and youth engagement at the annual Music Venues Day in October.

Our ‘Would Like to Meet’ networking event at Conway Hall in December brought together representatives from music hubs, arts organisations, venues and funders and was an important moment enabling attendees to share best practice and make new connections.

Youth Music continues to be a major supporter of our work and we were delighted to be successful in the next round of Fund C support in December. As well as funding through to 2022, we are now also part of the Alliance for a Musically Inclusive England, a partnership of 14 organisations across England committed to inclusive practice.

We are also an active member of Music Mark, the subject association for Music, and the Music Education Council, the national body representing music education in the UK. This enables us to contribute to the national debate on music in the UK and advocate for the support of young people who are in the most challenging circumstances.

The Sound Connections consultancy service has continued to grow in size and reputation and we delivered 34 consultancy projects over the last year. This included youth voice and participation training, youth consultation, evaluation, SEN/D training, research and strategy. The range of organisations commissioning consultancy has also grown, and for the first time included a dance organisation (Hofesh Shechter) and a heritage organisation (English Heritage). It has also enabled us to work more on a national scale with projects including youth consultation for Arts Council England and evaluation for BBC Ten Pieces.

Planning is already well underway for the next phase of activity from September. We will continue to support children and young people, workforce and the music education sector across Greater London and more widely, through a strategic and targeted programme of activities which is driven by the needs of young people and those who support them. I look forward to working with all of our colleagues and partners and wish you a restful and enjoyable break if you manage to get one.

 

 

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