Sir Elton John believes that “music has a healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a little while." As a music educator of 25 years, I wholeheartedly agree – and now, more than ever, music should play a pivotal role in children’s lives as we recover from the coronavirus as a society.
Fundamentally, I see three principal settings where music can hugely help children as we all begin a recovery process like we've never known before.
Coronavirus: How music can help schools to recover
1. Music in schools
Music can provide a perfect leveller, particularly for primary schools, as we plan for the anticipated return of Scottish schools in August. Music can empower children to believe in, celebrate and enjoy their inherent abilities. It also releases children’s inner emotive and creative feelings. But differentiation of activities within each learning resource (as always) is key to ensuring that each pupil and teacher will be able to comprehend and undertake the task in hand; inclusive music-making activities do not and should not be overly complex or confusing. As one of my mentors once said, we should ensure that we “do the simple things brilliantly”.
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2. Music in communities
Outwith schools, music creates a positive extracurricular, social and bonding environment for children and their families to enjoy. I believe that lockdown has actually evidenced this setting more than ever. It has been heartening to see hundreds of community-based music-making initiatives celebrated online and through social media. The collaborative construction, editing and sharing of videoed performances, mash-ups and other exciting creations by thousands of young musicians has been impressive and powerful. The initiatives led by the Music Education Partnership Group, for example, where musicians from across Scotland came together online to play songs such as Over the Rainbow and Hey Jude, provided a valuable national focus for communities, schools and families in these challenging times.
3. Wellbeing through music
There is no doubt in my mind that involvement in and exposure to musical activities significantly affects children's wellbeing. As we look ahead to the unknown post-Covid world, we should bear that in mind – music brings escapism, resilience, inclusion, raised self-esteem, belief and, not least, enjoyment.
As Scottish schools prepare to return next week, we have the task of reversing the damage of recent months and putting pupils’ mental wellbeing front and foremost in our priorities – and music should play a crucial role. Perhaps we should take inspiration from that esteemed school leader Albus Dumbledore, who proclaims the power of music pretty succinctly: “Ah, music, a magic beyond all we do here!”
Graeme Barclay was music coordinator for one of Scotland’s largest local authorities before founding Beat Buddies Music Education, an independent and inclusive music-making initiative, in January 2020. He is a former chair of Heads of Instrumental Teaching Scotland and a former convener of the EIS Music Network