Creating a performing culture

23rd February 2001 at 00:00
Bob Kelley outlines ways to make more young musicians.

It is wonderful that music's place in the national curriculum (key stages 1-3) is assured and that young people will be introduced to active music making. However, that in itself will not dramatically change the fact that only one young person in five is being taught to play a musical instrument. (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music report Making Music 2000). The problem is that many young people have no opportunity to learn and perform the type of music in which they are keenly interested - rock, pop and ethnic music. The Building Bridges initiative by the charity Music for All takes a step-by-step approach to correcting this situation, with the ambitious objective of doubling the number of young musicians over a five-year period.

Research There is already a lot of very good practice in this area, but no one really knows the extent of it. Music for All supporter Rockschool has been awarded a grant by the National Foundation for Youth Music to conduct a nationwide research to establish the current picture of the provision of instrumental teaching of popular music, opportunities for rehearsal facilities and rooms, looking at structures and provision aimed at young people. This will identify sources of examples from which others can learn.

Music teacher networks Music for All plans to hold events throughout the UK for local music teachers, offering practical help with teaching methods, the formation of groups, best practice and many other areas. Committed local teachers, the existence of a structure and venues, the creation of a music-making and performing culture will encourage young people to want to learn to play, to form a band and to play together. W aim to make all this possible by sharing experiences and establishing a truly supportive national network.

Accrediting teachers There is a need to develop the status of teachers who deal with pop music instruments and idioms. Music for All plans to work with existing accreditation bodies to develop a suitable teacher's diploma within the National Qualifications Framework.

Sharing experiences Music for All will give guidance and advice to music teachers on how to work with venues, rehearsal facilities and music shops in their areas to help further the young people they teach. Local meetings will enable the teachers to share experiences with their peers. National Forum A National Forum of Popular Music will meet yearly, giving teachers the opportunity to share and celebrate their experiences. Music for Youth is holding the inaugural forum at the South Bank on July 4, 2001, with resources provided by Youth Music and the Music Industries Association.

Popular music festivals Much of the joy of making music comes from a successful performance. We will advise on tried and tested ways of staging local and regional gigs economically, where young players can perform non-competitively the popular music they have learned. Formats will be developed from successful experiences. A national showcase will also present these young people with an opportunity to perform their music at the highest level. The first such festival will be held at the NEC, Birmingham in July this year.

Bob Kelley is hon secretary of Music for All, Wix Hill House, Epsom Road, West Horsley, Surrey KT23 4LD. Tel:01483 223326. Fax: 01483 222748. E-mail: Music 2000, tel: 020 7467 8254. E-mail:

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