Democratising music-making

30th September 2005 at 01:00
Following your article "Western tunes fall flat" (TES, September 16) I would like to express my strong support for the Government-initiated music manifesto and for what it is seeking to achieve in extending opportunities to all children and young people.

Much of what Youth Music has championed nationally over the past six years is embraced by the manifesto: increasing access to music; making opportunities for those who would otherwise not get the chance; wider definition of music education; including a broad range of out-of-school activities; music-making for 0 to five-year-olds; a push for more singing for young people and investment in the skills development of the workforce.

The research was commissioned by Youth Music and carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research in response to anxiety that relatively few children from minority-ethnic backgrounds were participating - we wanted to find out why that was. The evidence from the research does suggest, as you have reported, that western classical music is perceived to be of limited relevance as a first choice for music-making by many children and young people, particularly those from minority-ethnic backgrounds.

Young people inhabit a musical universe where a greater variety of music is more easily available to them than ever before. Young people's music education must reflect this diversity if it is to be perceived by them as relevant. Hence the importance of the music manifesto and the support of its signatories who are working to extend musical opportunities of all kinds: rock, pop, jazz, classical and folk "world music" to the widest population of young people.

The work which Youth Music supports out of school hours in the non-formal sector seeks to complement what happens in formal education. It is clear that there remains an inequality of opportunity for children and young people of minority-ethnic and socially-deprived backgrounds. This inequality appears to be self-perpetuating within peer groups. Young people from these sectors of society are not participating because their peers do not take part. Schools, music organisations and the wider music industry must work together with determination if we are to break this cycle. In cultural, social and educational terms this is vital. Let's also not forget how easily the words "fun", "hard work", "motivating", "fulfilling", "life-changing" combine when young people describe their experience of making music.

Christina Coker Chief executive of Youth Music One America Street London SE1

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