Posted by Anne Heavey on 03.09.18 in Guest Blogs

Anne is a former music teacher and education policy advisor. She has just taken up post as National Director for Whole School SEND


Side Lining of Creative Subjects Needs to Stop!

Why schools should embrace creative subjects like music into their curriculums in order to help improve the UK’s future workforce and economy


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Music and employability skills

We hear a lot about how important it is that our children and young people study STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and maths). I’m going to make the case for music. We also hear from the likes of the CBI that young people these days lack employability skills.

The University of Kent has identified 10 key employability skills:

Verbal Communication

Teamwork

Commercial awareness

Analysing

Self-motivation

Drive

Written communication

Planning and organisation

Flexibility

Time management

Let’s look at how studying music could help develop these skills. Verbal Communication Learning to sing also develops the spoken voice: to project, to breathe in a way that supports the voice, to shape a phrase, to moderate tone, to control volume and pitch. Learning to give a good performance also helps develop good posture, eye contact and the ability to “fake it until you make it”. Teamwork Much music making takes place in groups, whether singing in a choir, playing in a band or orchestra or providing technical support, even solo singers are often accompanied – this requires the ability to understand one’s role in the group, to listen and to cooperate. This is where you learn to play nicely with others and take direction. Commercial awareness Understanding the market and audience is crucial in planning a performance or releasing a recording. Even something as simple as playing for a class assembly can develop these skills as an appropriate song or piece is chosen. Analysing existing pieces is a crucial part of preparing to perform or compose music. Understanding how other performers have approached a piece enables the student to develop their own approach. Understanding the building blocks of other pieces and the various devices that can be deployed gives would-be composers more musical colours to paint within new compositions.

Music encourages self-esteem and resilience

Successful musicians spend hours practicing on their own to hone their technique. This requires discipline and focus. Drive Many musicians are ambitious and competitive. They want to get the solo, they want to pass the next grade with a distinction. They want to succeed. Written communication Music offers many opportunities to develop written skills beyond historical essays and academic exams – such as writing lyrics, reviews, programme notes or web copy. Planning and organisation Learning music can help develop these skills in many different ways. From making sure the correct music is in your bag for a band rehearsal, to setting out a room for a group performance to planning a concert. For those that learn outside of the curriculum, there is also the planning involved in practicing regularly, attending classes and having the correct equipment. Flexibility Learning music teaches a lot about flexibility. In cash-strapped schools there sometimes aren’t enough instruments to go round, so we have to improvise by doubling up parts, taking turns or playing a different piece of kit.

Music is also a deeply creative subject in which new ideas are developed and explored. Time management aside from literally helping you stay in time, music can help you stay on time. Rehearsals, performances, and recordings all require people to turn up on time. Learning to protect time for regular practice is also vital for the successful musician.

Ignore the creative industries at your peril!

If this hasn’t convinced you that studying music has the potential to help our young people to develop employability skills then maybe this will – the creative industries are worth £92 billion a year to the UK economy; that is bigger than oil, gas, life sciences, automotive and aeronautics combined. Sadly GCSE and A-level entries for the creative arts, including music, have been falling in recent years and, in school, the time given to music in the curriculum is decreasing. This is a shame not just for our economy and future workforce, but also because music is part of how we express and define ourselves as individuals and enrich our lives.

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