Monthly Archives: May 2015

Classical versus Rock: just whose debate is this?

An article by Nicola Benedetti in the  Telegraph involved the professional violinist imploring that all children should be exposed to classical music, ‘whether they like it or not’.

Nicola: wouldn’t it be preferable to expose children to classical music in a way that they are guaranteed to like it? And not only to like it, but to have some of the barriers broken down so they can continue with enjoying it into adulthood?

In other news, Andrew Lloyd Webber reflected on the fact that in America young people are much better connected to the rock tradition than those in the UK.

The debate among the great and good rages on in the media. But I feel it’s the wrong debate. Type ‘art education’ into google and you get presented with ‘creativity, design, sculpture, painting, illustration, portfolio’. Type ‘music education’ and you get a load of politics, organisations all claiming to own a bit of it, and debates around how poor it is in general. What impression is this giving to young people? That if you want to be creative, express yourself, experiment with different tools and techniques, as well as being given time and space to explore and invent, be exposed and inspired by other peoples’ work you choose art in school, not music.

Music for the majority of young people is a passion, not a ‘subject they are compelled to learn’, and whether schools, celebrities, parents like it or not adults cannot nor should not dictate young peoples’ musical culture. They will make it anyway, anywhere – what a school can offer is universal entitlement, so we should be doing all that we can to encourage this.

The role of music educators of course is to expose young people to a wide variety of great music, the National Curriculum supports this and many schools provide this in an accessible way. However we have found through Musical Futures that if you want sustainable engagement with music you have to construct a creative, exploratory environment that is co-designed with young people, and that focuses on the approach to learning first, the musical content second.

Post first published May 2015, updated 5th December 2016