Monthly Archives: December 2015


A health check: Why?

I was inspired by a talk by social entrepreneur Liam Black at an ACEVO annual conference in 2016. He shared his views about what effective leadership means for today’s leaders:

1) The era of the ‘super hero founder’ is over. Great leadership is about creating world-beating teams, and leveraging talent within and beyond your organisation, not running on an ego

2) Look to create genuine partnerships – even if with ‘frenemies’ – that are creative and innovative in nature, and that make your organisation stronger

3) Understand how to use technology and data to inform and transform what you do

4) Be clear on your purpose. Why do you do your job? What is at your core?

Musical Futures as an organisation has from the outset been grassroots, outward-looking, deeply values partnership working, and strives for innovation and creativity both in terms of programmes and the way we operate. But it is number (4) that I keep on coming back to: Always start with the why (as I learnt from Simon Sinek in his great speech about Apple’s marketing strategy).

I am lucky in that I do a job that I adore, with a clear purpose. I passionately believe in the value of young people making music, and in finding creative and new ways of ensuring this happens. It is sometimes a challenge however for this not to get buried under budget projections, strategic plans, reporting, fundraising targets, meetings and a constantly overflowing email inbox. So when I feel myself getting a little bogged down, I go back to the why, and spend some time with young people making music.

In February I spent 1 hour in Morpeth School, Tower Hamlets – a long-standing Musical Futures Champion School – and regained that clarity of purpose within moments. Morpeth has been applying and adapting Musical Futures approaches for 7 years, and even though we cannot claim credit for the inspiring work of Peter Romhany and his team, the ethos and value of what Musical Futures stands for is ever present throughout the department.

I whizzed around with my iPhone capturing snippets and talking to students, asking the question ‘why?’ a lot. It was like walking around a series of rehearsals with coaches, rather than Lessons with Teachers. Year 8 students rehearsing their own versions of a piece of classical music, mainly through self-directed learning. Year 7 and 8 students rehearsing with professional musicians from The Barbican’s Drumworks initiative. Year 12 BTEC students rehearsing a piece of Cuban music. All practical. All musical. All real. No sitting in rows being told what to do, but all able to articulate what they were learning, how and most importantly why.

So why is this important? Why do we do this job? For many students, this is their escape. Playing together, with friends, collaborating, communicating, enjoying, learning, feeling inspired, refining, laughing, arguing. Being musicians. Music in school classrooms remains vitally important to provide all young people with not only these learning opportunities, but to support their overall sense of wellbeing and happiness within their daily lives. That is why.

But don’t just take my word for it – they articulate it much better themselves:

Edited on 5th December 2016