It was Jerry Douglas and Aly Bain’s Transatlantic Sessions gig at Birmingham Symphony Hall in January 2016. During one set, I realised I had tears streaming down my face and I couldn’t stop.
It could have been the sheer power of seeing 14 of the UK and USA’s top folk musicians passionately enjoying playing music together. The mix of instruments from grand piano, double bass, drum kit, guitars to Irish pipes, fiddles and mandolins washing over me in a wave of rich sound. Or maybe a happy childhood memory the music provoked. Perhaps it was the utterly haunting melodic line of Aly Bain’s fiddle. It could have been because it transported me to a place – not sure where – of heather on mountains, sparkling blue skies and crisp clean air. Or because the sadness and pathos brought to the foreground of my mind a personal issue I had been trying to avoid addressing.
Whatever it was doesn’t matter. Music does this. It moves us uncontrollably. It forces us, often without warning, to express our emotions – to physically move, cry, laugh, reflect.
And this is one of the reasons why it is critical that music remains at the heart of schools. Music departments should continue to be places where young people can express their emotions in the increasingly pressured and tense they move in. To experience the power of collaboration, playing alongside your best friends, sharing music that has cultural meaning and relevance to them, no matter what their social and economic background.
Musical Futures provides the approach, professional development, resources and community of practice to support teachers with creating and nurturing this kind of space within schools. We fight against the perception that music is for the elite. We argue with Nick Gibb over the insistence that all children must learn notation – it’s important as a tool – but you don’t get moved to tears by understanding what a semibreve is. We show how distinguishing music by genre – classical, folk, world – has little meaning for young people – it’s about participation first: broadening horizons and expanding skills and knowledge naturally follows.
It’s not just me. Listen to these students talk about why music is important to them. Read this 16 year old’s brilliant and emotional plea to the Government to keep creative subjects at the heart of school life.
I am deeply grateful to the Transatlantic Sessions musicians for whatever it was that they did, I clearly needed it. Similarly, every child deserves to move, and to be moved, by the arts during school – it cannot be taken away from them.
Post updated 6th December 2016