Relationships matter

What is it about music that brings people together? As my esteemed colleague Ken Owen from Musical Futures Australia would say: ‘It’s all about relationships’.

When you collaborate with others through music – whether it’s a group of students directing their own learning in a practice room, a load of girlfriends belting out a Take That song in a stadium gig, an orchestra playing a Beethoven symphony, or a teenager uploading sound files to an online collaborative remix website – you are not necessarily just doing the activity for the sake of it, you experience something alongside other people, and form relationships through doing so.MFWeb2015_EmileHolba 14

We see this with students in Musical Futures classrooms on a daily basis – communicating, working and learning from each other, building trust, respect, analysing, reflecting.

But we also see it with adults through our professional development programme. Musical Futures has delivered more than 600 professional development courses and workshops in the UK and overseas since 2008. While one purpose is to share our informal learning and non-formal teaching pedagogy and resources, and to support teachers with adapting it into their classroom situations, it is rarely the glowing evaluation forms that tell us whether we’ve achieved this that you remember – instead it is the relationships and the interactions.


I was struck by the power of this  on a trip to Canada in 2015 where we facilitated an informal learning session with a group of elementary school teachers who would not claim to be ‘music specialists’. When we described the task to ‘go off into rooms and try and recreate a popular song on instruments you are unfamiliar with’ the usual gasps of horror echoed around the room. However, they all rose to the challenge and sure enough the relationships started building, the support and collaboration began occurring, all to the tune of Meghan Trainor’s ‘All about that Bass’.

One group had a teacher determined to play the drums. He was profoundly hard of hearing, hadn’t played an instrument before, and despite his energy and enthusiasm was struggling to internalise the beat. One of the other group members, who even though would not claim to be ‘musical’ was an incredible singer, stepped away from the keyboard she was trying to learn, walked behind her colleague and started tapping out the drum beat on his shoulders.  Within moments he locked into her rhythm, and began playing in time. They remained like this for the whole session, with her singing and cueing the rest of the group, and him playing the drums, and their performance was tight, musical and incredibly moving.

No directions had been given, no worksheets handed out, no music leader stood over them until they got it right, instead two people instinctively connected and communicated through the shared experience of a musical activity.

Musical Futures professional development courses bring people together. They start with handshakes and end with huge. Music making will always be about relationships, professional development should be the same.

Post updated 5th December 2016


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