Teach the world to sing
Saturday 27 October, 3.30pm until 5.00pm, Seminar Space Battle for Music

Traditionally, music education has been seen as a middle class luxury. Consequently, much excitement has been generated by the government’s ‘Music Manifesto’, which promises to involve many more children in music by getting them singing. But is this initiative so keen to include that it refuses to demand enough of pupils? The emphasis is on participation rather than musical appreciation or understanding – anyone can sing at least to a very rough standard, and TV shows like The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent have encouraged the idea that we all have hidden gifts. But is encouraging ‘creativity’ without providing a grounding in musical discipline (learning your scales!) ultimately doomed? Or might active participation in something like singing actually give children a better understanding than a more academic approach?

It is often said that music is the poor relation in schools, given less time and attention than literature or art, for example. But what does it mean to teach music as a subject? Should education for children with a musical vocation be radically different from that which is seen as essential for all? Should all children be taught to make critical judgements about music, or is it enough that they have fun with it?


John Street
professor of politics, University of East Anglia; author, Rebel Rock: The Politics of Popular Music; ESRC researcher on the role of music and musicians in public action
Neil Davenport
sociology and politics teacher; writer on culture; former music journalist
Orlando Gough
composer; director of The Shout choir
Dr Tiffany Jenkins
writer and broadcaster; author, Keeping Their Marbles: how treasures of the past ended up in museums and why they should stay there

 Produced by

Dolan Cummings associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; author, That Existential Leap: a crime story (forthcoming from Zero Books)
Cara Bleiman teacher, Arnhem Wharf Primary School
Sarah Boyes freelance writer and editor; assistant editor, Culture Wars; editor, Battles in Print 2010

The Music Manifesto misses the real power of music, Piers Hellawell

 Recommended readings

The language of music
If you want to instil appreciation and fluency, music is most effectively taught when kids are young
Philippa Ibbotson, Guardian, 17 January 2007

World-leading conductors join forces to back free concert performances for all children
The Association of British Orchestras launch plans to involve the wider community in classical music
staff writer, ABO, 25 April 2007

£10m funding to boost music education
‘Music is a powerful learning tool which can build children’s confidence, teamwork and language skills’
staff writer, DfES, 15 January 2007

Government’s response to Paul Robert’s report on nurturing creativity in young people
With the ‘creative industries’ deemed central to the UK economy, the government outlines how UK education can foster the ability ‘to think or behave imaginatively’
various, DCMS, 31 October 2006

Music Manifesto website
The musical education strategy for the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport and the Department for Education and Skills

Richer learning, poetic thinking and musical understanding
For music teachers, is the qualitative nature of musical experience incompatible with the quantitative measurements of skill attainment?
John Finney, NAME Magazine, 31 December 2005

recommended by spiked

Why are pop singers so samey and sexless?
Barb Jungr, 26 June 2005

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