What music and why?

When it comes to ‘what music?’ the obvious answer for me is any music. Literally any music, as long as it is taught or delivered to children in such a way as to inspire, enthuse, excite and maybe even in some ignite something greater, a lifelong love or passion which remains could with them for life.

I have seen far too many dry lessons using classical music, hip hop, pop, ‘world music’, Indian ragas, jazz, you name it, which have left children looking bored, disinterested and thoroughly turned off. Well-meaning teachers have tried to use music which pupils like and to which they listen outside of school only to place it into a framework within the classroom where it doesn’t work and pupils respond negatively. I have, however, seen lessons where meaningful links are made and children are excited, there is intrigue, surprise, fun, joy, an emotive response, satisfaction and even pride.

‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ -Maya Angelou

That I believe comes from passion which needs to come from those of us in the privileged position to teach children music. We have a responsibility to ensure children are given the chance to listen to and engage with a variety of music, written and performed by a wide range of composers and musicians. But that in itself is a tall order. It requires effort and intention. Stepping outside of a comfort zone where we feel safe in our knowledge, opinion and expertise.

October is Black History Month. Created to remember important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. There’s no doubt that Black British history, as celebrated during Black History Month, has helped thousands of black children understand their place within the British story. Each year it provides schools with a topical hook on which to hang stories about black people and black history that might otherwise go untold. These stories of remarkable men and women from Britain and around the world become counterweights against the flood of negative stereotypes that often wash over black and minority children growing up in this country.

Is there too much or too little classical? That depends…

Music by black artists and composers are often prevalent at this time. But if it is only during this month what message does that send? That Black History Month is a novelty. Like Christmas songs in December. The music we use must be more diverse not just in terms of genre and style

Black Music Month

Is there too much or too little classical? That depends where you are but one thing I believe is where there is an imbalance, it needs to be corrected.

I would love to see whole school music planning which encompasses a balance so no musical style or genre is given more weight or value. No distinction which suggests that Western Classical Music is the highest form of art. Teachers and schools seeking out ways to achieve this by looking to their community or Music Hub and saying ‘Hey we would love to do more of this but don’t know how. Can you help or find someone who can?’  So what music?  Any music, but done well and with respect and passion. Why? Because all music matters.


Samantha SpenceSamantha Spence is Assistant Head of Ealing Music Service and a freelance Music Consultant.

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