Anthem and Youth Music reports highlight impediments to music education in Wales

Anthem Youth Music consultation - illustration

Anthem, the fund for young people’s music in Wales and Youth Music, the national charity investing in young people’s music in England, have published enlightening two reports into young people’s access to music learning in Wales.

Making and learning music in Wales was collated from conversations with 45 young people between May and June 2020. The participants were between the ages of seven and 23 who discussed their experiences of making and learning music in Wales, including what helped them and what deterred them.

The sessions, facilitated by Youth Cymru and summarised by freelance communications practitioner Anita Holford, were aimed at ensuring Anthem and Youth Music funding and partnership programmes are informed by the people they aim to help.

The principal impediments cited include cost, limited choice of instruments, few local opportunities, especially for differing musical tastes. Although all the interviewees said they had a variety of musical opportunities in school, there was an issue with schools not valuing music sufficiently or providing for broader musical tastes.

There was a clear desire among the participants to learn more. They asked for opportunities to meet and learn from other musicians, to receive guidance on promoting their music. They wanted to widen their musical horizons with more diverse music-learning programmes and to learn about recording technology. Importantly, they also wanted better provision for special needs and disabilities.

Critically, many of the young people said they wanted schools and parents to better understand the value and impact music had upon their personal and social lives and as a path to a career.

The second report, an initial mapping report of youth music and music education in Wales, was also prepared for Anthem by Anita Holford. It creates a broad picture of youth music and music education in Wales to inform Anthem’s future strategy by building a picture of who works where and how with young people in music. The survey is an ongoing project that will grow as more people in music education across the nation participate.

What was clear was that Wales retains its reputation as a musical nation, with a broad spread of music-learning opportunities across the country. But these initial data suggest room for improvement in early years music learning and provision for those in special needs and various forms of economic distress. Although the survey was not aimed at discovering needs or opportunities, inclusion, equality, equity and financial support were commonly mentioned issues.

Anthem is just two years old and was set up as a charity by the Welsh Government with the aim of ensuring that music can be a part of every young person’s life in Wales. The reports were commissioned before the appointment of Anthem’s first permanent CEO, Rhian Hutchings, who welcomed their findings.

‘The reports are just the start of us finding out more about what’s happening and what’s needed, with and for the sector and young people,’ she said. ‘They show a snapshot of how young people participate in music in Wales today, and who is working with them to support their music making and learning.

‘They were carried out in short timeframes, and the youth consultation in the middle of the pandemic, so they are limited in scope. Despite this, they do reveal some interesting findings, uncovering the large community of organisations that are delivering music with young people across the country and exploring demand for space to create, and routes for progression.’

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