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UD Opinion: A reality check for music education in the 21st century

On March 17th, UD’s Founder and CEO – Pamela McCormick – took part in a Music Education Council seminar to discuss the role and future of National Youth Music Organisations and Centres of Advanced Training for Education. The discussion focused on progression, pathways and partnerships within music education and how, from the hip hop collective origins of UD in the late 90s to the soon-to-be-launched Talent House in Stratford, UD is a pivotal player in shaping and changing the face of music education for the better.

Here’s some of the key points our CEO made…

Pamela McCormick from Urban Developments, London 10/05/2017. Photo by Chris Lopez

We need to value our youth voice

“Twenty-five years on, we have had to develop our education programmes and practices; initially we responded to ‘need’ but, about eight years ago, we thought it was time to review our approach (with kind support from Arts Council England and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation). We actioned a research project to consult with young people in music to refine our offering. The result? We developed a music education pipeline, servicing the next generation from schools’ outreach through to preparing young people to release music and work in industry. Youth voice is now everywhere in all that we do – from consultation and planning to employment, events and, naturally, in the music we facilitate them to create. Youth participation and leadership is at the heart of our organisation.”

Music should be a risky business

Speaking of working with education hubs down through the years, “music education does require a leap of faith around doing things differently and in the interests of young people, not just in the ways things have always been done”.

Music education needs to be defined differently

“Let’s think about where the employment is these days — are we preparing young people for jobs as music teachers and to work in orchestras or do we need to take a wider definition of why we are doing this work to start with? I’d lobby for greater support and investment for the music young people wish to make, whilst recognising that it takes sustained development to have a career in music. Working in popular music genres is not an easier job than playing a violin in an orchestra and so it requires the same investment, work, and a long-term view.”

Partnerships bring progress

“We have deep partnerships at every part of our pipeline of programmes – from our accredited Level 4 course with the University of East London to our relationship with UK Music’s organisations, including PPL, and our partnership with Universal Music, which helps our young people to record and release music. The industry has come a long way in diversifying its workforce and, at UD, we are in the ecosystem as a core enabler of greater diversity.”

Quality is queen

Short and sweet but powerful nonetheless, “in all of our work with young people, we cultivate the experience of supreme quality and never compromise on it”.

If you would like to find out more about or support the work of UD, get in touch! We’d love to hear from you.

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