Posted: April 23, 2023 | Author: Ian Pace | Filed under: Academia, Higher Education, Music - General, Musical Education, Musicology, New Music | Tags: 1992 further and higher education act, Aesthetics, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education, alternative education providers, Andrea Creech, Arthur Jacobs, arts council england, Augur Review, autoethnography, BBC Singers, British Music Education Yearbook, British Music Yearbook, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, caps on undergraduate recruitment, Composition, David Keronhan, decolonisation, Dennis A. Ahlburg, Dorothy Taylor, Edward Breen, English National Opera, ethnography, ethnomusicology, Gareth Dylan Smith, Graham Welch, Helena Gaunt, higher education funding council for england, Higher Education Standards Authority, Historical Musicology, incorporated society of musicians, Ioulia Papageorgi, jo johnson, music analysis, Music and Screen, music business, music education, music in higher education, Music Sociology, music technology, music theory, musical theatre, Noel Long, office for students, performance, post-1992 universities, russell group, Sound Design, Sound Production, Sound Studies, Susan Hallam, Times Higher Education, tuition fees, united kingdom |
Over the course of the last 5-6 years, I have been progressively researching many aspects of music in higher education (HE) in the UK, including its history and development, the rise and fall of certain types of courses and their recruitment, staff-student ratios across departments, student satisfaction, curricular issues, the presence of practitioners in faculties, and so on. Some of this is based upon data provided by the Higher Education Standards Authority (HESA) which is permitted for internal use within institutions only, so I cannot give details of that here except where I have been specifically authorised for in other publicly-available writings. Other such research is based upon plenty of information in the public domain (including quite simply information about faculties, courses, etc., which universities are legally obliged to publish on their websites), also that from other organisations dealing with university admissions and so on, and historic data from various yearbooks which detail courses available (old editions of the British Music Yearbook and British Music Education Yearbook are especially useful in this respect, as are some wider university guides), not to mention numerous individual histories of specific universities and wider historical writing on HE in general.
Scholarly writing on music in higher education is overwhelmingly dominated by that from a pedagogical/educationalist perspective; this is vital, but so is historical writing and that based upon data showing the current state of the sector at any one time. Amongst the relatively few published resources I would cite are Noel Long, Music in English Education: Grammar School, University and Conservatoire (London: Faber and Faber, 1959); the reports Making Musicians: A Report to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (London: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1965) and Training Musicians: A Report to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation on the training of professional musicians (London: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1978); an important data set in ‘University Music Departments’, in Arthur Jacobs (ed.), Music Education Handbook: A Directory of Music Education in Britain with Reference Articles and Tables (London & New York: Bowker, 1976), pp. 86-102; Dorothy Taylor, Music Now: A Guide to Recent Developments and Current Opportunities in Music Education (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1979); another worthwhile data set in ‘UK Music Degree Courses: A Complete Guide’, The Musical Times, vol. 136 no. 1830 (1995), 417-24; Helena Gaunt and Ioulia Papageorgi, ‘Music in universities and conservatoires’, in Susan Hallam and Andrea Creech (eds.), Music Education in the 21st Century in the United Kingdom: Achievements, analysis and aspirations (London: Institute of Education, 2010); Edward Breen, Thurston Dart and the New Faculty of Music at King’s College London: A 50th anniversary biography (London: King’s College London, 2015); Gareth Dylan Smith, ‘Popular Music in Higher Education’, in Ioulia Papageorgi and Graham Welch (eds.), Advanced Musical Practice: Investigations in Higher Education Learning (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2016), pp. 33-48, and several essays in Björn Heile, Eva Moreda Rodríguez and Jane Stanley (eds.), Higher Education in Music in the Twenty-First Century (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2019). Other resources are primarily journalistic (as are some of the above) or in the form of reports produced by some educational or policy institutions. I have no doubt that there is considerable scope for wider historical and institutional research into music in higher education, both in the UK and globally, not just into how it is taught, but quite simply what is taught and where?
My research in this domain will inform some forthcoming academic articles, and also for reports I produce within my university. That which is based upon information freely published or otherwise in the public domain I wish to share here in a series of blog posts of which this is the first. I would invite constructive comments and reflections from all others with an interest in the sector. I have published a range of articles in the last few years for a wider general readership relating to music in HE, which are now available open access – see my much-commented on piece for the Spectator in 2021 and piece questioning automatic linking of ‘classical’ with ‘colonial’ in The Critic in 2022, as well as three articles on the role of practice in music and the arts in higher education in Times Higher Education (THE) (here, here and here) drawing upon wider debates in which I have been involved on practice and research (an ever-growing body of scholarship across numerous disciplines, surely not least because many of the protagonists have such a degree of vested interests in it), for which a range of links can be found on this blog here. Also in Times Higher, I have published an article looking critically at ethnographic/autoethnographic work in music and elsewhere, another calling for the statutory provision of core subjects, and aspects of a core curriculum, in all regions of the country, and most recently a further contribution to the ‘decolonisation’ debate, arguing that without proper historical teaching about global empires, it amounts simply to parroting of received dogma (this is not yet OA, but will be soon, and I will add the link to that here when it is).
This is a key moment for the UK music HE sector. While overall numbers of students have not fallen in the last 10 years and have actually risen slightly, there has been a major decline in the academic study of music, as compared to more practically-focused training. The blurring of boundaries between the two is more far advanced in the UK than in any European country of which I am aware (where, in general, a university degree is about studying musicology), and this has both positives and negatives. Undoubtedly the wider decline in music provision at primary and secondary level is a factor as explored in the report Music Education: State of the Nation, compiled in 2019 by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education, the Incorporated Society of Musicians and the University of Sussex . What this all means for the future of university study of music in particular, and quite simply what university departments can do to survive, are key questions. In the period since 1945, there were only ever a small few closures of departments – St. Andrew’s (1988); Leicester (1991); Aberystwyth (1992); and temporarily Aberdeen (1992) (reopening in the early 2000s) – but since 2004 there have been a numerous others where departments have closed or all undergraduate programmes have been suspended – Reading (2004); Exeter (2004); Roehampton (2010); East Anglia (2011); Lancaster (2015); Essex (2016); Abertay Dundee (2019); Cumbria (2022); and Wolverhampton (2022). Other departments such as Keele, Brunel and Kingston have considerably modified their offerings, away from musicology and away from classical music.
However, in the period since 1992 in particular there have also been numerous new departments and courses which have opened, in particular since the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act, which enabled former polytechnics and colleges of higher education to apply for full university status. The growth in music courses in this part of the sector has concentrated on popular/commercial music, music technology and more recently musical theatre. Other relevant developments include the effective trebling of tuition fees to £9K per annum effective from 2012, in conjunction with other cuts to teaching budgets in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which meant that students were saddled with much greater debt than ever before, and the removal of caps on undergraduate recruitment from 2015-16, creating more ferocious competition between departments. The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union effective from January 2020 has caused increased fees for EU students, the impact of which on recruitment is still in an early stage (also complicated by the pandemic). Also recently, and in particular following the 2017 Higher Education and Research Act, which amongst other things established the Office for Students (OfS), which took over some of the responsibilities of the then-abolished Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The architect of this act, Lord Johnson (formerly Jo Johnson, brother of the former Prime Minister), who was Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation from 2015 to 2018, made clear very recently his aim that the OfS would encourage the growth of ‘alternative education providers’ (paralleling the growth of academies and free schools at primary/secondary level) which stand outside of the more directly state-regulated sector. As such, some private music providers have been able to obtain university status and/or access to student loans. The growth of these institutions has also in some ways undercut the rest of the sector, subject to fewer checks and balances, not required to share information about recruitment, progression, and so on, often offering 2-year degrees, having little if any research dimension, and in general no more than at most token academic content. The results of the growth of private higher education providers has been surveyed very critically in a US context in an article by economics professor Dennis A. Ahlburg (‘Skunks in an English Woodland: Should England embrace for-profit Higher Education’?, Political Quarterly, vol. 90, no. 2), and I believe we would do well to digest this critique in the UK.
The situation specifically for classical music (a term I prefer in the broad sense to the academically-sanctioned ‘Western Art Music’) is particularly acute, as it is at all levels of education. Classical music is an educated tradition, which as such has a more symbiotic relationship with education than other Western traditions (popular, folk, vernacular) which for much of their history have developed relatively autonomously of educational institutions. At the time of writing, there is a major public debate following the announcements of closures to English National Opera and other institutions by Arts Council England as well as other funding cuts, as well as the more recent BBC announcement of the ending of the BBC Singers, the only salaried professional vocal ensemble in the country, and casualisation of 20% of jobs in BBC orchestras. Commentary following this has often focused on the dwindling representation of classical music in education, and the implications both for the training of musicians and the generation of new audiences, and there are fears that if this process continues, when combined with other factors such as increased difficulty in international musical exchange since Brexit, the whole classical music world in the UK, one of the most extensive in the nineteenth century and beyond, could become seriously damaged and deeply inferior to that in many European countries.
In this and subsequent blogs, like anyone else I am not immune to the possibility of human error in my data, but will generally try and correct any errors I or others find. Furthermore, as individuals come and go from departments, my data may become out-of-date or some may already be (these lists were compiled initially in February 2023). As such, I do invite others either to contact me privately or post on here with constructive information in this respect. I also recognise that some of the issues affecting Scotland are somewhat different to those in the rest of the United Kingdom, as Scotland continues to offer free tuition to all Scottish students.
Types of Music Departments in the UK
Here and elsewhere, the primary focus of my research is on undergraduate provision. There are universities which offer some post-graduate taught courses in or related to music, but do not have a music department (such as Reading or University College London, both of which offer music education). In another blog I will detail existing post-graduate taught courses, but in general those departments upon which I focus have full music departments and offer degrees for undergraduates.
I divide higher education providers for music into six fundamental categories:
(a) Russell Group: those members of the organisation founded in 1994, currently comprising 24 universities which offer music degrees. At the time of writing there are 18 of these: Birmingham; Bristol, Cambridge; Cardiff; Durham; Edinburgh; Glasgow; King’s College, University of London; Leeds; Liverpool; Manchester; Newcastle; Nottingham; Oxford; Queen’s University Belfast; Sheffield; Southampton; York.
(b) Mid-Ranking: those full universities which are neither Russell Group nor post-1992 (see below), 15 of which offer full music degrees: Aberdeen; Bangor; Brunel; City, University of London; Goldsmiths College, University of London; Hull; Keele; Kent; Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts (LIPA); Royal Holloway, University of London; Open University; Salford; Surrey; Sussex; Ulster. There are three others which skirt the boundaries of this category: Reading (which had a music department until 2004), which offers a degree in Primary Education and Music; Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, which offers one degree in Sound Design and Production; and SOAS, which ran a sole music degree, with tiny numbers, until 2020 or 2021, but now offers only joint degrees with music.
(c) Post-1992: institutions which were polytechnics or colleges of higher education, or occasionally another name before 1992, but which now (or following mergers with other institutions) have full university status. 66 of these offer music degrees: Anglia Ruskin; Bath Spa; Bedfordshire; Birmingham City (though the music department here largely comprises the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire); Bishop Grosseteste; Bolton; Bournemouth; Brighton; Buckinghamshire New; Canterbury Christ Church; Central Lancashire; Chester; Chichester; University Centre Colchester; Coventry; University of the Creative Arts; De Montfort; Derby; East London; Edge Hill; Edinburgh Napier; Falmouth; Gloucestershire; Glyndŵr, Greenwich, University Centre Grimsby; Hertfordshire; Highlands and Islands; Huddersfield; Kingston; Leeds Arts; Leeds Beckett; Lincoln; Liverpool Hope; Liverpool John Moores; London Metropolitan; London South Bank; University of the Arts London; Manchester Metropolitan; UCEN Manchester; Middlesex; Northampton; Northumbria; Nottingham Trent; Oxford Brookes; Plymouth; Plymouth Marjon; Arts University Plymouth; Portsmouth; Ravensbourne; University Centre Rotherham; Southampton Solent; Staffordshire; Sunderland; Teesside; University Centre at the Heart of Yorkshire; South Wales (largely encompassed by the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama); Wales Trinity Saint David; West London; West of England; West of Scotland; Westminster; Winchester; Worcester; York St John; University Centre at the Heart of Yorkshire.
(d) Others (Colleges of Higher Education, etc.): those other institutions offering degree-level courses. 8 of these offer full courses: Greater Brighton Metropolitan College (Brighton MET); Burnley College; South Gloucestershire and Stroud College; Lincoln College; Loughborough College; Middlesbrough College; Newcastle College University Centre; Rose Bruford College; West Suffolk College. A further 12 offer solely ‘Top-Up’ courses, equivalent to the final year of an undergraduate degree, enabling students to upgrade an existing qualification to become a degree: Bedford College Group; University Centre Calderdale College; Cardiff and Vale College; New College Durham; Hereford College of Arts; Hull College; City of Liverpool College University Centre; Morley College; City College Plymouth; Sheffield College; East Sussex College.
(e) Conservatoires: institutions with a greater focus on performance and 1-1 tuition, but offer full music degree courses, of which there are 9: Royal College of Music (RCM); Royal Academy of Music (RAM); Guildhall School of Music and Drama (GSMD); Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance; Leeds Conservatoire; Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM); Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (RBC); Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS); Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD).
(f) Private Providers. Here I list the 9 providers offering undergraduate degree courses via UCAS: Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM); British and Irish Modern Music Institute University (BIMM); Futureworks, Manchester; Institute of Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP); Liverpool Media Academy (LMA); London College of Creative Media (LCCM); Point Blank Music School; SAE Institute; Waterbear College of Music. Some of these are more akin to franchises than simple physical institutions – BIMM, Point Blank and SAE have branches in various localities and in other countries. Some others which might be listed here, such as the dBS Institute, are almost wholly directed by other universities (in this case Falmouth), so I do not classify them as independent providers, though I am aware that some of the categorisations are open to challenge.
Categories (a)-(c) and (e) are those for which most information is available, and so form the basis of my study. Notwithstanding some blurring of the differentation between universities and conservatoires/practical training schools mentioned earlier, differences still remain (and conservatoires require certain provisions to be able to call themselves as such), not least in terms of the nature of the staffing base, as I will detail below.
The use of some such categories is certainly open to question in terms of how much they reveal. There is no necessary reason to believe that research-intensive universities deliver any better teaching than others, and so the Russell Group should not be seen as an equivalent of the US Ivy League. Furthermore, 1992 is now three decades ago, and the trajectory of various institutions can be more significant than their provenance. At the time of writing, in terms of the nature of their offers, faculties, research record, etc., it would be difficult without prior knowledge to know in exactly which category the likes of Huddersfield, Keele, Kent or Oxford Brookes, for example, belong. Nonetheless, the categories do still have some wider purchase – at a conference in London on Higher Education in Autumn 2022 which I attended, a representative from the organisation Unifrog, who help students with making application choices, revealed that by some considerable measure the most frequent search criterion used by applicants was whether an institution is a member of the Russell Group or not. There is also a real distinction between the Russell Group and many of the post-92s in terms of the role that research plays – only 25 out of the 66 post-1992 institutions listed above were submitted for the 2021 Research Excellence Framework, and none of the Colleges of HE or private providers (though most of the conservatoires were).
Using data derived from HESA figures, which I received permission to use in one of the Times Higher articles I published last year, the following is the breakdown of numbers of students in different parts of the sector who were admitted in the 2020-21 academic year, excluding those who entered Colleges of HE and private providers for which data is either unavailable or incomplete:
Russell Group: 1778 students (25.1% of university students, 19.9% of those in whole sector)
Mid-Ranking: 775 students (10.9% of university students, 8.7% of those in whole sector)
Post-1992: 4534 students: (64% of university students; 50.7% of those in whole sector)
Conservatoires: 1853 students (20.7% of whole sector).
2020-21, which was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, may seem an unrepresentative year, but I can aver that figures for the previous few years were not significantly different in terms of the distribution or overall numbers.
Thus claims that the Russell Group would ‘hoover up’ the majority of students following the lifting of caps have proved unfounded. By far the largest numbers are those in post-1992 institutions, which for the most part offer degrees which do not coincide with what may be preconceptions of what a music degree entails. These are primarily vocationally-oriented degrees in music technology, commercial music, musical theatre, but not generally of the level of intensity of those in conservatoires. Data on employment prospects, and as such the relationship between such vocational offerings and actual vocations available, is unclear, as the current means of reporting this enables many institutions to give single figures for all creative and performing arts, which can be skewered because of the role of courses in Design, which are dominant in the creative arts and for which many jobs are available in various parts of industry (see also David Kernohan, ‘What are creative arts courses?’, Wonkhe Explainer, 14 December 2022). The future of many such music courses in light of intentions made clear by some politicians, and the 2019 Augur Review, to end ‘low-earning degrees’, as various creative/performing arts degrees do not tend to score well on this measure.
Many protagonists on music in higher education with a public profile, including myself, come from Russell Group or mid-ranking institutions. The type of sector they and their colleagues (and research collaborators) tend to see on a daily basis is not representative of that experienced by the majority of students, which should always be taken into account when aiming for broader conclusions.
The following data is compiled from the websites of universities, with extra details added where made available through colleagues working there. Some of the staff websites are more user-friendly than others, and some individual staff pages are not ‘live’, or have not been updated to account for changes in personnel. As such, there will inevitably be some degree of approximation, and of course staff will continue to change. Nonetheless, this data should give a reasonable snapshot of the situation at the time of writing.
I count here salaried academic staff in the departments in question, as far as I have been able to establish about their status (again, there may be some errors). I have not included visiting/associate/hourly-paid lecturers, other freelance staff, emeritus professors, research fellows, or technical staff. For this reason, for now I have limited this list to categories (a)-(c) above; at other types of institutions (especially conservatoires) are largely staffed by hourly-paid faculty. In some full universities this can also be the case, where there is a significant divide between research and research expertise and the demands of teaching, with a lot of teaching undertaken by hourly-paid staff or doctoral students. But this list gives an indication of which staff are given the most valued types of positions (for better or worse) at present. The relationship between salaried and hourly-paid staff may change or need to change in music as a result of greater integration of practitioners, and (as argued in some of my THE pieces) the need both to value their contributions and status more, as well as working to better integrate them into the values and practices of university education.
The categorisation is based primarily upon the areas of research or wider expertise made clear with respect to the staff in question, where these are clear. It should be borne in mind that some staff teach in part or whole in areas other than those of their primary research. Some categories are a bit blurred; in the UK the distinction between ‘historians’ and ‘theorists’ is nothing like as clear as in the US, and many (including myself) straddle both categories. For the most part the study of musical aesthetics is undertaken by those in the categories of history and analysis. Music technology is also a broad category, relating to a range of activities. Here I have added particular categories for those whose work is focused on composition and technology, or sound art and technology.
It is rarely the case that part-time salaried staff are indicated as such on university websites; in the absence of comprehensive data on this aspect, further approximation has to be assumed. Also, it is often unclear whether some staff have temporary or permanent contracts. Where I am aware, I have not counted temporary staff (as they are usually covering for permanent staff on sabbatical or research leave), but again there may be more approximations as a result.
Russell Group Faculties
Birmingham: 3 Historical; 1 History/Performance; 3 History/Analysis; 2 Composition; 2 Composition/Tech; 2 Performance; 1 Ethnomusicology; 1 Tech/Sound Art.
Bristol: 5 Historical; 3 Composition; 1 Music and Film; 1 Popular Music; 2 Other
Cambridge: 4 Historical; 1 Theory/Analysis; 2 Composition; 1 Music/Science; 1 Music Sociology; 2 Ethnomusicology; 1 Performance.
Cardiff: 5 Historical/Aesthetics/Analysis; 1 Historical; 3 Historical/Contemporary; 1 Historical/Cinema; 5 Composition; 3 Ethnomusicology; 1 Popular.
Durham: 4 Historical (one employed by Russian Studies department); 1 History/Religion; 2 Theory/Analysis; 2 Psychology; 3 Composition; 2 Ethnomusicology; 1 Tech; 2 Performance.
Edinburgh: 2 Historical; 2 Acoustics; 1 Tech; 1 Screen/Media; 1 Composition; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Pop/Jazz; 1 Performance; 1 Psychology; 1 Psychology/Education; 1 Ethnomusicology.
Glasgow: 3 Historical; 1 Historical/Performance; 1 Historical/Contemporary; 1 Popular; 2 Composition; 4 Sonic Arts; 1 Popular.
King’s College, London: 9 Historical/Analysis/Aesthetics; 1 Historical/Sound; 1 Historical/Composition; 2 Composition; 4 Ethnomusicology; 1 Jazz;
Leeds: 4 Historical; 1 Historical/Contemporary; 6 Psychology; 1 Philosophy; 1 Aesthetics; 1 Performance Practice; 2 Management; 1 Popular; 1 Popular/Analysis; 2 Theory/Analysis; 1 Film; 2 Composition; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Tech; 1 Tech/Composition/Performance; 1 Contemporary Context; 1 Various/Performance; 1 Film/Theatre.
Liverpool: 1 Historical; 1 Historical/Analysis/Aesthetics; 1 Theory/Analysis; 1 Aesthetics; 1 Critical Musicology; 1 Psychology; 8 Pop/Jazz; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Composition/Screen; 5 Tech; 4 Industries; 3 Performance; 2 Gaming; 1 Ethnomusicology.
Manchester: 6 History/Analysis/Aesthetics; 3 Theory/Analysis; 6 Composition; 3 Ethnomusicology; 1 Performance; 1 Jazz; 1 Media/Film.
Newcastle: 6 Historical; 1 Historical/Ethnomusicology; 2 Theory/Analysis; 5 Ethnomusicology; 3 Composition; 1 Composition/Tech; 2 Pop; 1 Pop/Performance; 1 Performance; 1 Business/Enterprise; 1 Education.
Nottingham: 4 Historical/Analysis/Aesthetics; 1 Psychology; 2 Composition; 1 Tech; 1 Pop; 1 Screen; 1 Ethnomusicology; 1 Performance.
Oxford: 12 Historical; 1 History/Analysis; 1 Theory/Analysis; 1 Education; 3 Composition; 1 Popular; 1 Sound Studies; 1 Ethnomusicology; 3 Performance.
Queen’s Belfast: 4 Historical; 1 Composition; 5 Composition/Tech; 1 Performance/Tech; 1 Sound.
Sheffield: 3 Historical; 4 Psychology; 4 Ethnomusicology; 2 Composition; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Education; 1 Pop; 1 Musical Theatre; 1 Management.
Southampton: 5 Historical; 1 Historical/Management; 1 Theory/Analysis; 1 Performance; 1 Performance/Tech/Composition; 2 Composition; 1 Tech; 1 Ethnomusicology.
York: 1 Historical; 2 Historical/Performance; 1 Analysis; 3 Composition; 2 Composition/Tech; 1 Composition/Performance; 2 Psychology; 1 Psychology/Media; 2 Education; 3 Performance; 1 Popular/Analysis; 1 Popular/Recording/Sociology; 1 Popular/Composition; 1 Sound Production/Recording.
58 Composition/Sonic Arts
18 Music Psychology
8.5 Music Business/Management/Industry
6.5 Music for Screen/Film/Media
5.5 Philosophy/Aesthetics (and some others in History or Analysis who engage with this)
2.5 Sound/Sound Studies
1.5 Musical Theatre
1 Music Sociology
1 Critical Musicology
1 Performance Practice
0.5 Music and Religion
(where a faculty member belongs in two categories, I add 0.5 to the total for each. For Historical/Analysis/Aesthetics, I have divided into 0.5 Historical, 0.5 Analysis, as these are the bigger categories. For the likes of Performance/Tech/Composition, I have added 0.5 to the first two, as these tend to be the most significant.).
Aberdeen: 3 Historical/Aesthetics; 1 Theory/Analysis; 3 Composition; 1 Performance; 1 Performance/Community; 1 Community; 1 Tech; 1 Ethnomusicology.
Bangor: 1 Historical/Popular; 3 Composition; 1 Performance; 1 Education/Community; 1 Traditional.
Brunel: 2 Composition; 2 Performance; 1 Tech; 1 Education.
City: 1 Historical/Analysis/Aesthetics: 1 Historical/Analysis/Aesthetics/Performance; 5 Composition/Tech; 1 Recording/Production; 3 Ethnomusicology; 4 Musical Theatre; 1 Musical Theatre Production.
Goldsmiths: 3 Historical; 1 Historical/Performance; 4 Composition; 1 Popular Composition; 3 Performance; 1 Ethnomusicology; 4 Pop; 4 Tech/Production; 4 Other.
Hull: 1 Historical/Film; 1 Historical/Performance; 1 Jazz; 2 Tech/Production; 1 Performance; 1 Popular Performance; 1 Psychology; 1 Composition/Production.
Keele: 1 History/Aesthetics; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Ethnomusicology; 1 Tech.
Kent: 1 Composition; 1 Psychology/Performance; 1 Performance/Tech; 1 Performance; 1 Pop; 1 Tech.
LIPA: 1 Songwriting/Production; 1 Songwriting/Performance; 1 Pop; 1 Pop/Gender; 1 Production; 3 Popular Performance; 1 Performance/Composition.
Open: 5 Historical; 1 Historical/Performance; 2 Screen; 1 Screen/Cultural History; 1 Music and Theology; 1 Pop; 1 Tech; 1 Ethnomusicology. (Here I have not included the category of ‘Staff Tutors’).
Royal Holloway: 6 Historical; 3 Composition; 2 Performance; 2 Composition/Tech; 3 Ethnomusicology.
Salford: 1 Historical/General; 4 Tech/Production; 1 Performance; 3 Composition; 1 Pop; 1 Pop/Electronics/Sound; 1 Pop Performance; 1 Enterprise/Engagement; 1 Instruments; 1 Ethnomusicology.
SOAS: 6 Ethnomusicology.
Surrey: 1 Historical; 1 Historical/Screen; 1 Historical/Pop; 1 Composition; 1 Composition/Performance; 6 Tech/Audio; 1 Pop; 1 Performance; 1 Performance/Tech. (Musical Theatre delivered by the Guildford School is not clear in terms of salaried staff here).
Sussex: 1 Opera/Musical Theatre; 1 Composition; 3 Composition/Tech; 1 Composition/Performance; 1 Pop; 4 Tech.
Ulster: 1 Historical/Contemporary; 1 Pop; 1 Composition; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Performance/Composition.
4.5 Musical Theatre (possibly more through Surrey)
1.5 Music Psychology
1.5 Music Education
Anglia Ruskin: 2 Musical Theatre; 8 Music Therapy; 4 Tech/Audio; 1 Composition; 1 Composition/Performance.
Bath Spa: 1 Historical/Ethnomusicology; 2 Composition; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Jazz; 1 Musical Theatre; 1 Ethnomusicology.
Bedfordshire: No salaried music staff are made clear via the website.
Birmingham City: not included since the staff are largely employed by the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
Bishop Grosseteste: 1 Historical; 1 Performance.
Bolton: 1 Screen/Composition.
Bournemouth: 5 Tech/Audio; 1 Composition/Tech.
Brighton: 1 Aesthetics (not just music); 4 Composition/Sound Art; 1 Pop/Sociology.
Buckinghamshire: 1 Performance/Sociology; 1 Tech/Composition; 1 Composition/Sound Art; 1 Sound/Media; 1 Engineering/Production; 1 Pop/Performance/Production; 1 Audio/Sound; 1 Management; 1 Recording/Production
Canterbury Christ Church: 2 Historical/Performance; 5 Composition/Sonic Art; 1 Performance/Tech.
Central Lancashire: 1 Business/Industry; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Pop; 2 Musical Theatre; 1 Performance.
Chester: 1 Popular Performance; 1 Composition; 1 Tech/Production; 2 Pop; 1 Journalism; 1 Musical Theatre.
Chichester: 4 Performance; 5 Musical Theatre; 1 Orchestral. (Many Associate Lecturers and instrumental/vocal tutors).
Colchester: 1 Popular Performance; 1 Screen; 1 Screen/Performance; 1 Education; 1 Musical Theatre.
Coventry: 1 Composition; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Performance; 1 Pop; 1 Game Audio.
Creative Arts: 1 Historical; 1 Composition/Screen; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Journalism.
De Montfort: 1 Composition; 7 Composition/Tech; 1 Performance/Tech; 1 Audio.
Derby: 2 Pop/Tech; 2 Production.
East London: 4 Composition; 1 Songwriting/Production; 1 Production/Sound Design; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Performance.
Edge Hill: 3 Production; 3 Musical Theatre.
Edinburgh Napier: 1 Media/Pop/Cultural Studies; 3 Composition; 3 Performance; 1 Composition/Pop Performance; 1 Pop; 1 Education.
Falmouth: 3 Composition; 1 Composition/Tech; 2 Musical Theatre; 3 Pop; 3 Tech/Audio; 5 Performance.
Gloucestershire: 1 Composition; 3 Business; 2 Production; 1 Performance; 1 Pop.
Glyndŵr: 1 Performance; 1 Tech/Production. (There may be a few more here).
Greenwich: the Dance/Musical Theatre degree is offered via Bird College – staff do not appear to be on academic contracts. A few Sound Design staff appear to contribute to a wider course.
Grimsby: Unclear from website.
Hertfordshire: Unclear from website.
Highlands and Islands: 2 Business; 2 Pop; 2 Composition; 5 Performance; 1 Education.
Huddersfield: 1 Historical; 4 Composition; 3 Composition/Tech; 3 Performance; 4 Tech/Sound Production; 1 Pop; 1 Screen.
Kingston: 1 Composition; 3 Composition/Performance/Tech; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Pop/Performance; 1 Education.
Leeds Art: 5 Popular Performance; 1 Performance; 1 Tech/Production.
Leeds Beckett: 2 Screen/Video; 8 Composition/Performance/Tech (one of these Songwriting); 9 Tech/Sound Production; 2 Performance/Production; 3 Performance; 2 Business; 2 Other.
Lincoln: 1 Ethnomusicology; 1 Pop/Sound Design; 2 Composition; 2 Performance.
Liverpool Hope: 2 Production; 1 Performance; 1 Pop.
Liverpool John Moores: 1 Pop; 1 Ethnomusicology; 1 Music and Literature.
London Metropolitan: 3 Tech/Production.
London South Bank: 2 Sound Design.
University of the Arts London: 1 Composition/Sound Art/Historical Performance; 4 Composition/Sound Art.
Manchester Metropolitan: 1 Gaming; 3 Sound Design; 1 Composition/Recording.
UCEN Manchester: None listed.
Middlesex: 3 Composition; 1 Composition/Historical; 4 Management/Industry/Business; 5 Pop; 1 Jazz Composition/Performance; 1 Tech.
Northampton: 5 Pop; 2 Pop/Production.
Northumbria: 2 Historical; 1 Performance/Instruments; 1 Pop.
Nottingham Trent: 1 Performance.
Oxford Brookes: 3 Historical; 1 Pop; 1 Sound; 1 Screen; 1 Composition.
Plymouth: 1 Education; 1 Psychology; 1 Musical Theatre; 1 Composition/Computing.
Plymouth Marjon: no dedicated salared music staff listed on website.
Arts University Plymouth: 2 Sound Art/Tech.
Portsmouth: 1 Tech/Audio; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Music/Theatre/Other; 1 Musical Theatre.
Ravensbourne: 3 Sound Design/Recording/Audio; 1 Musical Theatre Composition/Performance; 1 Performance/Composition.
University Centre Rotherham: Not clear from website.
Southampton Solent: 4 Popular Performance; 1 Pop; 1 Art/Music; 2 Composition (1 songwriting, 1 sound); 1 Management; 1 Performance/Sound; 1 Performance; 1 Sound/Tech; 1 Production.
South Wales: not included since the staff are largely employed by the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
Staffordshire: 2 Tech/Engineering; 2 Sound Design; 2 Composition/Tech. (This list may not be complete as the website is very patchy).
Sunderland: 1 Composition/Performance; 1 Composition/Sound Art; 1 Performance.
Teesside: 3 Tech/Production.
University Centre at the Heart of Yorkshire: Not clear from website.
Wales Trinity Saint David: 3 Tech.
West London: 1 Historical; 3 Tech; 1 Pop; 1 Pop/Tech/Recording; 3 Musical Theatre; 4 Performance (one non-Western); 2 Performance/Recording; 2 Production/Recording; 2 Composition; 1 Songwriting/Recording; 1 Sound/Sociology; 2 Management; 1 Screen.
West of England: 7 Tech/Audio.
West of Scotland: 2 Performance; 3 Pop Studies; 3 Composition; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Tech.
Westminster: 1 Performance/Composition/Tech; 2 Performance; 1 Performance/Industry; 1 Composition; 1 Tech/Production; 1 Music/Film. (May be others – website information patchy).
Winchester: 3 Musical Theatre; 1 Tech/Production.
Worcester: all academic staff for Musical Theatre here appear to be Theatre staff without specific music expertise.
York St John: 3 Production; 2 Community; 2 Composition; 2 Performance; 1 Historical/Various
Totals (excluding Bedfordshire, Birmingham City (conservatoire), Grimsby, Hertfordshire, Plymouth Marjon, University Centre Rotherham, South Wales (conservatoire), University Centre at the Heart of Yorkshire):
25.5 Musical Theatre
9.5 Sound Design
8 Music Therapy
5 Music Education
3.5 Sound/Sound Studies
1.5 Music Sociology
1 Music Psychology
1 Music Journalism
+ 9.5 Other
Colleges of HE, etc.
Here I only include those institutions which offer full degrees, rather than just top-up ones.
Brighton MET: 2 Recording/Production
Burnley College: unclear from website
South Gloucestershire and Stroud College: 1 Musical Theatre
Lincoln College: unclear from website
Loughborough College: unclear from website
Middlesborough College: 1 Recording/Production
Newcastle College University Centre: 1 Music unspecified; 1 Production
Rose Bruford: 1 Sound; 1 Performance
West Suffolk College: unclear from website
Totals (though information too patchy):
1 Musical Theatre
1 Music unspecified
I am not listing here faculties at conservatoires, because of the great difficulty in establishing which faculty members count as research/academic staff and which not. Terms such as ‘Professor of Violin’ does not necessarily have the same meaning as a Professor in a university (and certainly would not necessarily imply a research position such as would require them to be submitted to the REF). I am also not including private providers since the precise status of staff is also not clear.
As mentioned above, many institutions also employ a considerable number of hourly-paid or visiting lecturers; at some these may be responsible for a large percentage of the teaching. But these have a different type of status (considerably more precarious), are often impossible to count, and are almost never research staff. This is just a list of salaried academic staff.
169.5 Composition/Sonic Art
119.5 Historical Musicology
32 Musical Theatre (possibly more)
23 Music Business/Management/Industry
21.5 Music for Screen/Film/Media/Gaming
20.5 Music Psychology
12 Music Education
9.5 Sound Design
8 Music Therapy
6 Music Philosophy/Aesthetics
5.5 Sound/Sound Studies
2.5 Music Sociology
2.5 Performance Practice/Instruments
2 Community Music
1 Critical Musicology
1 Music unspecified
0.5 Music and Religion
0.5 Opera Studies
The categories above are sure to be seen as problematic by some. The grouping together of music technology, electronics, production and recording might be argued to conflate a range of quite distinct activities, and some of the work in ‘Electronics’ in particular might be better grouped with composition. Similarly the ‘Historical Musicology’ not only spans a period of over a millennium, encompassing often radically different types of work, but also the work of some involved in this (including myself) overlaps with theory/analysis and aesthetics, while there are a small number whose work on popular musics or sound studies can be historical in nature. ‘Performance’ is also a broad category, involving performers in a range of different genres requiring different skills and expectations; the same is true of ‘Composition’. It also needs to be noted that a lot of individual and group performance teaching is undertaken by hourly-paid lecturers, usually specialists on a particular instrument/voice. But all categorisations inevitably involve some degree of simplification, and I think this one should help to understand and interpret the broader picture.
So, first of all I wish to consider from this the numbers of those academics whose work is centered around scholarly investigation of music (which we can broadly call ‘musicology’, even though some subsets of this, including music sociology, some ethnomusicology, or music education, may have more in common with other disciplinary fields than musicology), compared to those involved more often in practical music-making or other practical activity. I am including pop/jazz and film/screen/media/gaming within scholarly investigation, where the academics are not clearly indicated as composers in these fields (though this may lead to some minor inaccuracies), and similarly sound/sound studies, but sound design, musical theatre, music therapy and tech/science/electronics/production/recording are all classified as practical activities (even though some of these may include a detached and critically self-reflective component). Then the totals are as follows:
Russell Group: 202.5 scholarly (65.5%); 104.5 practical (33.8%); 2 other (0.6%).
Mid-Ranking: 62.5 scholarly (48.8%); 61.5 practical (48%); 4 other (3%).
Post-92: 101.5 scholarly (26.3%); 275 practical (71.2%); 9.5 other (2.4%).
Colleges of HE, etc: 2 scholarly (25%); 6 practical (75%).
TOTALS: 368.5 scholarly (44.3%); 447 practical (53.8%); 15.5 other (4%).
The picture is clear – the Russell Group have a stronger tendency towards scholarly investigation, though still a sizeable component of practical activity; the two things are roughly matched in Mid-Ranking institutions; and there is a very strong tendency towards practical activity in Post-92 institutions and Colleges of HE, etc. Nonetheless, of the latter group, Bolton, Bournemouth, Derby, East London, Edge Hill, Glyndŵr, Greenwich, Leeds Art, London Met, London South Bank, University of the Arts London, Nottingham Trent, Arts University Plymouth, Ravensbourne, Staffordshire, Sunderland, Teesside, Wales Trinity St David, West of England, Winchester, Worcester have no obvious scholarly representation on the faculty, while the scholarly component at Buckinghamshire New, Central Lancashire, Chichester, De Montfort, Kingston, Lincoln, Liverpool Hope, Manchester Met, Portsmouth, Westminster and York St John is very small. Even amongst those institutions submitting to the REF in 2021 (Anglia Ruskin, Bath Spa, Canterbury Christ Church, Central Lancashire, Chester, Chichester, Coventry, De Montfort, East London, Edinburgh Napier, Huddersfield, Kingston, Leeds Art, Leeds Beckett, Lincoln, Liverpool Hope, Middlesex, Oxford Brookes, Plymouth, Portsmouth, West London, Winchester, Worcester and York St John) the majority of submissions were practice-based.
Representation of scholars is also thin at Brunel, Kent, LIPA, Sussex, Ulster amongst Mid-Ranking institutions, in the case of Sussex in particular a significant shift from their earlier profile. There are no Russell Group institutions with no practitioners, but this category is dominated by composers. Across the sector as a whole, there are more practitioners than scholars, but the margin is not huge.
There can surely be few subjects in which the gap between the Russell Group and the Post-92 institutions is so strong. It is hard to imagine a good deal of Russell Group lecturers teaching in the Post-92s, and vice versa. Only a small minority of Post-92 university music departments resemble the more traditional types, with a focus upon critical scholarly inquiry. Over three decades after the 1992 Education Act, the distinction between what were once universities and polytechnics is still very strong. Only with the advent of the Russell Group (arguably in response to the 1992 Act, to preserve differentials) comes the category of the Mid-Ranking, and in many ways these institutions face the biggest questions of disciplinary and institutional identity, and whether the students they aim to recruit are those likely otherwise to choose Russell Group, or alternatively Post-92, Colleges of HE, or private institutions. The profiles of Royal Holloway on one hand, or Kent on the other, differ very significantly.
The Post-92 institutions have a huge bias towards music of now, with little representation of music of previous centuries (including scholars working on historical popular music, jazz or technology) or other world traditions. There is however often a chasm between the dominant focus on commercial music in their courses and curricula and the relatively few staff with a significant commercial profile, at least in terms of composition and performance. For those institutions submitting to the REF this may relate to the relative difficulty of framing a good deal of commercial music (or mainstream classical, jazz, community music) as ‘research’, as I argued here. In music, the types of iconoclastic or avant-garde work which are most ‘REF-friendly’ (in the case of composition often very systematic work, or which uses brand new instruments or technology, or unusual techniques) can be at odds with those more familiar and popular types which can attract students, perhaps more so than in some other artistic disciplines, with such a strong chasm between the avant-garde and the popular in music.
Historical musicology and ethnomusicology are absent from the salaried faculties of most post-92 institutions. Wider approaches from the humanities or social sciences are not really represented either; these areas are undoubtedly concentrated in Russell Group institutions. In the Mid-Ranking sector, Aberdeen, Goldsmiths, the Open University, Royal Holloway and Surrey have fair representations of historical work, while City, Holloway and SOAS have a significant focus upon ethnomusicology. Musical theatre courses, again concentrated in the post-92 sector, rely heavily upon associate/visiting lecturers.
Amongst academics with a historical focus, there is a strong concentration upon the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Early music, meaning the whole Western repertoire of the pre-baroque (roughly pre-1600) period, is quite well represented in the RG, with 5 lecturers at Oxford, and 14 across the other institutions; at 3 mid-ranking (Bangor, the Open University and Royal Holloway); and 3 in the post-92 sector (Birmingham City, Northumbria, and Oxford Brookes).
More widely, the sector has more academics in the field of contemporary composition and sonic art than in any other category. Only a relative few of these could be said to be commercial composers, and even amongst the rest there is a general bias towards ‘new music’. As noted in my first blog post on new music published last year, this situation has been critiqued by various people, most notably musicologist Nicholas Cook, who argues that the representation of new music is out of all proportion to student interest in it. This almost certainly relates to the demands of the REF mentioned above, but it is a strange situation when students are considerably more likely to be taught by those with some expertise in a niche area of new music than one with expertise in Bach, Beethoven or bebop jazz. I will return to the area of new music in academia in the ‘New Music’ blog series.
There are various other conclusions which might be drawn from this data, including relating to the career prospects of academics in certain disciplinary fields. I will leave those for others to consider, and in future blog posts in this series will consider degree courses and curricula, as well as more on the historical development of the sector.
Posted: April 21, 2023 | Author: Ian Pace | Filed under: Art, Culture, Music - General | Tags: Alfred Cortot, Bill Haley, brian ferneyhough, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Deborah Annetts, Eddie Cochran, elvis presley, Fats Domino, incorporated society of musicians, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Lloyd Price, Madonna, marketing, meritocracy, promotion, rhythm 'n' blues, rock 'n' roll, thatcher, William Kapell |
I am often interested in the question of to what extent musical careers, in all types of music, can be said to be founded upon merit. There are three types of positions with which I am familiar, but all of which seem unsatisfactory. One is that of the simple ‘talent will out’, that if someone is sufficiently talented, or at least has attained a high level of accomplishment, then recognition and success will naturally follow. Another, which another musicologist recently related to me as hearing from students, maintains that ‘if you believe in yourself, you can make it’. A third, sometimes thought by some on the traditional left, would suggest that almost everything comes down to marketing and promotion, and the quality of what is being promoted is at most a secondary concern.
None of these really seem to encompass the multiple factors involved. The first two arguments seem to bracket out all sorts of contingencies. To pursue a successful career in which work is to be found in major urban centres, at the very least one needs the initial wherewithal to live in or near to those urban centres. This factor would have been much harder if I were starting out now rather than when moving to London in the early 1990s. Some have a whole range of contacts through chance of who are their family and friends, which are not available to others, and this can certainly accelerate the process. One needs the freedom to practice, to be available for gigs, which can be difficult if, for example, one has major caring responsibilities. And of course there are many other types of prejudice, racial, sexual, class-based, which it would be foolish and reckless not to acknowledge in terms of career paths sometimes being considerably more difficult for some than others. The Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, Deborah Annetts, recently testified to UK Members of Parliament on the prevalence of sexual harassment and how some female musicians are told to ‘sleep their way to the top’.
The third position, which also informs some sociology of art, brackets out the art itself, or at least reduces it to a rather bland commodity relative to systems of patronage, as well as power structures, and the like. But can anything be ‘sold’ in this way? I am no expert on marketing, but do not believe this, not least because for all successful marketing/promotion campaigns, there are also plenty of those which are unsuccessful, in ways which may not be wholly down to the nature of the marketing. No matter how skilfully marketed was the music of Brian Ferneyhough, I do not believe it would ever reach a mass audience – it is too intricate, requiring of sustained attention, in ways which do not concur with many people’s common approaches to listening, for that.
With this in mind, I do not believe the factors in the first two positions should be discounted. I doubt there are many musicians or music which have achieved some sustained recognition, in which there can not be found some evident of talent or accomplishment, even if not always in the same places. Madonna may not be one of the world’s great singers, but in terms of her other musical choices, dance, ability to move between a range of different styles and respond to changing times, and careful cultivation of visual image, clearly lots of other skills were involved in establishing, developing and consolidating her reputation. Thelonious Monk had as idiosyncratic a piano technique as one could imagine, and would frequently play wrong notes, but at the same time his playing achieved such a striking angular presence, which was a different type of quality. From a wholly different musical context, the same would often be said of pianist Alfred Cortot.
With respect to self-belief, this should surely not be discounted either, even if it is not the whole story. The view that simple determination will breed success is one I associate with the Thatcher era, and comes with the concomitant view that those who are less successful are themselves to blame. But many will experience good and bad times as musicians, and without self-belief, might just choose to abandon their activities during the bad ones. A conviction in the value of one’s work has sustained many a musician in this way. On the other hand, self-belief can also be a substitute for disciplined work, and the limitations of such an approach can quickly become apparent. Just because one believes in one’s own work does not guarantee that others will share this view, though it can inform the conviction with which the work is presented.
The visual aspect of musical performance may be one of the most problematic, however. It is widely recognised that the impact of many popular musicians is the product of numerous factors, definitely including but not limited to the music, as in the case of Madonna mentioned above. In classical, jazz and some other musics, there are different visual conventions, and the visual may not be so obviously foregrounded and developed as a central part of the art, but visual factors are certainly there. But when one accepts the visual as a component, then can one avoid such factors as musicians being judged on their looks as much as their music, as has certainly (and more than understandably) been raised as a source of objection by many female classical musicians in particular? Some popular musicians who may not always be regarded conventionally ‘beautiful’ have nonetheless found ways to generate striking visual images and presentation which have contributed to their success. But this can become more difficult as some get older (examples such as Tina Turner, who sustained a long career right up to her 80s, may be the exception rather than the rule), and of course racial and other prejudices can play a big part. At the height of mid-1950s rock ‘n’ roll, there were major African-American stars (Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Lloyd Price) alongside white ones (Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran), but it was not at all mere chance that a white musician, Elvis Presley, became the biggest star of all – Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records, recognised that it was through Elvis that there was a chance to bring music with a major African-American provenance to white audiences. Fats Domino was asked in the mid-1950s about this new music called rock ‘n’ roll, to which he replied that he called it rhythm ‘n’ blues and had been playing it in New Orleans since 1940. Even if African-Americans certainly played a part in the new movement, it was when white musicians also became involved that much larger audiences were found.
Audiences may be able to be ‘sold’ things, manipulated in various ways and induced to part with money when they might not have done so otherwise. Education can breed ‘ways in’ for more demanding music. But these processes are not, I believe, infinite in their scope, and some will never be persuaded of the value, to them, of certain music and musicians. And furthermore, this may relate to a range of factors over and above the music, including what the musician looks like. Careers can be worked on fruitfully and developed, but there are always other factors involved, not always in the control of the musician or those around them. To take the most dramatic examples: neither Buddy Holly nor classical pianist William Kapell could in any sense have had any meaningful agency relating to both of their tragic early deaths in plane crashes. While in either case these may in part have contributed to some of the mythology around them, obviously they could not continue to develop as musicians after then.
So many factors are involved in developing musical careers: talent, dedication and consequent accomplishment, self-belief, marketing, promotion and shrewd career choices, but equally privilege, prejudice, fortunate circumstances beyond the musician’s control, and so on. Some of these and other factors (or at least particular ‘packages’ of them) may constitute bottom lines, but are rarely the whole story. The models of meritocracy, of the ‘will to success’, or negative ones which deny the role of anything to do with the art, are insufficient.
Posted: January 13, 2019 | Author: Ian Pace | Filed under: Music - General, Musical Education | Tags: incorporated society of musicians, michael rosen, music education, music notation, nick gibb |
The Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, published an article on Friday, in the Times (‘Forget Spotify: I want every child to leave primary school able to read music’, The Times, 11 January 2019). This is behind a paywall, but Gibb has also posted the article on his blog so all can read it.
He describes being introduced to classical music at primary school, through various pieces designed in part for children by Britten, Saint-Saëns and Prokofiev, then singing works of Handel, Parry and Allegri in choir, but realises rightly that fewer children are benefiting from similar experiences, and with that in mind worked with various institutions to devise a recommended playlist. Gibb also absolutely notes that classical music is certainly not the only tradition or the only one to teach, also drawing attention to jazz and folk, music from Senegalian and Indian traditions, and the power of mass choral singing. He goes on to say:
I want every child to leave primary school able to read music, understanding sharps and flats, to have an understanding of the history of music, as well as having had the opportunity to sing and to play a musical instrument.
Noting that little was affected in terms of music education by 2012 reforms to the national curriculum, he expresses the following worry:
I am concerned that too few pupils are benefiting from a sufficiently rigorous approach to it. Like so many things, music requires, patience, dedication and application. No one ever woke up one morning playing the guitar like Eric Clapton.
I could not agree more with all the above sentiments, and deplore the fact that focused and rigorous musical education, or exposure to music over and above what might be encountered on an everyday basis (which Gibb frames in terms of ‘Spotify playlists’), are increasingly unavailable to all except a few, mostly those who are privately educated. And of course, as those who followed the 2017 public debates on musical notation, absolutely agree with him that every child should be able to leave primary school being able to read music (except of course those who have special learning needs or difficulties, but the same could be said about any type of reading). For more on this, see the response to the 2017 article by Charlotte C. Gill on music notation, and my follow-up article in The Conversation (‘The insidious class divide in music teaching’, 17 May 2017).
Gibb continues by noting a new panel of musicians and educationalists who he has tasked to draw up a new musical curriculum for primary schools. Details of this panel can be found here, an impressive list of individuals. He also notes a £1.33 million funding boost to music education hubs.
All of this is good and springs from the best intentions. But there is more to it than that. There are wider issues of cuts to music in secondary schools, not least because of pressure on pupils to take subjects in the EBacc. Nonetheless, however important this subject is, Gibb is speaking here about primary schools, so I will stick to those. A facile tweet from children’s author Michael Rosen asked ‘has he [Gibb] consulted with music teachers on this matter? Is Gibb an expert on music education? Can he read music? What has it done for him?’ No Schools Minister will ever be an expert on all areas of education, and Gibb has made clear that he is consulting a wide range of individuals involved in music education. Whether he himself can or cannot read music I do not know (I would suspect so on the basis of some of the choral repertoire he mentions having sung), but that is irrelevant as to whether he wants others to be able to learn it.
A group of musicians published a letter in the Observer in May 2018 expressing huge concern about the decline in instrumental music teaching in primary schools. In response the Department of Education noted that they were investing almost £500m in music and arts education programmes between 2016 and 2020. £300m of this was for music education hubs, and £120m for the Music and Dance Scheme, which enables some to attend specialist music schools. This amounted in 2018/19 to £75 million of ring-fenced funding to the hubs. But as detailed in an important survey from the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), wider cuts to their budgets greatly limit schools’ ability to buy in services or replace and repair instruments, while excessive pressure for accountability in other subjects, especially maths and English, lead to music’s being marginalised within the curriculum. Many respondents noted the decline in the number of staff in school music departments, or how music teaching is allocated to other types of teachers, or conversely music teachers are having to teach outside their subject area. Others commented on how the hubs remain short of cash, and instrumental tuition is often offered just for one year, in the context of schools in which little else goes on musically. Whole Class Ensemble Teaching (WCET), has been found increasingly to be available for less than one term, while there are few routes to progress beyond this to further musical education after WCET has ended. Access to singing teaching was also found to have declined.
Gibb’s intentions are good, but clearly more is needed. If he is serious about his wishes, money needs to be found and ring-fenced for dedicated music teachers within primary schools, over and above what is provided by the hubs. Furthermore, there should be proper tests to ensure such teachers have the fundamental music skills, including notational and aural skills, which alas are no longer necessarily guaranteed even by possession of a music degree. Teachers who cannot themselves read music are obviously unable to teach children to do so. I hope very much the committee will take account of the concerns of organisations such as the ISM and others who have been looking at these issues for some time, and in light of their recommendations Gibb or any successor will match their intentions with the appropriate resources and provision of time within the curriculum.