The options available for children for music education in the primary and secondary school system is one thing, but when it comes to out-of-school opportunities for learning music, the picture is naturally more complex. The availability of teachers and resources varies enormously from one local community to another. Two barriers that particularly present themselves to parents are the cost of lessons and often not knowing who are the best teachers in their area.
Often, of course, it is only better off families who end up giving their children lessons.
A new idea in the UK designed to tackle these issues is ‘music hubs’. These are “where groups of organisations; local authorities, schools, community and other organisations have joined together to provide music education for children in a local areas”. So writes James Russell for University College London (UCL), reporting on new research on this.
He writes, “The research found that difficult choices are often made between music and other subjects or activities. Generally, it was acknowledged that music was not valued as highly as more academic subjects and therefore students were often directed to other option choices”.
“Families are sometimes ambivalent about the value of music in terms of supporting career pathways, and therefore do not always encourage their children to participate in music. Students also had to make difficult choices between extra-curricular music and other activities such as sport.”
The cost of music lessons and purchasing instruments was found to be a barrier that prevents parents from starting music lessons for their children, and from continuing lessons when they reach secondary school age. Self-confidence and travel difficulties were found to be other issue.
One of the thrusts of these proposed music hubs is multicultural music teaching, in which music education would be made “more appealing for all”, according to UCL lead researcher, Professor Graham Welch.
In Australia we do have Australian Piano Teachers’ Music Hub, a professional support group for piano teachers; and there is Music Hub Australia, an industry support organisation for venues, musicians and businesses. However, the kind of idea being proposed in this research is obviously quite different; and it might well have possibilities in this country. Potentially such hubs could be created by a combination of schools, local community authorities and private music teachers working together to provide alternative, and better, musical opportunities for children.