Richard Gill on why we need a National Institute of Music Teaching

Richard Gill
Graham Strahle
| November 10, 2015

Conductor and music education advocate Richard Gill is in early discussions with as yet unnamed tertiary institution to form a National Institute of Music Teaching involved in the practice and research teaching music. He also wants to see all lecturers in music education in the country’s tertiary sector spend 50 per cent their time teaching in school classrooms.

He put forward these ideas in the 17th Annual Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address, which he delivered in Sydney and Melbourne. Gill explained that music education needs to be strengthened across Australian schools, saying that “that every child in Australia should have access to a thoroughly qualified and properly trained music teacher”, and “that we teach music so that children can make their own music – that is new music”.

Gill’s central point was that the job of promoting new music should begin with children – “if you approach them at the right age, before biases and musical tastes are created, children will readily accept a whole range of music and approach it fearlessly,” he said.

“In the schools is where the music of the future will be found. This is where the new creative minds will be developed, where boundaries will be explored, where technology will be better understood by the new generations than any preceding generation and where we hope brave new worlds of imagination, new thoughts and new inventions will emerge.”

Gill’s hope is that the Australian Society of Music Education (ASME) will serve as primary lobbying platform for change because, as the peak professional body, it is “founded purely for the purposes of advocating music education”.

The National Institute of Music Teaching he is proposing “would be a specialist institution involving practice and research into the teaching of music and would encompass all aspects of music including music of the popular cultures,” he said. “It would also have a school attached as a demonstration school encompassing classes from pre-school to upper primary, and would be in essence, a teacher training facility.”

Gill already directs a National Music Teachers Mentoring program in conjunction with the Australian Youth Orchestra. This “harnesses resources which already exist, in the form of specialist teachers working as mentors alongside other teachers”. But the next thing he wants to do to raise the profile of music teaching is to encourage music education academics back into schools for fifty per cent of their teaching time. This would be “so that the students to whom they lecture on method and classroom procedures can see their own lecturers teaching”.

The full text of Gill’s address, entitled ‘The Case for New Music’, can be found here.


  1. John Nottle

    Congratulations to Richard Gill for raising these very, very important issues. I sincerely hope his recommendations will be fully implemented.
    I would also like to see a complete overhaul of the process which appoints music teachers to schools. Sadly and all too often, those appointing music teachers have little idea of what constitutes a quality music education. Therefore, every interviewing panel should comprise of at least one independent (highly) qualified and experienced practitioner.

  2. Jenni Hibbard

    Dear Richard,
    I was a very shy student of yours at Sydney Conservatorium many years ago, and just wanted to say that even though I was for such a short time at the Con, that your enthusiasm for music education and the ability to inspire me to overcome any obstacles in performances and to go into dangerous and new territory, has resulted in my co-directing and solo directing a festival for many years, commissioning some extraordinary new works by our living Australian composers that have broken new ground, taken these composers on a journey to new artistic expression, formed new groups and collaborations and I hope left a legacy of new Australian music for our listening public. My students are encouraged to step outside the square and last year a young girl composed a soundscape for prepared piano for her HSC – a huge step for someone who had never composed or improvised, so a fabulous and rewarding experience. Your voice is loud and clear and reaching all corners of the country. So simply – thanks!

  3. Mark Walton

    Richard as ever you are the bright shining light of music education in Australia. Everything you say makes total sense.

    The children who sing their first song tomorrow and the people who play their first wrong note tomorrow are the future of music.

    My only question is are Universities smart enough to realise this?

    Richard Gill you are our voice.

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