Guest Blog: Coventry Music talk musical inclusion and recruiting Disabled music leaders

We are pleased to host this guest blog by Mark Steele the Lead of Coventry Music, the Music Education Hub for Coventry, with whom we are delighted to be working in close partnership as part of the Drake Music’s Think22 Programme.

Think22 is a four year strategic programme funded by Youth Music’s national Alliance for a Musically Inclusive England (AMIE) . This is a collective of leading music organisations working together to promote diversity and cultural democracy in music education.

Working with our Music Education Hub Partners, including Coventry Music, we are delivering a programme of:

  • Advocacy for inclusive practice
  • Workforce development across the sector
  • Delivery of inclusive music sessions in schools

This includes working with Coventry Music tutors and teachers, as well as young people in school in the city. We work to develop skills and confidence in meeting the needs of Disabled musicians and to support the organisation on their inclusion journey. The latter includes the diversification of the workforce to address the under-representation of Disabled people in music education.

In this blog Mark talks us through the progress Coventry Music have made on their inclusion journey, working with Drake Music and other partners, and their current drive to recruit Disabled music tutors into the team.

Douglas Noble
Drake Music Think 22 Programme Lead

Musical inclusion, what is it and what does it mean to me?

A young boy smiles at the camera, behind him musician Kris Halpin is leading the group in making music

Inclusive music making is something that comes up in all manner of conversations in the Music Education sector. Is it refining your ensembles (groups) to enable access to those with barriers? Or launching a project to support a Special School? At Coventry Music alongside our Hub partners we have taken the approach that musical inclusion is an ethos and way of working, not projects.

Our view is to impact in as many ways as possible, to challenge both the perception of what is high quality music education and who/how/when it takes place.

Music inclusion comes in a variety of forms, but we are systematically improving and diversifying our offer. Before looking, challenging and improving again.

What has changed?

3 years ago, when I started in Coventry, we had 1 Drake Music project and an Open Orchestra, we considered this a great success. Reflecting on how this impacted city wide, we are now developing this work to ensure access.

All 8 Special Schools are working on a choir creation project with Armonico Consort, 3 Open Orchestra programmes are in place and 2 schools work with Drake and Coventry Music tutors collaboratively. We have also (just before Covid-19) launched a Solihull/Coventry SEND after-school music group. All of these programmes now have routes both for continuation and progression.

As part of the Coventry Music drive towards Inclusive Ensembles we have begun investing in iPads and other technology. We treat these fully like instruments and, though working with Drake Music and other providers to help sign-post appropriate apps does make this easier, it does rely on the workforce to invest in learning how to use the software effectively, just like mastering any activity to use in a lesson. Although this is a slow building process, eventually we hope to be in a position to support all Children and Young People with the appropriate instrument (technology/traditional) for their musical journey.

However, most importantly, we’ve been looking at Workforce Development!

What about our workforce?

Over the past few years we have discovered that the only way to embed and structure our approach to influence and challenge the ‘traditional music service offer’ is workforce understanding and access to inclusive provision. Drake Music have worked with our tutor team and Hub delivery on the ‘Social Model of Disability’ and accessible music technology, with immediate follow up programmes to enable hands on practical access with Children and Young people after the training.

We have also worked with Dr Phil Mullen through our partnership with MAC Makes Music as a prerequisite for our programme in the Alternative Provision sites – including Work related learning, Extended Learning Centres (PRU’s) and Hospital Education service.

We are now looking into assistance to diversify and develop our workforce further, to enable disabled musicians to support our provision both in Specialist and Mainstream provision.

If you are interested in working alongside our team and helping us continue our journey, please do get in touch via.

Coventry Music operates a self-employed tutor model and I can talk through with anyone interested what work is available and how to apply.

As we have restarted the new academic year we are back in schools delivering face-to-face tuition, however we have a variety of contingencies to ensure the safety of our workforce, children and young people and their families/teachers.

Mark Steele
Coventry Music Lead
Chair, Coventry Cultural Education Partnership

White text says Coventry Music on a blue background. It is written with a flourish.

Drake Music and AMIE Alliance for a Musically Inclusive England logosYouth Music logo

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