Music@Monkton – enabling every pupil to find their own voice.
Since arriving at Monkton, it has dawned on me [why did it take so long? subject of another blog entry sometime methinks] that music departments ought to be teaching all pupils, not just the musicians. In fact, separating out the musicians from the non-musicians seems to me to be the biggest mistake one could make. It appears to be a common misconception that if you don’t play an instrument, you’re not a musician, and this in turn gives many pupils the perfect get-out clause; ‘I’m not a musician, so you won’t be interested in me.’
As a lover of lists and information, I have spent many hours in the past mulling over the numbers of pupils who play each instrument, the proportions in the school who are learning and the levels which they have attained, and even considering ways in which we can encourage others to take up individual lessons. But this exercise always leaves a considerable number of pupils who fall outside the immediate interests of a music department. Of course it is right to focus on the pupils with talent, and to nurture that talent to the very best of our abilities. Apart from anything else, that is what most people expect from a music department; do you have an orchestra? what sort of things does the choir sing? how many pupils are taking individual instrumental/singing lessons? how many do you have taking GCSE/A level?
However, focusing exclusively on those who can leaves the question: ‘what about those who can’t?‘ I believe that we are letting our pupils down if we don’t answer this question. If someone is not particularly good at maths, we don’t just ignore them and assume that they’ll be better at something else. On the contrary, we give them more attention, more encouragement, and ideally we don’t stop giving that support until they have moved to a place where they feel more able and more confident. This thinking was the inspiration for ‘The choir who can’t sing.’