Moving on (and on Moving On Up)

Anita Kerwin-Nye reflects on her tenure as Chair of Musical Futures.

Mummy, mummy sing again. I didn’t know you could sing”.

After 3 years as inaugural Chair of Musical Futures I have reached the end of my term of office and am handing over the reins to the wonderful Martin Ainscough. As we move onto the next stage in Musical Futures development it feels right to handing over to a practising classroom teacher. That Musical Futures is the best of the not for profit sector working to support teachers to lead practice has always been part a large part of my interest in the Musical Futures model.

As someone whose career pathway sits at the interface of schools and charity – and someone who spends the working day fighting for the entitlement of all children and young people to access a rich and rounded curriculum – it has been a privilege to Chair Musical Futures over its first 3 years as an independent organisation.

Starting a new organisation – even one with a pedigree that came from its years being incubated by Paul Hamlyn Foundation – comes with challenges. From the legalities of Articles, employment policies, opening bank accounts and managing IP – through finding office space, creating web presence, setting up staffing structure – to setting up a business model for an organisation that had previously been 100% funded.  And all this while trying to do the core business!

We’ve got some bits less right than others but – three years on – we are a long way towards achieving our strategic aims. Our Just Play programme is reaching into primary schools and sits alongside our strong secondary network and Youth Music funded Disquiet is giving us great thinking on how we reach into communities.  Musical Futures continues to be an international model and our partnerships across the world are a source of great inspiration. And, like most organisations we are looking at approaches to sustainability and I am proud of how we are doing that with rigour and realism.

But it is the last of the strategic aims I want to speak to. Knowing our impact. I see this in and through the teachers we work with and the young people whose videos you can see on the site. But I want to end this short reflection explaining the sentence that I opened with.

Those of you who have heard me speak at Musical Futures conferences will have heard me talk of my fear of music teachers. People have on occasion been shocked and a little offended and I get that – the juxtaposition of my Chair role and that statement seems odd. But it is actually a large part of why I became Chair.

Since being told by my teacher– at age 11 – just before going to sing in choir performance I felt dead excited about not to sing loudly because I made the choir sound ‘off’ I have not sung in public without a sense of sickness and fear. And indeed, over the years the number of people I would sing in front of gradually reduced and included even my children.

Musical Futures is not about music just for the ‘talented’ or about music practiced in a room alone. It is about the joy of the performance. It is about the collaboration and community that music is built on. Of course, it is about developing skills and knowledge and technique- about improving and growing. But it is positive and affirming. And joyful.

How could I be Chair of something so amazing and not sing. So, I took music lessons. With a non-scary teacher (there are many I have discovered). And now I sing. Not loudly –  and maybe missing the odd note or three. But with joy and love and quite a lot of laughter.

And that quote wasn’t from my 5-year-old (who was equally excited to hear mum sing albeit didn’t agree with choice of songs) – it was from my 18-year-old. Hearing me sing had been something she just hadn’t experienced and she, unlike the 5-year-old, at least got that M People were massively underrated.  And now- thanks to Musical Futures, carpool karaoke is us.

For that – and for the wonderful work of my fellow Board members, our funders, amazing staff past and present and the brilliant teachers who inspire the joy for all children and young people – thank you.  Every child should have a musical future.

Excellent workshops – extremely accessible for all abilities and levels.

Claire Armour, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

The children I am working with are responding to positively. They are very keen to learn new music and don’t not feel threatened to play. They enjoy the ‘have a go’ and ‘just play’ strategy.

Mhairi Easton, Southesk primary School

Would be lost without MF – The organisation supports my ethos as a teacher!

Teacher of Music, Turves Green Girls School