Why Musical Futures?

26th March 2019

Celebrating Fifteen Year of Musical Futures 

In celebration of the last 15 years since the launch of Musical Futures we take a look back at why this Special Initiative, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation,  arrived at such a crucial time in music education.

The Musical Futures project began as an action research programme to find new and imaginative ways of engaging young people in meaningful and sustainable music activities. The project sought to build on pre-existing knowledge of what made some music practitioners and projects so engaging to young people by identifying the common principles and actions underlying that work.  The task was to investigate new and imaginative ways that would engage more young people aged 11-19 in music activities for longer.

Following a year of consultation, in 2004, the Foundation commissioned a number of action research ‘pathfinder’ projects (led by Local Authority music services in Leeds, Nottingham and Hertfordshire) and research and development projects to realise a number of objectives:

  • To understand the factors affecting young people’s commitment to, and sustained engagement in, music
  • To develop ways in which the diverse musical needs of young people can be met and their experience of music-making enhanced
  • To realise viable, sustainable and transferable models which can support a national strategy for music and young people
  • To investigate, and make recommendations on, the most appropriate methods of mentoring and supporting young people’s preferences and skills
  • To find ways of validating and (where appropriate) accrediting all forms of young people’s musical experiences, including those undertaken without supervision
  • To facilitate support for music trainees, leaders, teachers and performers/ composers through the provision of development opportunities which highlight collaborative working practices

The Three Pathfinders

Each pathfinder was encouraged to be innovative and to find new ways of working across the age ranges of 11-19, to tackle some of the issues facing music amongst young people and then to evaluate what appeared to work as a result.

In Hertfordshire, the team – led by Professor Lucy Green (University of London, Institute of Education) introduced informal ways of learning into classroom music lessons following her extensive research into How Popular Musicians Learn*

Lucy Green explains what teachers can learn from popular musicians:

In Nottingham, the focus was on  working with schools to develop a new Key Stage 3 curriculum, designed and delivered by a partnership of teachers, peripatetic music tutors, community musicians and young people themselves.

While in Leeds,  online technologies supported learning outside the classroom and ways to support progression – such as the Musical Futures Leeds pathfinder project Writers Unblocked – in the non-formal sector were explored.

The research and development projects also included an examination of non-formal musical leadership practice and piloting mentoring programmes which bridged school experiences to those available outside school. The Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s work into transforming music leadership led to the development of the Classroom Workshopping model.

A core principle of the project throughout was the need to create models that were sustainable and replicable elsewhere and so the team created a number of practical ‘tools’ (teachers handbooks, web-site resources and a series of pamphlets).

Central to the initial project was the continued contribution toward the national debate surrounding music education. For the last fifteen years Musical Futures has continued to support teachers and music professionals in the UK and around the world with a core pedagogy and inclusive approaches to music-making that are designed to support more young people to make more music.

Musical Futures continues to advocate for high quality, practical music experiences for every child giving them the opportunity to take part and enjoy making music with their peers, whatever their level of ability or experience.  For this we have much to thank the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the project leader, David Price OBE and the project teams from the three ‘pathfinders’.  Without their vision and purpose, those initial ideas and explorations into what makes participating in music – whether in or out of school – an engaging, meaningful and authentic experience.

Musical Futures Now

Musical Futures in the UK continues to thrive.  In 2014, we ‘moved out’ of the PHF ‘family home’ and became an independent not-for-profit organisation with the sole purpose of supporting teachers and those working in music education hubs and organisations – offering training and resources to help them support young people make more music together whilst at the same time finding opportunities to develop fundamental musical skills and a lifelong enjoyment of music.

Musical Futures is lead and managed by Fran Hannan, one of the Musical Futures pathfinder team members.


The Musical Futures Special Initiative Team:

Musical Futures Project Leader: David Price OBE

Hertfordshire Pathfinder Team: Professor Lucy Green, John Witchell (Head of Hertfirdshire Music Service), Abigail D’Amore (Project Manager)

Nottingham Pathfinder Team: Ian Burton (Head of Nottingham Music Service, Sharon Jagdev Powell (Project Manager), Carolyn Davis and Helen Maltby

Leeds Pathfinder Team: Paul Kaiserman, Fiona Pacey, Jo Richardson (Project Manager), Fran Hannan (Assistant Project Manager)

*Music, Informal Learning and the School: A New Classroom Pedagogy (Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series) 1 by Lucy Green (ISBN: 9780754665229) 

Excellent workshops ‑ extremely accessible for all abilities and levels."

Claire Armour, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

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