What kind of leadership do we need to support musical progression most successfully?
Supporting progression, including musical progression, is often complex and complicated, with many different people needing to be involved and individual journeys needing to be at the centre. So what kind of leadership do we need in music education to enable, ultimately, all children and young people to be able to fulfil their musical potential?
This article stems from a presentation I was invited to give at the Federation of Music Services conference in June 2012, on leadership for musical progression. With a significant amount of change in the music education sector, and a rejuvenated demand for collaboration and partnership working across the different organisations and other agents in the music education environment, strong leadership will be crucial. But with so many different agents needing to be involved (schools, music education Hubs, music venues, professional musical ensembles, young people themselves, online learning materials, parents etc.), and reduced direct funding, a leadership style that tries overly to direct all of these agents will surely not be as successful as a style that aims to mobilise them. Similarly, a leadership approach that comes to the table with a predermined idea of what musicians we're trying to create from children and young people will end up coming up against its own brick wall. Whereas an approach that looks to support children and young people to fulfil their own musical potentials, whilst enriching their musical journeys with the great works of the past and present, will find several ways around, under and over that wall.
Firstly, we need to think about 'leading where: futures in the creative economy'. Where are today's young musicians going to be, what are they going to be doing, and what will they need to be able to do it? The following film pulls together some analyses of economic and creative trends, and the musical education needs that emerge from them.
Secondly, we need to ask about 'leading how: designing and structuring creative musical education'. Given the extent of change in musical consumption and creation, in education and in the creative economy, how we conceptualise, plan and execute strategies for musical progression:
Finally, boiling all of this down, what do we need in leadership for musical progression? Here are the five principles I'd draw out and apply:
1. Enriching, not prescribing
Today's young people are creating tomorrow's creativity economy: we need to support them. If the greatest that today's young people can aspire to is to be as good as the greatness of the past, then they're being denied the opportunity to create the future. So cherished, established excellence needs to enrich but not determine young musical journeys.
2. Believing, empowering, supporting
Excellence comes from successful individual journeys through supportive collaborative environments. To make this happen, we need strong, enabling leadership for creative music education: enabling from within, not directing from in front - believing in young people, empowering them, and supporting them.
3. Moblising and collaborating
There are many different ingredients in a progression environment, and manifold agents involved: no one can do it alone. To make this happen, we need strategic leadership: planning for consequences, mobilising the different agents and stakeholders, and collaborating for success.
4. Supporting young music leadership
More than recipients, children and young people need to be agents in their education. Music is more than notes and tomorrow's musical adults will need to be collaborative weavers and sculptors of engaging musical experiences, much more than they are impressive note-mongers. Young music leadership - children and young people supporting others' musical development - can both unlock the potential of children and young people to learn from and with each other, and it can develop confidence and support children and young people to create engaging social musical experiences.
5. Nurturing creativity
We should take creativity seriously: children's lives will depend on it. We need to be recognising and nurturing creativity, and being creative ourselves, if we are to co-create tomorrow's creative musical adults.