Kent – Making Waves in Music AND Music Education

Did you also know some of the world’s leading musicians got their start – or leg up – amongst the rolling wealds, salty docks and city streets of Kent? Keep the UK music scene thriving with excellent music education for all its pupils. A solid education in singing, performing and composing can take you all the way from primary to Glastonbury.

Schools

Building a back to school playlist? Pick your fave artist and musical decade…

  • 70s Rolling Stones
  • 80s Kate Bush
  • 90s David Bowie
  • 2000s Pixie Lott
  • 2010s Ellie Goulding

You certainly won’t go wrong with any of these choices. But – fun fact – did you know these Top 40 artists all have musical ties to Kent?

 

 

Kent – Epicentre for UK Pop Music

While Sheffield has the Arctic Monkeys and Def Leppard and Birmingham has UB40, Duran Duran and Laura Mvula, Kent has a rich musical legacy not to be sniffed at.

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Whether it’s Dartford where Jagger and Richards met at primary, Beckenham where Bowie laid down roots, or Canterbury where drama student Goulding was discovered at a uni talent competition, Kent has birthed and/or nurtured some of the best musical talent the UK has ever produced.

“What do The Sex Pistols, David Bowie, Fatboy Slim and The Rolling Stones all have in common? Other than the fact that they are all giants in the world of music, each has at one stage or another called our humble county home. 

Everyone from legendary, genre-defining rockstars to chart-topping pop stars has had connections to the Garden of England. Clearly, something in the Kent air inspires and nurtures musical talent.” KLIV

Sing Education teacher is using flashcards to teach music at St George's Primary School

It’s not in the air, it’s in the music education

Though music education is under pressure from funding cuts, shifting government priorities and broader academic remits every year for schools to achieve, music in schools has experienced a steady decline over the past decade: one in five report no regular music provision, and under half have no music specialist. CHUR

[Moreover, m]usic in schools has suffered further with the restrictions imposed by the pandemic: children have not been able to sing for two years, and teachers have noted a decline in the quality of collective singing. CHUR

“The risk is that a generation of children will grow up with many excluded from the experience of music and the opportunities for development and educational achievement it brings,” the [Richard Shephard Music Foundation’s] general manager, Cathy Grant, says.

Thomas Kemp, Artistic Director of Music@Malling, recounts…

“I began learning the violin in the 1970s with group lessons in the kitchen of West Malling Primary School offered by the Kent Music School. The lessons were free and there were clear progression routes for those that persevered with ensembles, orchestras and an excellent Saturday music school for gifted and talented musicians from across the county – many of whom are now working in the profession.

Fast forward…and the landscape in Kent was very different. I went back to my old primary school and very quickly realised that there was no music! It was the realisation that many children had little or no access to music provision that led me to set up Music@Malling, an international festival that brings outstanding musicians to historic venues in and around West Malling Kent in concerts and outreach.” STRA 

“Music is a subject that all pupils can access in an equal way to express themselves. We must strive to ignite the aspirations of all students – the high achievers, those with special educational needs, as well as those with English as an additional language.” Josh Cadman, Director of Operations

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Fortunately, with the aid of local communities, traditional centres for co-curricular music – such as church choirs and after school clubs – continue to look for ways to reinvent themselves to make music even more accessible.

Cathedral choirs - preserving musical heritage, producing music leaders

Established by Augustine in 597 AD – under the commision of Pope Gregory – the founding of Canterbury Cathedral marks a pivotal moment in the rich tapestry of English history. 

Renowned for its cathedral choir, music has long played an integral part in the life of the Cathedral and is a tradition in which the community takes great pride.

That said, some 1400 years later, seismic change is afoot.

[Presently] the Canterbury Cathedral Choir consists of adult singers, boy choristers and girls, who are aged between 12 and 18.”  KONL 

Following a partnership formed with St. Edmunds in the 70s, male choristers have typically studied as boarding students at the independent Kent school. To help with finances, choristers were given partial scholarships by the Cathedral towards St Edmunds’ £13,000 annual school fees.

Announced earlier this year, “[b]ig changes will allow child[ren] from any school to join Canterbury Cathedral choirs.”

“Cathedral bosses say they have “committed themselves to progressing equality”, as they announce members will be allowed to continue to study at any institution, with compulsory boarding no longer a requirement. KONL

“[Moreover,] the boys [will no longer] perform at five services and attend nine rehearsal sessions. [W]hen the changes come into place, they will sing at three services a week – the same number as the girls’ choir.” KONL

The Very Reverend Dr David Monteith, Dean of Canterbury, supports the changes the Cathedral is bringing in.

“Music is an integral part of worship here,” he said.

“We have a united vision of the Cathedral that blesses and serves the people of the city and the wider community.

“We believe this announcement helps children across the area benefit from the life-changing experience that singing in a Cathedral choir offers. KONL

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Reimagining state-funded music education

Whether in a cathedral school, independent or state-funded setting, it’s clear that music education needs to start early and with a firm foundation. 

Cathy [Grant of RSMF] said:

“Richard Shephard changed the lives of hundreds of children across York and North Yorkshire, and the goal of the Foundation is to extend that legacy and experience to thousands more children across the North.

“Right now, many children in communities across the region are unable to experience a full and progressive music education, through no fault of their own.

“By subsidising this programme of music teaching, and providing performance opportunities, this can start to change.” TYP

And to reflect on thoughts shared by Thomas Kemp of Music@Malling:

“I would argue that singing and composing are key from the outset – encouraging children to be creative and learning to express themselves. In my opinion, this should be a universal provision in all primary schools. Learning a string instrument flows from this and compliments instrumental lessons. A basic musical foundation has to be there before introducing an instrument, otherwise there is too much to learn at once. 

I also feel that string teaching has to start with singing as it enables each person to get in touch with their natural instrument: the voice. This can be transferred to a string instrument but only when there is a concept of sound and pitch.” STRA

“[However] with schools often lacking the resources or time to develop a progressive, challenging music curriculum, [charities like the RSMF in partnership with music leader, Sing Education] have had to step in] to make things easier. TYP

Sing Education’s New Vision for Primary Music Education

Sing Education’s vision for primary school music is founded on the core provisions of the National Plan for Music Education (NPME). 

As a result, we bring our proven – yet innovative – curricular design, teacher development, classroom strategy and full-service support model to schools looking for:

  • Music education provision in the primary school setting
  • Teacher training and continuous professional development
  • Music beyond the classroom – co-curricular provision

Through music lessons, singing assemblies, choirs, after school clubs and instrumental tuition, Sing Education works with students from Nursery right through to Year 6. Our core philosophy is that “Every Child Has A Voice,” and, as educators active in the classroom, our directors and teachers know firsthand how much young learners benefit from exciting, rewarding music education. 

To learn more about Sing Education, including how our music provision, online instrumental lessons and at home learning resources contribute to a well-rounded music curriculum, please visit www.singeducation.co.uk/schools

For even more information, practical tips and guidance to help you design a well-rounded school music programme, click here to download your FREE CHECKLIST “Year 6 – Are they ready for the next step?”

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About Us

Founded in 2014 and serving more than 16,000 children each week, Sing Education is a first class provider of primary school music education. Focusing on high-quality, singing-led tuition, we deliver a complete solution for schools which includes teacher recruitment, training and management, bespoke curricular resources and educational consultancy services. 

Through music lessons, singing assemblies, choirs, after school clubs and instrumental tuition, Sing Education works with students from Nursery right through to Year 6. Our core philosophy is that “Every Child Has A Voice,” and, as educators active in the classroom, our directors and teachers know firsthand how much young learners benefit from exciting, rewarding music education. 

Sing Education currently partners with schools throughout Greater London and Kent, as well as Yorkshire and the Humber. 

Not yet on the list? Please enquire about our expansion plans for additional areas we will serve during the 2023-24 academic year.

singeducation.co.uk/schools

#SingEducation #HubsAndSpokes #InsideMusicEd

 

Sources:

  1. The biggest names in music that have called Kent home Kent Live KLIV
  2. Canterbury Cathedral claims new choir policy is inclusive but parents say opposite is true Kent Online KONL
  3. The charity bringing music to 700 children The York Press TYP
  4. UK primary music education is a lottery. Here’s how to help The Strad STRA
  5. Education: Striking the right note for learning The Church Times CHUR

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Windswept moors. Cathedral cities. Charming residents. Yorkshire is famous for its rich cultural heritage, outstanding natural beauty and lasting impact on British political history (War of the Roses, Guy Fawkes, 1984 Miner’s Strike). But are you as familiar with its musical legacy?

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