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Communicate the value and impact of what you do, explain your work, sell your services

AH: Hello, it’s Anita here and welcome to this month’s podcast. In this episode, I’m talking with Ross DeVille, who CEO of Music Masters. Music Masters is a music education charity that runs group music, making programs in schools, teacher training, and also gets involved in advocacy to reach young people facing barriers to music education. Why I thought you’d be interested is that they’ve recently created a diversity tool, which helps music schools and orchestras to be more inclusive and better reflect the society we live in. It’s particularly interesting, because it parallels a lot of work going on at the moment, including the work that Youth Music and the Alliance for a Musically Inclusive England have done to develop equality, diversity and inclusion planning tools. So welcome, Roz. And thank you for coming on the podcast. It’s really great to meet you. And I’m really curious to find out more about the diversity tool and Music Masters. 

RDV: Thanks for having me. 

AH:You’re welcome. So can I start by asking a little bit about you? How did you end up where you are today? And why is it so important to you personally? 

RDV: Sure. So I’m from a very musical background, which is lucky because my schools weren’t so musical. And my Mum’s a piano teacher. She studied organ and piano at the Royal College, and my dad’s a pipe organ builder.  And so I grew up surrounded by music, I started piano at three, violin at six. And actually, you know, we didn’t have a lot of money when I was younger. And I learned piano because of my Mum. And her best friend taught me violin for free. So actually, it’s, it’s really important to me because of, having opportunities, and many children don’t have that kind of opportunity. So, if music doesn’t happen in school, that can be a real issue, that can be a real barrier to access. But yeah I went on and after a little blip, I’d say, with music at school, I joined my local youth orchestra, Essex Youth Orchestra. And had a fantastic time and went on to study music at King’s London started off my career in artist management, particularly working with composers, I worked with some fantastic people who were very passionate about music education. So you know while we’d arrange performances, or something, often there would be an opportunity to do something with local communities or school or something like that. And alongside that work, I was also doing education work with my own string quartet. So it felt very natural to then go on and work in a school. So I went on to a school in East London called Galleons Primary School, which is very well known.  

And I was the first ever music manager there, which I thought was a such a strong statement from the school, you know, a  state primary in employing someone in that role. And within that I identified a need to raise money because you know, budgets are increasingly tight for schools. So I kind of added that into my skill set at that time. And we ended up building a Music Centre, actually for use in the community and the school just because space was being so squeezed in the school and we thought, we’ve got to protect music. We’ve got to make it something that that endures in the school. So we created this amazing thing. And then I found myself at Music Masters or London Music Masters as we were until September, and was there for five years as Learning Director and became CEO in September.

AH: What a brilliant career history. So two things I wanted to ask one, Galleons Primary, I didn’t realise you were involved. I’d love to have you back on the podcast to talk in more detail about that. And you mentioned a little blip, never say ‘little blip’ to somebody who’s got a journalist background! Can I ask you about that? Was that something to do with being put off music or ..?

RDV: I think I was quite lonely, actually. And musically, I spent a lot of time playing the piano, and that’s fine. But the violin, you know, which is seen as quite a sociable instrument because of the opportunities with orchestras and you know, and ensemble playing. At that time, the orchestra at my school was really not very good. It’s now fantastic and, and the school and the whole kind of town is full of music and education opportunities, but back then, not so much and I felt that I was not normal in some sense, because I was one of the only ones who played and practiced a lot. And that, you know … I started learning the drums at one point because I thought it was a bit cooler. And my parents very generously bought me a drum kit, which actually sat in their bedroom for a long time, which was incredible of them, you know, they wanted to keep me playing and keep me going. 

And when I joined Essex Youth Orchestra, which was in a different part of Essex, it was actually still kind of an hour away from me. And when I did that, it just changed. It changed everything. Yeah, I remember sitting in the first rehearsal and playing, I think it’s Tchaikovsky five. And just thinking, Oh, my goodness, you know, this is a totally different experience. His sound world is absolutely incredible. And it yeah, it got me back on track. 

AH: That’s a really lovely story. Because it’s so important that we understand young people’s … the importance of young people’s identity, isn’t it, in music and finding that the right musical identity for them. Can you tell me a little bit about Music Masters and what it actually does, starting with schools programme? 

RDV: Yeah, of course. So we we work in five schools, across London in disadvantaged communities, and we’re in Lambeth and Islington and Westminster, our school relationships are our long term. And so the youngest school relationship of the five is now I think, in its fifth year, and we’re not expanding the number of schools we work with, we have this this kind of family of schools, and that’s stable now. And I’ll probably get onto that and the reason for that a little later. But I mean, two of our schools have been with us since we first launched in 2008. So they are long term very long term relationships. And some of our teachers, actually a lot of our teachers have been with us as well for that kind of time. 

So in terms of our programs, while there is some variation to our program model, depending on the school context, typically we start with the youngest children in reception. So we go in with a musicianship program that sees all the children learning the building blocks of music, through singing, and dance and play and activity, kind of all inspired by Kodaly in its kind of child-centred nature, but bringing in lots of other approaches and ideas. And musicianship is also very much about supporting the class teacher in strengthening their skills and confidence. So there’s a strong training element there as well. 

And after that, musicianship does remain kind of a core part of the program. But it moves more into the space of instrumental lessons. And so the first year of learning either the violin or cello, it’s a blended musicianship and instrumental kind of start up year. And the kind of purpose of it is to inspire wonder and excitement into learning and instruments. And the children then have two years of large and small group instrumental lessons, which happens several times a week, until they finish Key Stage one, and suddenly was a week. That’s a Yeah, they have three lessons a week. So it is quite intensive. And they all have their own instrument as well. So they can take that home and practice beyond that if they want to continue into key stage two. And they can, and typically, would then continue up until the end of year six. Again, they’re slightly different models at each school, but on the whole children each receive an individual lesson and a group lesson each week. And there are also ensemble opportunities. We also teach a really exciting project based musicianship program for key stage two, which again, kind of engages and supports class teachers. 

AH: So do all children in each of the five schools get involved in this? 

RDV: Yes.

AH: Fantastic. So a child will go from the start of their school, to the end of the school to year six, having three music lessons a week, plus instrumental tuition plus ensemble opportunities and project based opportunities. 

RDV: They get musicianship for the first year, then there are two years of these kind of three lessons a week model, and then for those children who want to continue, because not everyone does, and we completely respect that. And in that case, we kind of we either will be in there doing musicianship for the Key Stage 2 anyway. So they’ll still be with us in some form, or we’ll help them to, you know, move on and maybe work with the music service and try a different instrument or something like that, because we are strings only. And that’s because we know the instruments are challenging. Yeah. So it’s really to kind of develop that resilience and and to provide challenge because it can be so rewarding.

AH: When you say stringed instruments, which ones do you cover? 

RDV: It’s violin and cello 

AH: And the programmes they are they free to schools and if not, where does the money come from? 

RDV: They’re not free to schools. Basically, we work with the school to support the cost. So both of us put in quite a lot to subsidise it. As you can probably imagine, it’s not  an inexpensive program, because of the the frequency and the kind of volume of teaching involved. So schools have to invest a significant proportion of their budget to ensure that all of their children can have this this kind of very high quality opportunity because they can see what it does for the children and that they see that the doors that it opens up, and then in Key Stage Two parents can also make a contribution if they can, although we do have a kind of very high level bursary scheme for anyone who needs it. And you know, we’d never exclude a child from the programme due to financial circumstances. And we’re small enough to still be able to work on an individual level with individual parents or carers to make sure that, you know, they know that and they know that we’re there to support them. 

AH: Is there any evaluation of the impacts of the work? I’m just sort of thinking that, obviously, you must see it every day, you’ve got such long term relationships, clearly the schools see the value of music education … do you do any form of evaluation of the sort of wider impacts? So for example, you know, what’s the impact on academic achievement? What’s the impact on social personal development, that type of thing? 

RDV: We do. So we have an evaluation program that runs twice a year, we developed a toolkit about four years ago, I think, with the social innovation partnership, and it’s essentially a series of surveys, different surveys, now that they’re all done online, you know, it has kind of smiley faces and things. And they do cover a whole load of different areas and questions and, you know, things where, where we’re trying to find out about the impact on their social and their emotional development is a very time consuming thing. But it’s absolutely worth it. So our whole team will go in to the schools twice, again, sit down with every class and every student at the computer, and just talk to them and just say, you know, let’s work through this any questions, let us know, we also kind of design the toolkit with the children, and we got them to pilot it and tell us what we were doing right are what the questions made sense, or whether it was a ridiculous thing that we were asking, you know, all those things. And that’s, that’s really important. And it all kind of gets fed into an online system. And we’re, we’re actually getting some formal analysis done this year, because it’s our fourth year of collecting data. We use the data internally to support us with making changes to the program. And we draw bits of information. So qualitative and quantitative. And for kind of, you know, funding applications or reports to talk to our schools about to talk to the parents and the children about but we are yet to do something a bit more public, which is what we’re hoping to do this year, even though data collection’s a little bit difficult this year. 

AH: Yeah, absolutely. And that sounds fascinating, that evaluation model. And have you got any thoughts of sharing it more widely, kind of, you know, making it available to other people? or? 

RDV: Yeah, I mean, we certainly could do. And it does draw on questions and tools, which are part of the Youth Music Toolkit … Sections of it are from there as well. But there’s, there are also questions that are more unique to the work that we do. But we’d certainly be very happy to share it with anyone who would like it. And I imagine that it will come out as part of the kind of report and  analysis that we do, because it works, it works well. And actually, we had a couple of weeks ago, I had a Zoom with maybe about 20 years sixes to, again, get their input on on the questions and also to try and work with them on what we’re not asking, and how they think that we could be listening better. So I think there are changes that we can still make, and we’ll be making what they’ve suggested. It’s an ongoing process. 

AH: That sounds brilliant. And it’s really good to hear that, you know, young people are informing those questions. That leads me on to my next question, which is about making your work inclusive. So I’m just interested to know, I know, it’s difficult to explain, describe exactly. But what are the main ingredients of your approach? Because, you know, being inclusive, obviously, isn’t just about saying, Well, you know, we’re in a school, we’re reaching everybody. So, in what sense? Do your tutors adapt their practice for a range of learners? 

RDV: It’s a really important point. So in terms of our tutors, we have a team of around, I think it’s 23 teachers across our five schools, and they come together and they share practice a lot. Now, we have three kind of main teacher training days a year, but there are lots of other opportunities where they get together and as an online teaching space and forums and Facebook groups. Yeah. And so a big focus is on inclusive practice and differentiation, as our schools have, you know, a high level of diversity in every sense of the word. So, I mean, one of our teachers is our SEN/D lead, who supports all the other teachers and approaches and ideas to working with children with special needs and disabilities. And we certainly have flexibility with how we structure lessons and sessions to accommodate children who you know, perhaps struggle with the larger group environments, or who need a slower pace, when starting instrumental, wherever they are on their their journey, because we know that when you’ve got a group, you’ve got a big group, you know, they’re not all going at the same pace, and they have very different needs. 

And sometimes it’s really hard for them to say, you know, stop, or I can’t keep up with them, I’m not enjoying this or, you know, it’s especially when they’re very young, they’re all at very different stages. And the difference between, year four, and five, or five, and six is huge. So when you plonk violin in their hands, we have to be very, very aware of these different pieces and how to meet different needs. But you know, it’s really about enabling a scenario where they can enjoy learning their instruments. And, again, we asked the children as well how they feel, and really try and create space for them to talk to us and say, this isn’t working for me. And I think we’re that starting to really pay off. Now, it’s hard at the beginning, because they don’t really know how much they can say, or they don’t quite always know how to describe how they’re feeling. So it’s about thinking about how we can support them with telling us or showing us and those conversations happen or are encouraged as part of the practice as part of the session. Yes, brilliant. Yeah. So our teachers who all have training in Youth Voice, so it’s all very much embedded in what we do. 

AH: Fantastic. That’s really good to hear. I just wanted to mention also that I don’t think we’ve mentioned this yet, your way of delivering these lessons isn’t whole class, which I’d originally thought it was it’s actually medium, not small group, it’s medium group, isn’t it? So 10 to 12? 

RDV: Exactly, yeah,  I think we feel that there is a there’s a balance to be struck, our programme has always set out to show what can be done. And we know that it’s not always possible to do smaller groups. In school, it is not it’s not cheap. You know, it’s but it but it does show that the progress that can be made is incredible, really, and the development and the support of young people’s development, when it when there are kind of maybe half class groups or something as opposed to the full class group, which is really is a tough environment for any teacher to work in, when you when you have instruments and everything. So we do some work in whole classes, certainly. And for example, our Key Stage 2 musicianship is taught to the whole classes. And what’s amazing about the larger groups, is if that feeling of cohort, and community, and celebration together, but certainly for learning an instrument, it is undoubtedly a bit easier when the groups are a bit smaller. 

AH: Do you have any … have you ever made any comparison of the progress that your students make or have made, between … I suppose it’s difficult to find a control group isn’t it …. but compare, for example, progress that you’ve seen in whole class in hubs, with the progress that you’re seeing in smaller groups in your programme …

RDV: We haven’t actually … it’s fascinating, and it’s something which has come up a bit recently, because the the Team Teach program, our PGCEi, which  I was going to, to mention, we have lots of the students on there, who do teach whole classes. And so we’ve been thinking a lot about that, and about how we can show the practice in that when when we’re not ourselves, necessarily delivering that, but we have some amazing partnerships. And some of the hubs are delivering absolutely outstanding practice with with whole class teaching. So we’re looking to kind of link up a lot more and to make that something where we can we can really start to make some of those comparisons. So kind of watch this space, I’d say, yes. 

AH: So that’s a fascinating aspect to your work is this PGCEi  course in group instrument learning? So tell me a little bit more about that. And I’m particularly interested to know cuz I don’t know a lot about what other courses are around? Is it the only course of its type?

RDV: It’s a good question. We think so. So okay, we think it’s unique in that we are an organisation, we’re a charity that works directly with schools. So we, you know, we work every day, we’re in schools every day of the week, you know, full timetables, we take over schools, and that requires us to have a unique and very enduring and strong and trustful relationships with senior leadership teams and with everyone in the school, actually, and we’re embedded there. And this is quite unique, I think, because other providers have some fantastic courses for music teachers, which do touch on group teaching, but I think what’s nice about our course is that our schools are essentially a kind of innovation hubs or learning hubs and a lot of the observations and mentoring takes place there. And so whether we’re we have students coming in to the classrooms and doing a placement or working alongside our teachers or observing a lesson, or we’re live streaming and having a, you know, on Zoom, which has been a thing! And because we have lots of participants from across the UK, it’s amazing because we can, we can just work with our teachers with the schools, we have this very, very unique relationship, which means, essentially, they support us in what we need to do, because they see, it’s important to share practice. 

So it’s fantastic that even for example, in this time, where schools and you know, a lot of music hasn’t been happening in schools, we’ve been able to run pretty much our full program, but also our schools have allowed us to bring people in, obviously, very safely, or roster live stream into their schools. And that’s it, that’s a real, you know, getting lots of permissions and all sorts of things which the schools support us with, to make this happen all because they really believe in the training work that we’re doing, and they’re happy to take part in it. So it’s we do, we think it’s a unique aspect of what we do. And it’s a very practical course, even though it is postgraduate, which means there are academic elements as well. 

AH: So basically, who are the people that go on to the course?

RDV: it’s a mix, and it’s, I mean, it’s for musicians and instrumental teachers who, who want to make a difference. And so you know, people who want to challenge and lead on, I guess, changing the story of patchy provision and inequality of access and, and kind of address quality itself as that’s completely in line with our aims. So and I think having mixed cohorts in terms of experience is really strong, we find that the teachers who perhaps, or musicians who have, perhaps just graduated from conservatoire or college or whatever, or have been kind of studying recently, they’re good with the academic elements, and that they can share and support maybe those who are who are less familiar or, you know, it’s been a while. And then you’ve got those teachers who are much more experienced practically. And they’ve had years of experience and some who are really high up in hubs or other organisations that have plenty to share in that way, as well. So it’s actually brilliant having a mix, you know, the common thread is the desire to make change. 

AH: Is it mainly particular instruments? So is it strings? Or is it any instrument? And could it go beyond classical music? 

RDV: Yeah, it’s quite early days for us. We launched it as a pilot last September, and we had a first cohort and they were brilliant, because they indulged us as we asked them pretty much across the whole year, what do you think? And how did this go and, we were honestly sending them questions constantly. And this year, it’s a little bit different. We’ve tweaked the content a bit, but we have suddenly leaps into a more kind of nationwide delivery, because we’ve been able to really, because of the technological push, we were given through COVID. And we’ve embraced it. And we’re able to engage lots of lots of students in the kind of work on a wider range. And in terms of broadening the audience for the course, we are looking to do this at the moment, we have violinists and cellists on the course. But we also have this year, a guitarist and a double bassist, which I know probably doesn’t sound too too wild in terms of broadening the instruments, but it essentially so we can test the content, and to test that it is transferable and relevant across a slightly wider range of instruments, because we do certainly intend to, to broaden out to to other families of instruments, and two different types of music. 

What’s wonderful about the the course is that it’s actually very much education focused. So we partner with the education department at the Birmingham City University, not the music faculty, because the course was born out of us really feeling as though music teachers and instrumental teachers should feel confident in delivering with groups and classes of children in the same way that trained classroom teachers do. So it’s very much about thinking about the teaching standards, and how those, and that’s why it’s a PGCE. 

AH: That’s another question I was going to ask you, because obviously, that’s a primary teaching qualification. 

RDV: Exactly. So yes, it’s, it’s kind of follows a similar framework. It’s a PGCEi, which is a little different 

AH International. Is that right?

RDV: It is, yes, it is an international one. So it is essentially just a framework that kind of worked best for the content that we wanted to, to create and the things we wanted to teach. But it’s been amazing. I mean, we have some incredible expertise at Birmingham that we draw from, and I think it’s just it’s fascinating to look at the context of primary schools and the primary curriculum, rather than just coming at it from a music perspective. 

AH: Brilliant. And so when would the next cohort be taken on?

RDV: In the spring, and we’ve got some really big plans for the course and for our training, because it’s been it’s just been fantastic Actually,  the enthusiasm and the talent that we’ve seen coming through virtual doors is just incredible. And it’s something we can see will make a huge impact, you know, those teachers wanting to make a difference, taking that back to their communities and their workspaces, and really leading on making change, you know, so this is how we want to develop and and we think that there can be a lot we can do, we’re thinking about how we can partner up with schools around the UK, how we can help to provide placements and opportunities in that way, at lots lots of things about and that’s happening. 

AH: Absolutely. So lots of sort of partnerships with hubs and music services. That sounds as though it’s going to go that way. 

RDV: Oh, absolutely.

AH: So the thing I was particularly interested in hearing about more is the diversity tool. So can you tell me a little bit about that? 

RDV: Yes, yeah, of course, the tool has actually been in development since possibly 2017. Working with some incredible partners, so Frost Included https://frostincluded.com/, and Alix Partners https://www.alixpartners.com/ to, to build this to really help organisations, musical organizations to ask questions, and to look at where they are, and to kind of really interrogate how inclusive they are, and and what they could do to become more so.  That’s really driven driven out of, you know, seeing the experiences of our young people and actually wanting to ensure that they are welcome that, you know, they they’re going into an asset sector, which welcomes them, and values them and wants to work with some absolutely incredible talent, that perhaps without knowing it, that they’re closing doors on at the moment. And, you know, we’re seeing our young people our oldest graduates are now, you know, 17,18, we have one who was applying to Juilliard, and has incredible aspirations, and it’s essential for us, that change happens. 

So really, the tool was kind of gently developing and put on hold a little bit over the past couple of years, as we really focused in on Team Teach. But when the Black Lives Matter movement kind of resurged in the summer, we thought, we absolutely have to do something, to support organisations to respond, to think and to take that time and that space to think about what they can do. So we launched actually a trial version, which covers three dimensions. So that the tool itself, the whole tool has 10 dimensions, but the three dimensions we wanted to put out there were around motivation, leadership and accountability, and organisational culture, this is kind of a starting point for organisations to really think about those areas. And there’s a series of  around 10 questions per dimension, and to get together as groups of stakeholders to really think at every level about just how they’re doing and how mature they are in these, these areas. 

And it’s kind of a score system. So you’re asked to give yourself a score for each question. And and if you answer, you know, towards the top, the four, four or the five, you’re asked to submit some evidence as well, to really show to really kind of back up where you think you are, and how well you’re doing there. It is really a framework for provoking questions and conversations. 

And what happens after that is an independent assessor ED&I, expert will create this initial report structure, so really looking at your answers, and that then gets taken through into a workshop space where, again, different stakeholders from an organisation, whether that’s kind of participants, players, management boards come together, to really think about potential actions to take and just have a have a safe space to talk openly about their feelings and their concerns, with someone who can help them to make some sense of it. And that’s then put into a kind of very comprehensive report, which outlines practical steps to making progress, as guided and identified by that organisation throughout that whole process. 

AH: That sounds amazing and really detailed. I think it’s probably goes into more depth than the tools that Youth Music have and I also wondered about whether this is particularly coming from a race lens, or is it you know, equality, diversity and inclusion in all aspects? 

RDV: It is across all aspects. The questions certainly are set up to provoke kind of sorts of across all all aspects. But I think given the context in which it was, I suppose, released in this trial version, a lot of people are focusing in on on race, and it’s whatever feels like it’s possible in terms of making some progress, and relevant and motivating for the organization. But it can certainly be used across the board. And at the moment, it is focused in on music organisations. And that’s not to say it will always need to be and because it is quite flexible. 

AH: Yeah. So I wanted to ask about that because it’s obviously got a different audience than than the Youth Music tool. So that one has to do with the organisations that are working with young people as they progress through sort of, I suppose, school and up to 25. And I know that Youth Music are working beyond that sort of school age group now and working with the industry a little bit more. So your tool is almost for the industry onwards, is that right? 

RDV: So it will be for the orchestras, the music schools, anybody else. And just to give an idea of who we work with, we’ve, I should say, we work with around 70 organisations this year so far, that ranges from schools, we’ve got music hubs, organisations and networks. But we also have music charities, publishers, and agencies, we have major orchestras. We have many of them, major orchestras have taken part, opera companies, venues. So it’s incredible. 

AH: So it can be applied at any stage, organisations working with people at any stage. 

RDV: Yeah, I mean, and also it’s, I suppose it’s not limited to organisations working with young people, but many of the organisations we work with do have learning and participation departments or something like that. So that’s where that comes in. But it’s, it’s really thinking about what they can do now. But what they can also do to support those that future generation as well and think a little bit more long term 

AH: Do people pay to be part of this programme?

RDV: So far, the trial has been free, because it was a gesture, it was something we thought we should do to support and it’s been amazing. And also it helps us It allows us to see how it’s working. And what we could be doing better. We will be launching the full tool at some point soon, which has other dimensions, which are you know, things like recruitment and managing talent and marketing, you know, all those kinds of things. Audience diversity. Yeah. So so that’s coming soon. Again, that’s that’s work we’re we’re doing at the moment, we’re really looking at where we want to be focusing on and how we can support organsations and what that looks like. So again, it’s hopefully going to be clearer soon. But if anyone is interested, there is a register your interest kind of survey thing on our website. 

AH: Great. So I’ll share a link to that in the show notes. I also had a question in from Carol Reid, Programme Director at Youth Music, which is what has your … so your programme differs from a lot of the the tools that are already existing in that it’s quite intensive with the aspect of consultancy and a workshop, which is brilliant, so really deepens our learning. Can you tell me a little bit about what you’re finding out about how that independent support is useful? versus people doing it themselves in an organisation with assessment tools? And then action plans?

RDV: Yeah, I mean, it’s, I think it’s really fantastic for all organisations. And I think it’s really necessary for organisations to take the initiative and spend time internally with their teams in a really kind of safe space talking through themselves. But I think sometimes having that additional voice, that person who’s worked with many other organisations in many different contexts, to just sometimes just rephrase something or to give a different perspective, or to make a suggestion of where they’ve seen something really effective somewhere else is really someone to guide. And we found that very helpful, and certainly in the workshop setting as having someone to clarify directions and make sense of things that are coming up. And actually, sometimes just to say, you know what this is okay, it’s okay for you to be unsure about that. Let’s have a think about how we can break that down a bit. It is just very helpful. 

AH: And of course, a lot of this is difficult. It’s difficult conversations, isn’t it? Some people might feel challenged by those conversations, not comfortable, I suppose having an independent facilitator to that there is helpful for that as well. And a lot of it is about some of the really simple stuff is about language. Another question from Carol Reid is  what was your key learning from developing the tool? Is there anything that you’d highlight that you, you know, now that you didn’t know before? 

RDV: It’s a good question, we’re still in that process. To be honest, we have had two cohorts coming through. So we’re we’re currently working with Cohort Two. And we have changed the structure of the process a little bit, since Cohort One. And it’s basically because we what we were doing previously is creating the report, which is a very detailed, it’s extremely detailed, which pulls together the organisation’s thinking and potential directions for travel and things that they could do before having the workshop. And actually it’s in the workshop that a lot of the the themes and the priorities for an organisation and the things that are really possible and feasible for that in the shorter term … they start to spark up and you know, someone will step in in the workshop and say, Oh, do you know what I could do this or, you know, my section of the orchestra, we do this, but perhaps we could think about that. And then that triggers something in the orchestral management or you know, whoever it is, and then these themes start to appear much more strongly. So it’s, it’s just having more time with the organisation to really see what what pops out what feels like a tangible way forward. And then really using that to inform the kind of the written reports and the ways forwards. So it’s kind of little tweaks like that. And I think it all comes down to just giving as much space as possible for the organisation to explore.

Something that’s come up a lot in the workshops is people’s concerns about getting language wrong. And that’s something I, you know, I’ve really seen come up time and time, again, the ever changing language around diversity and inclusion, and what should be said and what shouldn’t be said. And I think it’s been really interesting for the assessor or kind of experts to come and just say, it’s not about should or shouldn’t, you know, it’s about, it’s about giving it a go. And it’s about making that step forwards. I think, for me, it’s really highlighted people’s fear of language in this area. And I wonder if there’s something that we can do more to help to break that down somehow? 

AH: Oh, that’s really interesting. Yeah, I think that language thing does bring about the fear, doesn’t it as soon as you start talking about equality, diversity and inclusion, and it is ever changing. So that also just doesn’t help? 

It’s been brilliant talking to you. But we are running out of time. So I’m just going to go ahead to the final question, which is, can you give us three pieces of practical advice or three calls to action for others working in music education? 

RDV: Sure. Um, well, actually, the first one was around diversity and inclusion and around language and making steps. It can feel big, and it can feel intimidating, and people are scared of kind of getting it wrong. But I think there’s some fantastic work that’s been done to help people reflect on where they are and how to take those first steps to making change, you know, including the resources such as the Youth Music and Alliance for a Musically Inclusive England, I think it’s about knowing that even the small steps to becoming more inclusive are a really big deal. And even if they don’t work, it’s about thinking, Okay, what else? Can we try what have others done? start up a conversation and ask other organisations, ask other people, ask your participants or your teachers or your clients, you know, how do they feel? Did they feel included? That’s what I’d say just kind of start small, but start somewhere. 

So I’d say my second thing is involve your participants as much as possible. So I should say our youth voice journey is fairly recent. And we worked with Sound Connections a few years back, who set us on our way really well with it all, and really inspired us. And since then, it’s been incredible to work closely with our young people in shaping our programmes and our advocacy work. And we’re now kind of following in the footsteps of organisations such as Sound Connections https://www.sound-connections.org.uk/, and Kinetika Bloco https://www.kinetikabloco.co.uk/. And national Orchestras for All https://www.orchestrasforall.org/, you know, many more, who are bringing young people onto their committees and boards, I just think that young people are a key to all that we do and our reason for being and I’m sure that’s the case for many other organisations, but their voices are often overlooked. Just don’t underestimate the power and wisdom of youth voice. 

I suppose the final one is does relate a little bit to the current pandemic. And just to say, you know, this is a time to push the boundaries and be ambitious. I know that people are having awfully challenging situations, but it’s, anything that can be done to inspire young people and workforce and stakeholders and boards to kind of stand up and shout about the power of music, which I think many people have actually really engaged with and understood more than ever, in this time. Because I think music is in danger of slipping right off the priority list for … schools, for example, have so much to think about and do and spend on, you know, and government cuts to teacher training, bursaries, in music, things like that just don’t help. So, unfortunately, it feels like there will have been a bit of a shift backwards, but I think together we can make, you know, a huge effort and and move things forward. 

AH: Fantastic pieces of advice to end on. Thank you so much, Roz. It’s been brilliant to talk to you. And you really are an organisation that is making change in music education, which is what this podcast is all about. 

RDV: Thanks so much for having me.

AH: If you want to read more about Music Masters, the diversity tool and the PGCEi training, I’ll share the links in the blog that accompanies this podcast. Thanks for listening.

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