A new national music service aims to give all children the opportunity to experience and enjoy musical creation in Wales.
The Welsh Government has confirmed that investment in key areas of music provision will be tripled over the next three years as part of its new national plan for music education.
The initial announcement was made on May 17 by Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, with full details released days later in an official document.
Over the next three years, funding will be tripled to £13.5m with programs rolling out from September 2022.
It forms part of the Welsh Government’s ‘Programme for Government’ commitment for the period 2021 to 2026 and is based on recommendations on music education provision from previous reports published in 2015, 2018 and 2020.
Learn to play
The stated aim of the new National Music Service is “to give all children and young people between the ages of 3 and 16 the opportunity to learn to play an instrument as well as to sing and make music in schools and the communities”.
At its launch, the Minister said: “Our vision is that all children and young people in Wales, regardless of background, have the chance to learn to play an instrument.
I remember how important it was for me to be able to take music lessons when I was in school, to learn baritone and to play in brass ensembles.”
He added: “I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to access music lessons, the opportunity to learn an instrument and develop musical skills is too often limited by the cost and affordability of nowadays, we therefore make this important investment to provide a range of activities for our children and young people, so that they can learn and experience the joy of music.
The development of the National Music Service will ensure that we nurture our next generation and continue to produce new talent and showcase Wales to the world. »
Many instrument purchases have already been undertaken in preparation for launch, with 4BR understanding that it includes the full range of marching band instruments, including 36,000 pBuzz beginner instruments.
The announcement was widely welcomed by education and music providers, although there was some concern over how it was undertaken without a great deal of analysis of the instruments needed and in what realistic numbers in each local authority.
As one business owner told 4BR, “This is fantastic news, but I wish they’d spoken to us to find out more. We’re concerned that this isn’t just a three-year band-aid approach. This requires long-term investment year after year for a generation and more.”
The current plan will aim to make access to music education more equitable and consistent, with a particular focus on learners from low-income households and those with additional learning needs.
Support will be available for children and young people to access and progress with music lessons, with learners from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups being supported to join music ensembles.
The National Music Service will operate as a ‘hub’, with the Welsh Association of Local Governments coordinating Music Service programs with a wide range of organisations.
It aims to support schools and environments in their delivery of the Welsh Curriculum and to provide children and young people with more diverse opportunities to experience music outside of schools and environments, as well as explore music as a study career or for life. It will also train teachers from the music department to help school teachers provide music activities.
This funding will support music services in schools and within the community to help develop our young musical talentPrime Minister, Mark Drakeford
A number of new program initiatives are being launched to this end – from “early experiences” of playing an instrument of the child’s choice, to “live musical experiences” that will hopefully improve participation in school activities and community. Ongoing “Music Lessons” and “Musical Journeys” will also be explored and developed.
The new service will set up a national library of instruments, resources and equipment to ensure that a readily available stock of instruments will be made available to those who need them.
There is also a commitment to helping young people learn music outside of school.
A “Making Music with Others — Musical Activities and Ensembles” program aims to connect with groups such as brass bands.
At its launch, the First Minister of Wales, which has been delayed due to local elections, Mark Drakeford said: “The establishment of a national music service for Wales is a significant commitment to our program for the government and I am delighted that we are honoring this pledge.
Learning an instrument has been a formative part of my upbringing and lack of money shouldn’t be an obstacle for any young person who wants to learn to play music.”
He added: “We are fortunate in Wales to have a strong tradition of school, county and national ensembles, and we want to ensure that our children and young people can play their full part there.
This funding will support music services in schools and within the community to help develop our young musical talent. »