What does the future of music education look like?

What does the future of music education look like?

Studies have shown that singing and playing music is one of the most effective ways to help young people learn. The benefits include a longer attention span, emotional stability, resilience and cognitive capacity.

Importantly, this type of education has also been shown to help students progress in crucial learning areas such as English, Science and Mathematics – which have seen a decline in student outcomes in recent years.

One organisation helping schools supercharge their music education is The Song Room, an Australian company established in 2006 whose programs now reach more than 80% of schools and more than one million students.

Last week, The Song Room today announced that its Board of Directors had appointed a new CEO after Simon Gipson said he would step down from the role next month.

Alice Gerlach, who previously held the position of director of market development at The Song Room, will replace Gipson on November 4. Since joining the team in 2015, Gerlach has drawn on her extensive experience in the social purpose and arts sectors to lead a new chapter of growth for the organisation.

Gerlach encouraged principals to be broad minded about seeing music as “an integral part of all the subject areas”.

“What The Song Room can achieve in schools is to ensure students are engaged in school life and are active and willing participants in the classroom,” Gerlach told The Educator.

“That translates across all subject areas, so we think an investment in music teachers and programs transcends all subjects and should be invested in for those reasons.”

Gerlach said that while there is an increasing awareness of the value of music education and the arts in Australian schools, some critical roadblocks remain.

“People are generally more aware of the neuroscientific effects of music education on the human brain and the fact that creative learners are very important if we’re going to have an innovative society in the future,” Gerlach said.

“However, from an educational perspective, we still have a very crowded curriculum. The focus on literacy and numeracy is singular, so music education really has a long way to go in becoming the focus it should be in a well-rounded education.”

Since December 2018 The Song Room’s DUET program has offered schools a Teaching Artist who can deliver a music education program one day a week. This includes active in-class mentoring, access to digital music education resources via ARTS:LIVE, and a professional learning workshop.

The Victorian Government has invested $380,000 in the DUET program, which was rolled out to 125 teachers in 80 schools across the state.

Gerlach said the DUET program has given The Song Room an opportunity to test the elements of its program delivery in terms of professional development in a detailed way.

“Originally, work was undertaken in 80 schools across metropolitan and regional Victoria in one semester,” she said.

“It was a short and intensive time for us, but we scaled up really fast to deliver the program successfully and the outcomes were significant.”

Gerlach said that the teachers who participated in the program were not only more confident in teaching music to students but also in teaching the music education framework in the classroom.

“This shows that the program helps teachers with their confidence and capacity to teach music, and that’s exactly what we were hoping for” she said.

“We have seen that this approach makes a massive impact for generalist primary school teachers in other areas of learning and in their approach to classroom delivery across the board, which is very encouraging.”

Gerlach said the Song Room has now integrated the modelling and mentoring program elements of the DUET program into everything the organisation does.

Next year The Song Room will launch a three-year program across four regional centres – Launceston, Mount Gambier, Shepparton and the Hunter Region in NSW – thanks to funding from the Federal Government. 

“This means we’ll have extended delivery in regional areas next year, which is very exciting, and we’re hoping that the Victorian Government will come on board again in Semester 1 to work with us to the same degree,” she said.