The authors write “with passion and authority”, making this book relevant to a wider readership than the title suggests, finds Julia Ient.
'Reaching Out: Music education with 'hard to reach' children and young people' explores the premise that "equality of access is a fundamental principle of current music education policy, yet experience shows that this can be difficult to achieve". The blurb states that the book is aimed at "anyone involved in broadening access to musical opportunities", though in reality, its focus is probably somewhere between this very broad aim and the more specific theme indicated by its title.
Published by Music Mark in the form of a collection of 22 essays and case studies, it includes solid, up-to-the-minute advice and reflections on working with 'hard to reach' young people, although much of the content is relevant for any music education work. The two contributing editors, Chris Harrison and Phil Mullen, have drawn on a rich mix of authors from diverse perspectives – music leading, research, teaching, management, consultancy and social work – with contributions from the UK, Ireland, North America and New Zealand. Consequently, the topic is examined from many different angles, including equality and social justice, educational and political context, pedagogy and codes of practice, ways of working, impact evaluation and policy implications. The authors are all deeply engaged with their area of work and write with passion and authority using well-evidenced sources.
For me, the most illuminating and thought provoking essays were 'Participation, Inclusion, Diversity and the Policy of English Music Education' by Gary Spruce; 'How many pedagogies does it take to train a community musician?' by Kathryn Deane; 'Beyond access - towards equality of outcome: the challenge for instrumental music educators' by Evelyn Grant; and 'Debussy and/or dubstep: non-discriminatory approaches to choosing musical repertoire within a broad and balanced curriculum' by Robert Legg. Spruce reflects on the nuances and application of concepts such as 'emancipatory knowledge', 'participation', 'inclusion' and 'diversity', and comments on the key moments and publications in the evolution of music education policy. Deane places the work in the context of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts”). She explains the breadth of personal, social and musical skills required to deliver this work and reflects on the utility of the available qualifications, occupational standards and codes of practice. Grant calls for greater equality of outcome as well as greater equality of access, suggesting that outcome be recognised as progression to professional level or significant amateur engagement. She posits the philosophical shift that needs to happen, born out of greater understanding amongst music educators and policy makers, in order for there to be greater democracy of musical outcome. Legg tackles the thorny issue of links between musical taste, social class and educational level. He examines the concept of cultural capital and suggests a reappraisal of the social value of knowledge of, and competence in, different music genres.
More thought could perhaps have gone into the structure and signposting of the book. The table of contents is dense and gives little direction on how to dip into the book from a particular perspective. The notes on the contributors and the introduction would be a good place to start if seeking to choose essays most applicable to a particular practice area. My personal approach was to start with the individual case studies at the back, then work my way through the essays – there didn't appear to be an overarching narrative guiding the order of the essays. But nonetheless, 'Reaching Out' is a moving, thought-provoking and inspiring read, and I look forward to following many of the authors on Twitter.
Julia Ient is an arts strategist and musician. She is currently a Music Relationship Manager at Arts Council England and has previously held roles in arts management consultancy, orchestral management, music leading and music tutoring.