The Sheraton Hotel in Edinburgh was alive with the sound of music on 14 November 2018, as a major national conference, organised jointly by the EIS and Heads of Instrumental Music Teaching in Scotland (HITS), brought together music educators from across Scotland to:

-      celebrate the very high standard of instrumental music education in Scotland;

-      explore issues of excellence and equity in music education; and

-      enjoy performances by some supremely talented young people taught within Edinburgh Council’s Instrumental Music Service.

The day also served as the official launch of a new EIS Charter for Instrumental Music, ‘Change the Tune’.

The ‘Celebrating Instrumental Music: Fine Tuning Excellence’ conference brought together a wide range of people who believe that music has a vital role to play in education, life and culture. Delegates were of a mind that music services should be recognised for their sterling work and defended against often brutal cuts which have, unfortunately, been a feature of recent years. Fabulous performances by Currie Community High School String Ensemble and the Edinburgh Schools Rock Ensemble brought home what is at stake.

With the help of thought-provoking presentations from Paul Harris, Educator and ABRSM Examiner, and Dr Rachel Drury, Lecturer in Learning and Teaching in the Performing Arts, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, delegates explored what music teaching is really all about, and the power of music to deliver a vast array of benefits to learners, including improved fine motor skills, improved language skills, enhanced wellbeing and more grey matter in the brain. 

Delegates also heard from two current IMT Network members, teachers Fiona Gray and Ronan Watson, who shared their reflections on the notions of ‘excellence’ and ‘equity’, so central to educational discourse presently, as they apply to Instrumental Music provision. Attendees also had the chance to take part in two of six workshops about topical issues affecting music educators, including a workshop delivered by Paul Harris on group teaching.

Opening the event, Larry Flanagan, EIS General Secretary, said, “If we believe in creativity being at the heart of the Curriculum for Excellence, the government needs to deliver on young people’s entitlement to music tuition” and, referencing the ongoing EIS pay campaign, exhorted delegates to “value Instrumental Music and value Instrumental Music Teachers.”

Speaking from a panel, Kirk Richardson, the convener of the EIS Instrumental Music Teachers’ Network spoke of the Institute’s aspiration to see new investment ring-fenced for instrumental music education in schools. Alongside Kirk on the panel were Kenny Christie, Chair of HITS, and Mae Murray from the Scottish Association of Music Educators, all of whom had earlier that day given evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee Inquiry into Music Tuition.

Closing the event, Kenny Christie thanked delegates and guests; the very able Co-Chairs Alison Thornton (EIS President) and Jane Ferguson (HITS Executive); the leading sponsor ABRSM; the supporting sponsor Trinity Music; speakers and workshop presenters; exhibitors; organisers; and, of course, the young instrumentalists whose performances had bookended the day, and who are the reason these discussions matter.

A full report of the IMT Conference is now available here.

If you have any queries about the ongoing EIS campaign to defend music education can be addressed to John Harris (jharris@eis.org.uk).