Music Education — Does it Matter? — Mary Heyler — 11th September 2017

None of us were quite sure if we would appre­ci­ate just what kind of talk was to come. However, we soon knew and learnt a great deal. Mary Heyler is an American, ori­gin­at­ing from California. She star­ted her musical life at a young age, train­ing to become an oper­atic singer. On qual­i­fic­a­tion she joined the Metropolitan Opera Company. After a period of years her musical dir­ec­tion changed and she fin­ished up in Sheffield as Director of Music for Children and Young Adults. It soon became clear to her that adequate train­ing and sup­port was lack­ing in both local and national gov­ern­ment. No sur­prise there you might think. Trying to oper­ate in such a neg­at­ive atmo­sphere didn’t seem prom­ising, it was a case of having to do your best with what you’ve got.

As the talk pro­gressed I real­ized that the fund-raising group for Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice, to which I belong, had used the facil­it­ies of her organ­isa­tion when we worked together with a number of public con­certs where they provided young musi­cians in groups or small orches­tras. Their train­ing, and often instru­ments, were provided by this school ser­vice. This gave an oppor­tun­ity to per­form in public and for the Bluebell Wood team to bene­fit. To these con­certs, all the great and good, such as the Lord Mayor and Master Cutler, were invited, in addi­tion to the paying public. This of course, raised the pro­file of the per­form­ing groups and benefited the chil­dren of the Hospice. These groups were many and vari­ous, includ­ing, in one instance,  a flute orchestra.

Musical edu­ca­tion was first estab­lished fol­low­ing the 1944 Education Act, which together with the grow­ing NHS devel­op­ments decreed that pro­vi­sion should be made for musical edu­ca­tion. This was the first time music was con­sidered for the school cur­riculum. Free tuition had made its first appear­ance. The degree of sup­port by local and national gov­ern­ment fin­an­cially varied widely over the years. Mary became involved with a new organ­isa­tion which seemed to show more sup­port and dir­ec­tion for chil­dren and young people — known as Sheffield Music Hub. Its major interest is stated in their object­ives, which are that every child, regard­less of race, gender, back­ground or income is entitled to the best musical edu­ca­tion avail­able. This sounds clear enough to me. All inform­a­tion regard­ing The Hub is avail­able on their website.n

Music, in all of its con­ceiv­able vari­ations, was provided by the BBC Promenade Concerts this year, ran­ging from clas­sical, ethnic, jazz, pop and even the sta­ging of the musical Oklahoma together with dis­cus­sion and cri­ti­cism. We wish Mary Heyler and the Music Hub every success.