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.