Hit The Right Note

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James Manwaring

James Manwaring is Director of Music for Windsor Learning Partnership, a Multi-Academy Trust in Windsor, Berkshire. He oversees music for the 4 schools in the trust and has been working in music education for 16 years. James has been nominated for a National Music Education...
Read more about James Manwaring

What should a creative and dynamic music department be doing?

It is my firm belief that every school needs a healthy and successful Music Department. Music should not only be at the cultural heart of the school but should be the soundtrack for all school events and celebrations.

In my time as a music teacher I have realised the things that really do help to make a music department successful. I believe that these things are important in their own right but also lead to positive results at all Key Stages and make for a sustainable and exciting music department. If you are looking to strengthen your department and allow music to impact your school in a positive and exciting way, then you might find these 10 “Must Haves” helpful.

10 Music Department Must Haves:

1. A varied, fun and thriving Extra Curricular Programme – something for everyone and always worthwhile. Start on time, be regular and make sure you have repertoire ready for every type of performance opportunity – it will help fulfil point 2.

2. A good, positive relationship with SLT – let them know what you can do for them and always position yourself to say yes. Don’t just moan, be the positive creative life-force of the school.

3. Great communication with parents, students and community – using email, social media and face to face contact. Be public, get out there and perform. Make sure parents know what is going on and why it will benefit their kids.

4. A clean, tidy and vibrant working environment – classroom and rehearsal spaces. You want your music room to be inspiring and you want SLT to bring visitors to your room because it just has something about it.

5. Yearly events for students to look forward to – say yes to the local carnival, summer fete and Christmas event. Students like a sense of the annual event, the thing that always happens – they look forward to them and it creates a sense of legacy.

6. Regular concerts both big and small that give focus to students and Extra-Curricular groups – Not every concert needs to be massive, but one per term is a good idea. But do smaller events and make sure you use them to make some money. Invite local schools to perform as well.

7. Trips – day trips, evening trips and tours are all essential. Link trips to curriculum but also a concert tour will bond your department.

8. A social media presence – it is a great way to communicate, learn and network. See what other schools do and share what you do.

9. A regular dialogue with school governors – they want to know what is going on and love to be invited to concerts and events.

10. A sense of community amongst students – not everything is about working or rehearsing or coursework. Open your music room at lunchtimes so musicians can hang out and chat. Watch funny YouTube videos together or just chat. Building community, it is a key to success.

At such a time as this it is crucial that music in schools is strengthened, stretched and sustained. If you are a senior leader then you might want to look at these points and see how your music department stands up. Or maybe you are in a music department that is struggling or not making progress – try out these ideas and I guarantee you will see the change.

The impact music can have on a school is just incredible and I hope that these starting points have given you some ideas to put into your own practice. I truly believe that music can make a difference to a school not only a music department.

About The Author

James Manwaring is Director of Music for Windsor Learning Partnership, a Multi-Academy Trust in Windsor, Berkshire. James oversees music for the 4 schools in the trust and works out of The Windsor Boys’ School. James has been working in Music Education for 16 years and has seen a huge increase in participation and uptake across the Windsor Schools. James has been nominated for a National Music Education Award for the last 4 years and is a member of the Incorporated Society of Musicians & MMA. James is passionate about music education and wants to ensure that he provides opportunities for all students to get involved in learning, creating and performing music.

Contact James:

Twitter – @twbsmusic | Email: jmanwaring@twbs.co.uk | Blog: www.manwaringmusic.wordpress.com

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