In depth: How important is good musical education for our youngsters?

Sheffield Music Hub - Ian
Sheffield Music Hub - Ian

‘We cannot underestimate power of this communication’ Ian Naylor, head of music education, Sheffield

Musical magic is happening in and out of schools in Sheffield.

Musical Stars scheme

Musical Stars scheme

Did you know that nearly every child in Sheffield has an instrument put into their hands at some point in their school life?

Tens of thousands experience the joy of creating, listening, performing, collaborating.

Making music together is cohesive and engenders personal, community and civic pride.

The Music Hub, as a partnership, creates life-changing moments for our children and young people.

Sheffield Music Hub - Jim

Sheffield Music Hub - Jim

In the last few months alone over five thousand children have listened to professional musicians from Ensemble 360 and the Halle Orchestra performing to packed out concerts at the City Hall and the Crucible.

Thousands more will sing their hearts out in collaborative school choirs at the culmination of our singing festivals hosted by the University of Sheffield and the Cathedral.

On June 9, when Sheffield Makes Music, 350 children from all corners of our city will gather in Barkers Pool to form Sheffield’s largest ever known Samba Band. Music unites us; we cannot underestimate the power of this deep, human communication.

There are challenges, we see the musical fire we light in the eyes of children flicker and dim too often.

Musical Stars scheme

Musical Stars scheme

We are ambitious to continue to stoke those flames by removing barriers to their musical progression – that’s why we’ve launched our musical stars programme.

We’re not very good at shouting about the amazing work that is going on in our city. Imagine how much easier it would be to shout from the rooftops if we had a civic space, a building, where musical children from all corners of our city could collide with one another, with professional musicians and with those thousands of adults who enjoy and enrich their lives making and immersing themselves in music.

n To support the campaign to raise £20,000 so the Musical Stars campaign can create talented youngsters of the future, which has been launched this week, visit

Read more about the scheme on pages 4&5 of this week’s Telegraph.

Sheffield Music Hub - Celia

Sheffield Music Hub - Celia

‘Arts skills support learning in core subjects’ Jim Dugmore, headteacher at Oughtibridge Primary School

I love my job. I get to come to work every day with fantastic children supported by an incredibly hard working staff team who want to see every child reach their potential. 

Nowadays, with increasing pressures on the budget and a testing system that focuses on challenging mathematics and very dry technical grammar rather than creativity, it can be easy to forget why we got into the job.

For most teachers, it was to help young people develop in the widest sense, to succeed in finding themselves and to help them grow up as a rounded individual.

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to host Oughtibridge Primary’s annual Springtime Musical Showcase where our children performed songs and played a variety of instruments in front of an enthusiastic crowd of family members.

Supported by lessons both in and out of school including from Sheffield Music Hub, our children showed not only what talented musicians they are but also how they are developing into confident, articulate young people. The partnership between the school, our families and external providers underpins our children’s success.

We, like many schools, are struggling with how to fund arts provision in the face of an accountability regime that can force the curriculum to be narrowed but we strive to ensure that a broad and balanced curriculum comes first. The question, really, has to be ‘how can we not fund the arts?’ because the skills that develop support core subject learning.

Musical thinking, for instance, is very mathematical. Creative thinking benefits problem solving. Art supports story writing. If we have the time to develop the whole child, the whole system benefits.

‘Lessons of music can be taken away’ Celia Hurwitz-Keefe, music leader for Sheffield music hub

I am privileged to teach the cello in schools across Sheffield.

There is a musical vibrancy in the air.

One of my pupils, Amazonia, who is a pupil at Wharncliffe Side School, is a musical star.

“What do you like best about learning the cello?” I ask her, when we meet with dad at the end of the lesson.

“It makes me feel proud,” she replies.

Dad explains that the day after Amazonia was accepted onto the Musical Stars scheme, he discovered that their lease would be terminated.

Knowing that as a Musical Star, Amazonia would have the advantage of weekly 30-minute cello lessons – something they could not begin to afford on their own – provided them both with a tangible sense of optimism despite the difficulties of their current situation.

Still without a housing solution, Amazonia knows that her cello will remain with her regardless.

As we get to the end of our conversation, Amazonia looks up from the piano where she has been occupying herself with notes and rhythms of her own choosing.

“Hurry up, Dad,” she says, full of purpose and initiative, “We have to catch the bus so we get to orchestra on time!”

And off they go together, all smiles, taking the lessons of music with them.

‘The greatest reward is in the challenges’ Martin Cropper, music director of Sheffield Music Academy

As music director of Sheffield Music Academy, I have the privilege of working with 120 of the most talented and dedicated music students in the region.

Every Saturday, I am thrilled by the energy and enthusiasm that our students bring to a day devoted exclusively to studying music – individually, through private lessons; in small, tutored chamber ensembles; and in larger groups like our orchestras and choirs.

Sheffield Music Academy is recognised by the Department for Education as a Centre for Excellence.

We take students from all over the region, accepting students based on talent rather than on their ability to pay.

We have grants to ensure that talented musicians are given the opportunity to study at the highest level, working alongside other equally talented students and benefiting from our expert tuition, so they can fulfil their potential.

At the Academy I am delighted that we are able to make the most of local teaching talent and combine that with teachers from all over the UK, many of whom have national and international reputations. Our students learn by seeing and by doing – from experts in their fields, and through having challenging goals to aspire to.

For me, education has to be stimulating and the greatest rewards come from overcoming challenges.

The challenge for me and my team at the Academy is to make sure we provide the right level of challenge, alongside great support, to make sure our talented young musicians succeed.

Music brings so many benefits, and studying at the highest levels helps to develop discipline, co-ordination, problem-solving skills and improves communication.

Our students continually amaze me by the heights they reach and the challenges they overcome every week.