University aiming to increase diversity in music employment

Midlands survey launched to help make music careers available to everyone.

Music, education and diversity researchers at Birmingham City University have been commissioned by Arts Council England to lead a year of exploration into experiences of music learning in the Midlands, as part of a research project designed to make careers in music more accessible for young people from diverse backgrounds.

Building on research commissioned by Arts Council, this new work will explore innovative approaches to supporting young people who want to develop a music career.

The Arts Council report, which explored the barriers to entering, remaining and becoming successful in the classical music sector, found that – cutting across all other factors – people from lower socio-economic backgrounds struggle to get fair access to a full range of learning, training and job opportunities in classical music. This next phase of work recognises that the barriers faced in accessing classical music often impede the aspirations and progress of young musicians, no matter which element of the wider music industry they want to make their career.

Taking the Arts Council report as its starting point, a steering group bringing together a range of representatives from the Midlands music sector is supporting Birmingham City University in their further work. Initially focused on educators and professionals working with young people learning Western classical instruments, the Midlands music study will investigate the challenges and opportunities people face within their music learning, taking into account age, disability, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and personal circumstances.

Dr Adam Whittaker, Head of Pedagogy at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, said: “Ensuring that access to musical opportunities is fair and inclusive to all is of vital importance if we are to properly support the next generation of aspiring music makers and creators. We want this research to inform the next steps in how we establish a fairer and more inclusive music sector. By getting involved in this research, you are helping us to better understand the opportunities to take part, and barriers faced, right across the Midlands.”

Launching this week with a new survey focusing on the experience of young musicians in the Midlands, Birmingham City University’s research will test initiatives aimed at supporting those from a wide range of backgrounds who want to develop careers in music. Musicians over the age of 18, music teachers, music organisations and music practitioners from across the Midlands are all invited to respond. Young musicians can share their views with the team through a different survey in September.

Dr Claire Mera-Nelson, Director, Music at Arts Council England, said: “We want to make sure that if you have the talent and skills, no matter what your background, there are opportunities for you to forge a successful career within music. By taking part in this research, musicians and creatives in the Midlands can help us take vital steps towards that goal.”

As a leading research centre for music education, Birmingham City University’s Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, working in partnership with the University’s Birmingham Music Education Research Group and the Centre for Equality Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts, have together been commissioned to undertake a range of research activities, including collecting data through this survey, analysing and disseminating the project findings.