Training is an ongoing journey, not a day trip

At Musical Futures we take the ‘continuing’ of Continuing Professional Development seriously.

The content and approach of our CPD is a successful, tried-and-tested formula: practical, hands-on, where delegates are immersed in the process and practice of Musical Futures, whether through an introductory training day or a more specialized in-depth exploration of our models, for example our newly-designed Find Your Voice training sessions (starting in February).

However, following the pioneering example of the Teacher Development Trust, we will now explore in more depth with delegates what is it about their existing practice that they want to change by attending a Musical Futures session, and most importantly what is the long-term impact they hope to see on their students. We will be implementing a new evaluation framework around our CPD shortly to help delegates to reflect on this.

Find Your Voice vocal and technology training

Find Your Voice vocal and technology training

Feedback from delegates suggests that one of the benefits of a Musical Futures training session is meeting with like-minded teachers/practitioners, exchanging ideas and resources, and sharing concerns/issues around music learning in schools. Once these relationships have been formed, this needs to be continued. Following a Musical Futures course, regular Twitter chats are scheduled that build off the content of the session and enable practice sharing to continue. Trainers keep in contact with delegates, and address any issues that may arise. And six months after attending a course we will get in touch to see whether delegates have made any long-term changes to their practice, and what further support and development may be helpful, whether from Musical Futures or other training providers.

Capturing a process

Capturing a process

By teachers for teachers

Musical Futures CPD is not only delivered by practicing classroom teachers, who have an implicit knowledge and deep understanding of what implementing Musical Futures involves, but it is co-designed by them as well. We hold annual training for our team of Teacher Associates who work with us to ensure Musical Futures CPD is operating within the most effective framework for teachers and practitioners.

Working together to devise training

Working together to devise training

Working together to devise training

Find Your Voice

We have re-launched our Find Your Voice training programme for 2015. It became apparent that while we have seen remarkable take-up with Find Your Voice, there has been an over reliance on our materials. The intention with Musical Futures is that it should be viewed as a flexible pedagogy that can and should be adapted to individual students’ needs, not as a content-driven scheme of work. The focus of Find Your Voice training is to start at the end. What is the point of doing this work with students? What skills do we want them to acquire? Delegates will then explore in depth the process of exploring and creating music using voices and integrating technology, rather than being repertoire driven. Our App and Website then contain a toolkit of practical resources and ideas for classroom implementation.

Just as Musical Futures in the classroom emphasises the process of learning music, so too does our CPD. And we know that what works well this year, will undoubtedly need adapting next year. Musical Futures CPD is not about navigating a car to a destination and turning off the engine. It is about jumping in a camper van, filling it with like-minded people, and keeping on driving.

Further information:

10 Reasons Why Singing Should be in the Music Classroom 

Blog from Teacher Associates training on Musical Futures vision

Good CPD Guide

Teacher Development Trust

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2014-Our Highlights

It’s been an incredible year for Musical Futures and we wanted to share a few of our favourite bits. How many do you remember?

 Emile Holba

#mf2014 delegates in January

In January, we held our annual Champion Teacher Conference at a night club in the East End of London. We had a great workshop from Shlomo, did some composing with Hugh Nankeville, and got ‘Happy’ with Gitika Partington.

After a big sing to finish the day, we held the official launch of #mufuapp, the completely free, cross platform resource for anyone interested in Musical Futures. With 1000s of downloads from across the world, this has continued to be a popular resource during 2014.


Sharon Durant working with teachers at #mufuni2014 Conference in Belfast in February

In February, Musical Futures Northern Ireland ran a 2 day conference for teachers where they experienced Find Your Voice, Informal Learning, Workshopping and some great discussions about the realities of teaching music and how MF can help. Brian Irvine shared some new ideas for composing with classes and delegates created a number of original pieces of music together.

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The MF team with Sharon Durant and Rob Kitchen from The Sage Gateshead at The South Bank Centre in April

Between February and April our national Find Your Voice training programme ran in some pretty great venues. The final session ran at the South Bank Centre and ended with a crowd of over 200 adults and students singing together under the direction of Sharon Durant.

In June, Anna and Abi headed out to Melbourne to take part in Musical Futures Australia MF2 conference. Visits to see Musical Futures in action in schools were arranged and it was great to see it happening with students of all ages, including those in primary schools.


Abigail D’Amore giving the keynote presentation at MF2 conference, Melbourne in June

In July it was announced that The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, who has funded and managed Musical Futures since 2003, will provide three year’s funding to the tune of £1.2m to support the transition from a project to a not-for-profit organisation. The funding will enable the development of exciting, innovative new models and approaches, as well as continuing the core offer of open source, free materials, training and support to schools.

In October we visited New York and Chicago to look at the work of Little Kids Rock. A not-for-profit music initiative bringing music into elementary schools, it was great to visit classrooms and be part of their impressive fundraising benefit which raised $1.5 million to get children engaging with music in schools.


Musical Futures UK and Musical Futures Australia with children from The Bronx, NYC

Our new and expanded team got down to work in September, and we have been busy planning some really exciting new ideas to take us into 2015.

So as we wish everyone a very Happy New Year from Musical Futures, we can’t wait to start working to ensure that 2015 is a really musical one for everybody!

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Musical Futures Primary


Little Kids Rock After School Programme, New York Oct 2014

Musical Futures is pleased to announce that we have in development an approach for primary music. This week we presented our thinking behind the ideas to delegates at the Music Mark Annual Conference and were pleased with the positive responses we received.

About Musical Futures:

  • We believe that the process of creating music for its own sake isn’t valued highly enough by schools and communities. We want to change that.
  • Musical Futures has 11 years of knowledge, expertise, tried and tested methods in how people best learn music.
  • Our trainers are experienced music teachers. The by teachers for teachers approach remains at the heart of MF’s values.


Anna Gower, Abigail D’Amore, Sharon Durant and Rob Kitchen with teachers at the OMEA conference Niagara Falls Nov 2013

Musical Futures Primary: 

We have been fortunate that over the past year we have travelled to see Musical Futures operating overseas in a number of different schools and with different age groups. We have met and talked to teachers, academics, children and parents about school music and we embedded what we have learned into our plans for MF primary.


Anna Gower, Abigail D’Amore (MF UK) and Ken Owen (MF Australia) with primary children in Queens New York Oct 2014

What have we seen?

  • A highly successful organisation in the USA that has buy-in from 1000s of elementary schools for training, support and resources because they want to be part of a movement
  • That bringing parents into the classroom to see their children creating music in lessons is the most powerful way of engaging parents with the value of music education
  • That primary schools in Australia and Canada have successfully adapted and embedded Musical Futures methods into their practice. In Australia 2/3 of MF Australia schools are primary-it does work with younger children.
  • That there are clear correlations between the way that people naturally learn music and the way that people naturally learn language-this approach underpins the work of Little Kids Rock whom we visited in October. Read more about Music as a Second Language HERE
  • That many generalist primary teachers don’t feel confident with delivering the statutory aspects of the national curriculum
  • That we often underestimate what young children can achieve with music learning


Abigail D’Amore’s  keynote at MF2 conference, Melbourne, Australia June 2013

We are pulling together what we have seen, and are testing ideas with primary experts, beginning with a ‘pre-pilot’ to run from Jan-Feb 2015. We are working with our partners in the USA and Australia to define what the elements of a successful programme of primary/elementary school engagement could look like and in September 2015 we will launch Musical Futures Primary as an action research pilot programme.


In the music room at Trafalgar Primary, Australia June 2013

How to get involved

This week we put out a SURVEY for primary teachers, head teachers and teaching assistants to gather feedback on their experiences of primary music in their schools. Please circulate this so that we can gather an accurate picture of music in our primary schools.

If you would like further information about Musical Futures Primary, or to register interest, please contact Development Director

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10 reasons why singing should be in the music classroom

Emile Holba

Singing should be at the heart of school music provision. Here are some reasons why:

1. Supports wider music understanding

In our Find Your Voice pilot in 2013 77% of secondary music teachers surveyed stated that they had applied the vocal strategies across their entire curriculum, encouraging students to vocalise first and move onto instruments after. This aided musical understanding as students were internalising the music, listening to and singing it first. Here is an example of a teacher using Find Your Voice strategies to teach a GCSE set work.

Emile Holba

2. Contributes to enhanced wellbeing

Singing in schools dramatically improves self-esteem (particularly for vulnerable and children with special educational needs), helps children to be more calm and focused, and increases enjoyment and engagement in class, according to a report by the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education (CUREE) commissioned by Sing Up.

3. Increases confidence

90% of teachers in the Find Your Voice pilot in 2013 felt their students were more confident overall in music lessons due to the increased participation in singing. Furthermore 70% of teachers also felt their own confidence with singing had improved. As the approach emphasises recreating music with your voice, rather than ‘singing songs’, it means that even the most vocally-shy teacher is prepared to facilitate whole-class singing without feeling intimidated.


4. Has broader educational benefits

Singing to younger children has a proven link to educational success in later life states Sally Goddard Blythe, a consultant in neuro-developmental education and director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology (in The Genius of Natural Childhood, Hawthorn Press.

5. Engages students in their own musical styles

Teachers reported that 74% of students who participated in Find Your Voice strategies in the classroom continued to sing/vocalise in their own time – either in extra-curricular activities or informally. Why? Because they were learning how to vocalise their own music, which they saw as relevant and engaging. Musical Futures could then respond by providing students with resources that supported their preferred styles of music learning, for example tutorials with professional beatboxer Shlomo.

Emile Holba

6. Has physical health benefits

A study from Cardiff University in 2012 found that lung cancer patients who sang in a choir had a greater expiratory capacity than those who didn’t. Singing has also been shown to boost immune systems and reduce stress levels, according to a report published in the Journal of Music Therapy in 2004.

7. Is a form of communication

Babies internalise the sounds of their mothers’ voices, speech and intonation, while in the womb. From the time children are born, singing is a natural way for them to communicate, even though this often diminishes as pressures of society take over as they get older. The Institute of Education’s Professor Graham Welch discusses here how singing is the most basic form of interpersonal, social and cultural communication.

8. It is free

Anyone, anywhere can sing. Poorly-resourced music classrooms can still access and deliver relevant, high-quality lessons that engage all students without the need for expensive equipment. Musical Futures’ Find Your Voice approach also demonstrates how to make use of mobile technology to support and enhance the voice, which provides another freely-available ‘instrument’ as the majority of young people now have access to a smart phone or device.


9. Supports language development

A recent study by Northwestern University has proven a link between learning music and the development of language and reading skills. Even though this study was looking at instrumental learning as well as vocal work, singing naturally leads onto songwriting (see here for the Musical Futures approach to songwriting), which has links to literacy and language development.

10. It is fun

Dare we say that music in classrooms can be fun? Hell yeah! Our extensive range of vocal warm-ups are designed to engage students with fun musical activities, build their confidence, and lead them onto vocal exercises in musical styles they are familiar with. Surely a key indicator of impact is for music teachers to hear students walking around the school singing the songs that had been covered in class?

Emile Holba

Musical Futures is delivering 10 ‘Find Your Voice’ training events across the UK between February and March. For more information and to book your place see here


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Don’t Stop the Music-one week on.


A week after the second part of Don’t Stop The Music went out in the UK, the debate continues. Musical Futures has rounded up some of the blogs and articles that have been posted in response.

Don’t Stop the Music – Twitter Roundup – feisty debate at #mufuchat as the programme happened

Blog by Matt Griffiths, Youth Music

Blog by Jackie Schneider, primary teacher

Blog by Abigail D’Amore, Musical Futures

Response to Don’t Stop the Music, Music Mark

Blog by @mrsgleedmusic, secondary music teacher

Blog by Jeremy Dibb, music educationalist

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Don’t Stop The Music-we don’t intend to!


At our Musical Futures team meeting this week, the programme that aired on C4 this week entitled ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ was widely discussed. We have a keen interest in what is happening in our primary schools as we start developing “Musical Futures Primary” over the next few months. We also hosted a great first #mufuchat primary special which exposed the passion of teachers for engaging children with music in school.

There was a general feeling that initially James Rhodes identified some of the challenges that stand in the way of our children accessing quality music education. What came across clearly was that the value placed on music in some primary schools is undermined by the absolute necessity for results to be good enough so that the school isn’t judged to be ‘requiring improvement’. The Headteacher’s last comment – that the children had enjoyed it but things had already started ‘slipping’ in other subjects – really summed up that the high-stakes context in which our primary schools are operating and that is something we can’t ignore.

The Year 5 teacher filmed delivering a music lesson, that I don’t think anyone could argue (from what was shown) contained any musical learning at all, expressed her frustration at not seeing the point of doing music which she doesn’t enjoy teaching when she could be spending more time on literacy and numeracy work.

The very truncated conversation with the local music hub that barely got any air time served to show how much of the hub’s school music provision is costed delivery. With no budget to buy in support, James Rhodes virtually hung up on them!

Finally the programme raised issues of what exactly constitutes a quality music education anyway. In James Rhodes’ mind the fact that children “don’t even know who Elgar is and leave school not knowing how to read music” was a massive issue for him. However, here at MF central, we agree with Jackie Schneider who identifies in her blog post about the programme, there hat there are issues in our schools that are far bigger than that!

The #mufuchat Tweet-Along which can be replayed in real time if you weren’t around to join in, revealed a massive passion amongst teachers to put this right. It became overwhelmingly clear that teachers feel that the Great Instrument Amnesty isn’t the answer. The need for a sustainable and quality music provision in our schools remains a challenge for which we continue to search for solutions.


Our scoping into Musical Futures Primary has so far taken us to Canada where we met Sandie Heckel, who took the Musical Futures Find Your Voice ideas, tried them with her students then set up her own primary and secondary teacher groups to take it further with students of all ages. Our CEO Abigail D’Amore and Development Director and teacher Anna Gower went to visit Musical Futures Australia, coming back with some new ideas about what primary music could look like when it’s rooted in Musical Futures principles (read their many blogs on the subject Here, Here, Here, Here and Here). In October we will be in schools in New York to see how Little Kids Rock has got younger children playing music in some of the most challenging schools in the US. See, we believe the issues in music education are the same across the world and we are keen to look outwards as well as confronting issues that lie closer to home.

However, although the vision for Musical Futures Primary is  under development, this much we know:

1) That it will start with music that students like and identify with and hold true to the principles that underpin Musical Futures.

2) It will have a central focus on providing initial and ongoing training, resources and follow-up support for generalist teachers to be able to deliver music activities themselves

3)  It will be sustainable and not focused on a particular age group or key stage.

4) It will have a clear rationale for why quality music provision should be in our primary schools and an incentive for schools to take it on.

There’s a way to go yet, but it’s a journey we can’t wait to start. Meanwhile, we will be tweeting along with episode 2 of Don’t Stop the Music on the #mufuchat hashtag from 9pm on Tuesday. Do join us.

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Mobile tech with Tim Hallas

Click HERE to be redirected to the correct page.

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Music appreciation – who appreciates? A lesson from history. (And lots of questions!)


One of the side-effects of working so hard on National Curriculum assessment guidelines recently has been the re-emphasis in my thinking on musical learning. I spent a happy day recently getting cross in public at the ISM conference in Birmingham, where there was a general feeling of concern regarding music education, and governmental policy and funding (or lack thereof). At the same time David Ashworth alerted me to a run-in he has been having with Kodaly people. All of these taken together have made me revisit some thoughts which have been rolling around in my head for many years now. In no particular order these are:

  • What is music education?
  • What is it for?
  • Who benefits?
  • Why does the curriculum look like it does?
  • What is progression within this curriculum?
  • What are the competing ideologies behind any curriculum?

Now, none of these are new thoughts, clearly, but they seem to…

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Communities of practice for preservice and early career music educators

Research Studies in Music Education

Welcome to RSME’s research roundup! Here we assemble literature from our own journal, as well as other publications, that address online conversations about music education and related topics. Our fourth roundup, inspired by Musical Futures’ recent #mufuchat, brings together research indirectly related to the @musicalfutures topic about whether previous mufuchats have changed followers’ teaching practices. Participating music teachers cited teacher talk and effective feedback as one aspect of their teaching that had been modified by the weekly twitter conversations.

The literature below does not address feedback issues, but rather, considers the notion of #mufuchat as a space where music…

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Social Media: the story of #mfpilot2013 and what we learned

Take, Use, Innovate, Share.

#mfpilot2013 began as a pilot project for a new Musical Futures approach to singing and mobile technology in the classroom. Ordinarily, the pilot would have been open to applications from schools and chosen on the basis of geographical location and quality of application. Musical Futures received over 100 applications for just 15 pilot places including some from overseas so we decided to open a ‘co-pilot’ to run alongside it. All the training that was given to the pilot teachers would be filmed and made available on our website as it happened. Co-pilots would sign up via our website and receive emails directing them to the resources they would need and a hashtag and weekly chat on Twitter was put into place as a means for teachers to discuss how it was going. A sharing space was created for teachers to pin audio, video and other resources they created and over 220 items were shared. Teachers were willing to share work even if it wasn’t polished or the outcomes weren’t as good as they would have liked and as result we were able to tweak the final resources and respond to issues teachers faced via the website. This meant that the final ‘Find Your Voice‘ resources were truly collaborative and are currently being consolidated and shared via a series of free training days running across the UK in 2014.

By going through this process, we were able to experiment with the best use of social media to engage with our target audience for MF and as a result have now built an online learning community that gather weekly around the hashtag #mufuchat. Below are some of the tools we have found useful during the process.

*Tools of the trade*

1. Twitter management tools



2. Archiving/Blogging tools




Examples of blogs

Teacher blog with a discussion forum embedded 

Teaching Gems

Musical Futures Blog

Example of a MF Live Blog 

Other ways to use your blog/website

Embed a sign up form



Closed FB group 

Other great tools

Music Teacher Network: Ning

Padlet sharing space



Anna’s Top Tips

1. Define your strategy and your ‘online persona’ and be consistent in what you put out within this

2. Use social media yourself and base your posts on your personal preferences and observe online behaviours of your target audiences

3. Direct as much as you can to your website and do it in a way that is instant, relevant and concise

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