All Together Now: How The Musicians Union Supports Music Education

The Musicians' Union's National Organiser Education and Health & Wellbeing Chris Walters discusses how the Musicians' Union supports music teachers and young musicians entering the industry. 

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It is vital for the future of the UK music industry that educated, informed, diverse and talented young people join the sector every year.

That’s why the music industry works closely with Government, education institutions and other organisations to improve access to opportunities for children and young people to develop their skills and knowledge in order to help them build a career in music.

UK Music’s series All Together Now takes a look at the projects and organisations that are helping to open access to the music industry for everyone.

The Musicians’ Union’s National Organiser Education and Health & Wellbeing Chris Walters discusses how the Musicians’ Union supports music teachers and young musicians entering the industry. 

“The Musicians’ Union works to support music education in many different ways. Firstly, we strive to improve the pay and conditions of our members, including those who teach music. This is vital to ensure that the music learning experience is the best it can be for both teachers and students.

We also provide extensive resources, training and events for our teaching members, who often struggle to access such materials and opportunities elsewhere.

Further, we undertake a vast amount of casework and legal support for our members who teach, dealing with anything from unpaid fees to problematic contracts, holiday pay, grievances and disciplinaries.

Additionally, we advocate for music education and lobby the various UK governments on policy and funding issues.

Our aim is to promote a growing understanding in the music industry that education is a primary focus for the Musicians’ Union, and that we are the only specialist trade union representing instrumental and vocal teachers. Today we have over 10,000 members of our Education Section, close to a third of our overall membership.

Education is an essential aspect of our work because our members do so much teaching, but also because music education creates the next generation of musicians and audiences. This is why we are committed to ensuring that it remains a part of every child’s schooling and not just the preserve of those who can afford to pay for it.

Advocacy is a particularly important part of our work right now because governments around the UK are making big changes to the way they fund and support music education.

Policy announcements are coming thick and fast, but it is far from clear that they are leading to tangible improvements.

Funding levels are never as high as they should be, given what we know about the value of music to the UK economy. It’s being cut at every level – from attempts to withdraw funding for instrumental music tuition for primary school students in Scotland to cutting Government funding for higher education subjects for music and other creative subjects in England. Many MU members tell us that the free music education they received is no longer available where they live. For these reasons and more, the MU’s advocacy is much needed.

The union also offers a heavily discounted student membership for musicians who are at the start of their careers, giving them access to the full range of benefits and services that the union provides. New and emerging artists face many challenges starting out in the music industry and it is important for everyone to have access to information and support to build their career with confidence.

Some of those challenges are specific to musicians, and others are shared with workers across the UK. Although they affect everyone whatever their age, the MU’s Young Workers Network works with young members age 30 and under on both, highlighting union advice, creating and sharing resources, and working with young people across the trade union movement to challenge inequality and injustice in the workplace.

Find out more about the union’s work for music education here.

Find out more about UK Music’s education work here.

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