Judith Robinson reflects on her time at Sound and Music

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In an emotional end to 2021, we say a fond farewell to two members of our incredible Education team: our Head of Education, Judith Robinson, and our brilliant Education Coordinator Ayşe Köklü.

As we all look ahead to bright futures, Judith reflects on 13 years at Sound and Music, the amazing young composers and creators she’s supported, the work we’ve done together and the inspiring legacy she leaves behind.

After 13 long and happy years here at Sound and Music, I’ve finally taken the plunge and decided to move on to adventures new.

From working with two of Sound and Music’s founder organisations in 2008 to being the first Head of Education in 2018, I’ve had the privilege to work with so many committed and talented people. Composers, educators, curators, project leaders and – last but not least – children and young people. It’s been a fulfilling journey to collaborate with everyone with the aim of supporting children and young people to compose and create their own music. I’ve had a lot of fun and I have learned so much along the way!

After 13 years, it is inevitable that I have worked with too many individual people and projects to mention them all individually, but I thought I would share a few highlights of my time at Sound and Music.

My first pick (as you might expect!) is leading Sound and Music’s annual Summer School for Young Composers. Same venue, same dates, same tutors (nearly!) for 13 years, but a different feel and character every time.  The quality and variety of music produced each year by the 14-18 year-old students never ceases to amaze me, and I am always moved by the talent and musical dedication on display. We even kept going in a digital format at the height of the 2020 pandemic, and managed to work together in person this year, which was a very uplifting experience after the challenges of the last 18 months! Even taking into account those students who attended more than once, we have supported around 800 young people to date. During the week, many discovered that their real passion was composing, and some have gone on to amazing things as composers. I feel a moment of pride every time I see one of our alumni getting recognition or achieving in their field – the world of new music is in safe hands!

Another area of work of which I am very proud is Sound and Music’s partnership with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and Birmingham City UniversityListen Imagine Compose. The knowledge and good practice that has developed around how composing is taught and learned in secondary schools has grown and we’ve been able to share this with hundreds of teachers and educators over the years. Excitingly, this partnership has expanded to a new primary strand, watch this space as this area of work develops over the next few years!

One last highlight for me has been how, at Sound and Music, we have been listening to and collaborating with young people. Thanks to listening to those attending the Summer School, we added a new electronic music group to this year’s residential. And our first ever youth voice group, Young Voices, worked with us to curate and present a series of online New Music Labs this summer. It has been refreshing to hear the thoughts and opinions of these young people, exciting to take the plunge and try out their ideas, and so rewarding to see it all come to fruition!

Despite these successes, however, there is still work to be done.

Through the #CanCompose Report published in 2019 and BCU’s independent evaluation of our Go Compose project, as well as many other music education reports made available in the last few years, we know that there are great inequalities within who accesses music education. This is compounded for young composers, who are not well catered for, with many music teachers having less confidence in delivering this aspect of the curriculum, and a lack of composing opportunities in out of school settings (eg through music services who are not funded through the National Plan for Music Education to deliver composing activity).

Add in other barriers to participation (disability, location, no access to technology and equipment and socio-economic circumstances for starters) and the widening of inequalities as a result of the pandemic, the need to support young composers has never been greater.

I am confident that Sound and Music has the needs of young composers at heart and will continue to develop support and opportunities for this vital group of young people.

As I hand over the baton to a new Head of Education at Sound and Music, it remains for me to thank everyone I have worked with over the years. Thank you for your talent, commitment, energy and vision, and for having the musical needs of children and young people in your hearts.

And thank you also to all the brilliant, talented and committed young people, both those I have had the privilege to meet and those who I haven’t (yet!). There are so many talented young musicians out there but they don’t all have the same opportunities to develop and fulfil their potential. Our job won’t be complete until every young person has the same opportunities to develop their talents and I look forward to continuing fighting for this cause together, as I embark on the next stage of my professional journey.”

Read BCU’s independent evaluation of our Go Compose project

Learn more about our Summer School for Young Composers

Discover our Education work

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