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On 15 and 16 October the MU ran our much-anticipated Education Conference, allowing us to get back together with members in person at long last. Our venue was the excellent Resonance, Dudley’s new, high-spec music college. This article will give a quick rundown of what the conference included – I hope it inspires you to join us at future events for musicians who teach.

Day One

Inclusion and wellbeing were two primary themes of the conference, part of a broad range of topics that were covered over the course of the two days. Both days began with a brief meditation session led by Alison Gordon to focus our minds – this is a service the MU offers online and free of charge to all members.

Next we enjoyed a session from Lucky Moyo on South African Gumboot rhythms, which saw everyone learning not only some funky body percussion techniques and teaching approaches, but also the fascinating background of this musical form, which miners created using the boots they wore for their work.

After this we were privileged to hear from Jamie Moody, a member of the National Open Youth Orchestra, the world’s first disabled-led national youth orchestra. Jamie explained in great detail how to work with and support musicians with disabilities, and it was amazing to hear this direct testimony from such an insightful young artist.

Thanks also to Doug Bott, NOYO’s musical director, who spoke about the strategic and philosophical aspects of running the orchestra. After lunch we heard from Roger Wilson from Black Lives in Music with a fantastic session on inclusion and tolerance in music education, which provoked much discussion and debate.

Next, delegates split into two groups for breakout sessions on developing a teaching practice and rhythm games to promote wellbeing. These were followed by sessions on music technology hacks and copyright, in particular some new resources around the Schools Printed Music Licence.

The day finished with a contemplative session on the similarities between music therapy and teaching, led with insight and sensitivity by music therapist Bob Heath. After this we proceeded to a marvellous drinks reception and dinner, with entertainment from young musicians studying at Resonance.

Day Two

The second day saw more of a focus on union business and employment practicalities for teachers, alongside sessions on topics as broad as those the day before.

After another brief meditation, delegates could choose to attend an open meeting of the Education Section Committee (where we discussed what the union should be doing to support teachers), learn about Feldenkrais (another wellbeing service we offer for members), or attend a ‘mind, body and song’ workshop, emphasising wellness through singing.

Next came a session on supporting students with performance anxiety, alongside a session for the MU’s Education Reps on workplace activism and organising. After these came sessions on supporting learners with autism and employment law for music teachers. All speakers delivered relevant, useful sessions across both days of the conference.

The conference closed with session on UK music education policy – what is changing, and what should the MU be advocating for? This stimulated some of the liveliest debate of the whole conference, with delegates’ energy undimmed despite an action-packed couple of days.

Watch this space for more related content

I would like to offer my sincere thanks to MU colleagues – in particular David Barnard and Rose Delcour-Min – for some tireless work organising this event, to Resonance for hosting us, to all our speakers and presenters (many of whom were MU members) and to Marion Friend for offering one-to-one career coaching for delegates on both days – another popular element of the event.

Look out for photos and a full-length report on the conference in the next edition of The Musician, as well as video and more related content in due course here on our website. We look forward to welcoming you at the next MU event for musicians who teach – watch this space!

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Thanks to

Chris Walters

Chris Walters is National Organiser for Education and Health & Wellbeing at the Musicians' Union. He leads on the Union's music education advocacy and policy work in the four UK nations and oversees services for music teachers. He previously developed the Certificate for Music Educators qualification at Trinity College London and was editor of Music Teacher magazine for Rhinegold Publishing, where he helped launch the Music Education Expo. He has taught music in the UK and Kenya and began his career as a professional clarinet player.

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