MU Education Rep Maxim Rowlands traces the role back to its origins at the creation of Music Education Hubs in England, sharing his experiences along the way, and looking ahead to the future of music education in the UK.
I joined the MU as a student
Back then, I was on the Piano Performers’ Course at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. After gaining my AGSM diploma in 1978 I have always played and taught the piano. Until 1994, I combined part-time teaching posts with a freelance career which included concerts as soloist and accompanist with “Live Music Now!”, recording sessions for BBC background music, and theatre work.
In 1994 I took on a full-time post as Head of Keyboard Studies at Bromley Youth Music Trust (BYMT), where I am currently MU Education Rep. In 2003 I became a self-employed licensed piano teacher in order to return to freelance work. Since then I have been an accompanist at the Royal College of Music, and I was a repetiteur at Morley College from 2005 to 2015. I have also been a piano tutor and accompanist at Centre for Young Musicians, London since 1988.
The management of Bromley Schools Instrumental Music Service was taken over by Bromley Youth Music Trust (BYMT) in April 1994, a few months after I was appointed. Salaried staff were told that Bromley Youth Music Trust would continue to recognise trade unions that were recognised by the London Borough of Bromley. This did not include the Musicians’ Union.
Although teaching unions were able to represent salaried staff, there was no recognised trade union representation for self-employed licensed music teachers. BYMT depended on the London Borough of Bromley for funding for the first two decades of its existence.
The creation of Music Education Hubs and the MU Education Rep role
It is now 12 years since the Department for Education and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport published the 2011 National Plan for Music Education.
This led to the creation of Music Education Hubs funded by Arts Council England. This was at a time when many local authority music services were losing all their funding. Surviving music services had to bid to become “Hub leaders”.
By 2013, the MU had organised a network of Music Education Hub Reps from all the English regions, and I have been the Rep for Bromley since then. Now that ACE Music Education Hubs have been replaced by Music Hubs, MU Hub Reps have become MU Education Reps. This is in order to represent musicians teaching throughout the UK, and in further and higher education, in addition to Local Education Authority music services.
Being an MU Education Rep is in some ways like being a steward, but stewards usually represent musicians who all play in the same band or orchestra, with collective bargaining. An education rep will represent music teachers with a range of employment statuses, working in different schools and music centres etc.
At first, I was not sure what I could do to help my colleagues, but in 2015 the London Borough of Bromley announced that it would phase out BYMT’s annual funding in stages, and BYMT now relies on its own revenue from fees plus whatever is provided by ACE. When this was announced in 2015, I told the then Principal of BYMT that the MU could help BYMT, as it was helping music services set up co-operatives in order to survive.
The MU did indeed help Bromley Youth Music Trust
A survival plan was drafted, which included an increased administrative charge for self-employed licensed music teachers in return for representation on the Board of Trustees and recognition of the MU.
BYMT licensed teachers now elect a representative on the Board of Trustees every three years. I was elected licensed teacher representative in 2016 and 2019 and stood down for a sabbatical in 2022. During my term as a co-opted Trustee, I was able to keep the recommended hourly teaching rate in line with inflation, until 2021, when teaching rates were frozen for a year in response to the pandemic. I also helped tidy up BYMT’s terms and conditions for music lessons.
There are further challenges ahead as Arts Council England lurches into its next plan, and music education contends with financial austerity throughout the UK.
If you are a musician who teaches, do seriously consider becoming a MU Education Rep! You can make a difference, and we all meet up at least once a year.
Find out more about the MU Education Reps