The Society for Music Analysis has funded a two-year project investigating the development of music literacy. It is very likely that every sub-discipline within a subject such as music will see certain knowledge and skills as essential. As curricula develop and change, gaps in knowledge and skills might be perceived. Music theory and analysis today does not have the attention it previously enjoyed in school education. The trustees are interested to explore if there is a gap and, if so, how it might be addressed, including what role, if any, the SMA might have in addressing it.
This project is being undertaken on behalf of the trustees of the SMA by Dr Hilary McQueen. Hilary is working closely with Dr Esther Cavett, a trustee and main overseer of this project.
The study, which is a funded by the SMA, is entitled ‘Questioning the gap: defining a role for the SMA in preparing students for music degrees in higher education today.’
The word ‘questioning’ in the title reflects the fact that every sub-discipline within a discipline likes to think its skills are essential. As curricula develop and change, someone somewhere will perceive a ‘gap’. Music theory and analysis today does not have the attention it previously enjoyed in compulsory, post-compulsory and higher education in England. The SMA trustees see this as a gap which needs addressing.Therefore, the aim of the project is to ask stakeholders in the music and creative industries, working at all
stages of education:
If they agree with the SMA trustees’ assessment that there is a gap
What they consider music literacy to be
What they consider a desirable level of music literacy might be on entering higher education and
What links there might or should be between music literacy and music analysis
What resources, if any, stakeholders would like the SMA to provide or to contribute to.
Method. The intention of this scoping project is to be purposive rather than exhaustive, identifying the range of approaches to music literacy and theory.
Preliminary stage: interviews with a sample of trustees to gain their views on the project and to make any adjustments prior to Part 1.
Part 1. Snowball identification of issues and candidates.
Interview a number of key individuals (for example, from industry bodies, music pedagogy experts and other representatives of the industry) who are knowledgeable about English secondary music education to seek their views of our project. Consider if the SMA should refine the aim of the project or adjust the outcome. Consider identification of candidates of Parts 2–4 of this study. Consider how the results of this enquiry can improve the SMA’s offering to its membership in the future.
Part 2. Literature review.
Literature review, to summarise the views which have been expressed in publications addressing these questions. Sources would include UK education policy documents, music education journals, position papers by organizations such as the ISM, ABRSM, Conservatoires UK, and other music organizations.
Part 3a. Data gathering from universities.
Seek views from a purposive selection of University music departments with contrasting curricular and student demography on the following questions:
—what music literacy skills would you like students to have when they arrive to read music at your dept?
—what music literacy skills do you find students have when they arrive?
—what do you do to bridge the gap, if there is one?
—what music literacy and theory and analysis skills do you wish your students to have when they
finish their undergraduate degree.
Part 3b. Data gathering from the SMA membership.
The SMA members are assumed to be generally members of UK academic institutions and can therefore be asked to respond to the same questions as are proposed for Part 3a.
Part 4. Data gathering from schools.
Seek views from a purposive selection of teachers of key stage 4 and 5 music in schools. Specific questions to be decided, but the aim would be to understand how helpful teachers found their own music degree in what they need to teach in the classroom; and what materials, if any, they would like to see SMA providing to assist their roles.
—an understanding of how the SMA might best allocate its resources to help address any gap which is identified
—a report on findings for the SMA trustees, which will be available for SMA members at the end of year one and year two
—depending on findings, an article in a peer-reviewed Music Education/Analysis Journal at the end of year one and year two.
Hilary McQueen’s role is to collect and analyse the information referred to above, advise the trustees on resources SMA might provide to schools and write a report on findings for the trustees.