The social value of music

The Social Value of Music conference, on 2 – 3 December 2019, brought together policymakers, researchers, music practitioners and music industry experts to give a voice to the social value of music, and to strive for music’s importance to be recognised across society.

Nordoff Robbins pools expertise to champion the social value of music

“Music matters, and at Nordoff Robbins we go a step further and say Making Music Matters…. music is key to our personal identities, to building a sense of community, for communicating, and for wellbeing. Ultimately, music is about connection, and connection is a fundamental part of being human.”

This was the quote shared by Sandra Schembri, CEO of Nordoff Robbins , in her opening speech at our Social Value of Music conference, where participants called on the government to recognise the impact of music on wellbeing.

Over the last two days, Nordoff Robbins, UK’s largest music therapy charity brought together policymakers, researchers, music practitioners and music industry experts to give a voice to the social value of music, and to strive for music’s importance to be recognised, championed and valued across society.

Sandra Schembri added “It is time that we recognise the important of high-quality music in schools and get the arts baked back into our educational system and continuing with lifelong access to music-making opportunities. It’s an essential means of staying well, of promoting social bonds and strengthening communities. All of this is why as a music therapy charity we are compelled to champion the social value of music.”

This is the very objective that the delegates joined forces to discuss at the conference. By collaborating and sharing knowledge within the policy, research, music practitioner and music industry communities, Nordoff Robbins was able to give a platform to music and to its social value within education, health and community settings, as well as across society more broadly.

On the topic of music in schools, Jimmy Rotherham, Global Teacher Prize-shortlisted music teacher, and education advocate said “We need major systematic change in schools. Hopefully this will happen this year and is something we can all campaign for.”

Michael Dugher, CEO of UK Music and conference key-note speaker said: “Music can help give young people confidence and creative release. It teaches them teamwork and confidence building skills. It can be the reason a child wants to go to school in the first place…I’m convinced that absolutely everything I achieved was from the moment I picked up a guitar.”

The conference programme included presentations on accessing music in youth and education settings, the social impact of music and music therapy, music, society and communities and addressed the topic of music for health and wellbeing.

Joining Michael Dugher as keynote speaker was Professor Norma Daykin – an expert in the arts, health and wellbeing from the University of Tampere in Finland.

Prof. Norma Daykin, who argued that arts and health is ‘a social movement’, said “We can say with confidence that music offers well evidenced health and wellbeing benefits for people across the life course and it also offers community and social impacts. There is also a growing understanding that of the underlying processes that support health outcomes and wellbeing outcomes in music.”

Other contributors included Professor Gary Ansdell – Honorary Research Fellow in Community Music Therapy at the University of Sheffield, Senior Research Fellow at Exeter University amongst his other roles within the sector, and Dr Claire Flower, Clinical Specialist Music Therapist and Joint Team Lead at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The two were also joined by John McMahon – Senior Manager in Policy and Research at Arts Council England, and lead on Arts and Health, Criminal Justice, Loneliness and Homelessness.

Dr Julia Jones and Lord Tim Clement-Jones also shared findings from their Music in Society inquiry, which took place in the House of Lords earlier this year. The inquiry briefing paper is now live and available to read here.