It’s good to talk

Written by: Mark Howe

There is something fundamentally useful about talking about work. Taking or making opportunities in which we can support each other by acknowledging challenges, nurturing abilities and celebrating successes thus improving practice as well as contributing to our own wellbeing.

I have been working with MusicNet East supporting the delivery of their continuing professional development programme. One of the formats for doing this is Routes into Teaching, a day in which a wide range of new and established practitioners (peri’s, community musicians, musicians) gather together in order to find out in more detail about the different kinds of teaching opportunities available in Hertfordshire, Essex and Cambridgeshire Music Services. These events usually include a mix of practical skills development activity, skill share, discussion and the dissemination of information and tools that will help practitioners in the field relative to inclusion, as well as introducing them to the Youth Music quality framework. There is also a mechanism that captures changes in understanding resulting from participation in the session. The ideas, information and approaches are of course useful in their own right but it is the resulting conversations and discussions that add body and depth to the sessions. My observation is that there is a hunger for opportunities to share, reflect, troubleshoot and so on, with others who may or may not be doing similar work in similar contexts and settings. The value is tacitly felt and expressed and there is always a noticeable sense of release or relief in the group. That is not to say that any of these areas of discussion are new, or that there is sufficient time within this context to explore the arising issues in any detail, but no matter what one’s level or breadth of experience, they need to happen. There are many different ways to reflect on what one does, but there is something very significant and special about verbally expressing, sharing, exploring, investigating, troubleshooting, questioning, advising, noticing, listening… with other people. This is as important in the informal music sector as it is anywhere else, in some ways more important because of the potential for the breadth of client group and complexity of setting or context that might be experienced by any given practitioner. I am stating the obvious – as practitioners we need to commit to this aspect of our practice by embracing existing opportunities and/or by finding or creating new and meaningful ones for talking about the what, how, why we do what we do. When we are busy creating and teaching music it seems difficult to justify taking time out to talk but by fostering and creating environments and circumstances where we can nurture support and acknowledge all dimensions of our work and practice, we will be able to better understand and promote the value of the work that we do.

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