John Stephens OBE has been awarded Honorary Membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society in recognition of his outstanding contribution to music education. Here he reflects on how educators and professional musicians can, and must, work together to nurture incipient talent:
“There is a great reservoir of latent musical talent in our schools, conservatoires and universities and I have been privileged to see that develop over the last sixty years. That talent flourishes when music educators and professional musicians come together to support, nurture and inspire - but most of all to make music together.
Orchestras, bands, choirs and ensembles representing every genre and style can be heard in schools where governors and head teachers have ensured that music is firmly rooted in the curriculum.
The National Plan for Music Education has now replaced a Music Manifesto and ‘Music Hubs’ is the latest jargon for partnerships and collaborations between teachers and professionals. With a reducing level of public funding from the Arts Council, the Hubs are charged with seeking resources elsewhere; a daunting task in present economic circumstances.
Maintaining opportunities for today’s young musical talent to be encouraged and developed is going to present a greater challenge than that known to previous generations of music educators.
Musical talent is not prescribed by parental income or post code; it is not confined by either gender or ethnic background; it is not restricted by musical genre or idiom. Quite straightforwardly, it is at the heart of every civilised community.
Politicians and parents; teachers and musicians; we must all ensure that young people have the opportunity to develop their talent. We want them when they leave school to say, as do I now, ‘Thank you for the music’.”
For over 60 years John Stephens has been at the forefront of music education, including as Staff Inspector of Music for ILEA, Vice Chair of the Music Working Group for the National Curriculum and as a music education advisor to the Royal Opera House, Wigmore Hall, London Symphony Orchestra, Trinity College of Music, Youth Music and many other organisations.
John will be presented with RPS Honorary Membership at the LSO Discovery Celebration Concert on 28 June at the Barbican, surrounded by music makers from local schools and musicians of the London Symphony Orchestra. Jeff Moore’s ‘River Journey’, commissioned by John Stephens especially for the LSO and primary schools close to LSO St Luke’s, opens the programme.