At Sutton Music Trust, we are on a mission to help every young person in our borough to make, be inspired by, and celebrate the music they love.
We know it is a big goal, but one of the ways in which we have been trying to reach our vision has been working to understand more about children and young people’s musical preferences, their exposure to music education and what our key focus areas might be for increasing student engagement.
We do this through our youth voice survey, What Music Means to You, aimed at pupils in Years 6, 7 and 8. This survey is designed to be easy for them to understand, and we do it every year to learn more about their thoughts on music. We want to know what kind of music they like, how well they feel their school caters to that, and if they would like more chances to get involved.
The information we collect helps us make plans for music in our area. We share it with a group of people called the Music Hub Advisory Committee, who think about what the results mean and how we can do better. We also ask them to suggest ways to get kids more interested in music.
In the first year, we got responses from nearly 1,200 students in Sutton schools. This year, in 2023, we got over 8,000 responses from the seven areas that will form the London SW Music Hub in September 2024. We want all schools to join in so we can hear the voices of young people who might not usually engage with a Music Service.
How important is music to your life?
The survey asks kids how important music is in their lives on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 means not important at all, and 10 means “I can’t live without it.” No matter how many pupils answer or where they are from, the average score is always over 7 out of 10, with more than 35% giving a 9 or 10 score.
We also ask about the types of music they like. Some top choices are Electronic Dance Music, Rap & Hip Hop, and Pop Music. When we ask how often they get to learn about and perform their favourite styles in school, the average is 4 out of 10. When we asked if they would join in if there were more opportunities to make music in Sutton, the answer was 5 out of 10.
From the data collected, we see that as kids get older, music becomes more important to them. Sutton Music Trust is working to offer more activities that kids are excited about. We have developed new activities like Music Nurture Groups, a Sutton Songwriters Circle to help make new music, and DJing lessons in schools and our Music Academy program.
We noticed that as kids get older, they are less likely to do music activities outside of school. So, we are focusing on developing engaging and high-quality Whole Class Ensemble Teaching (WCET) curriculums (including Music Production!), helping students find more musical opportunities, and supporting music in the early years.
What are your preferred genres of music?
Electronic Dance Music (1st Choice)
Rap & Hip Hop
Classical Music & Opera
Funk, Soul and/or R&B
Jazz, Blues and/or Country
We share all this info with schools, so they can see how they are doing compared to others in Southwest London. This helps them plan how to make music better in their schools, something that schools might want to reference and track in relation to their school Music Development Plans.
Looking forward, we know there are different kinds of young musicians. So, at Sutton Music Trust, we are working on a plan to support more young people to access music through technology. We want to support young musicians following more informal musical pathways and give them chances to share and celebrate their work. We want to work more with kids to share their stories about music and show that there’s no one right way to be a musician.
We are proud to work closely with young people through our Youth Forum, and a member from the Youth Forum will lead our Music Hub Advisory Committee meeting in January.