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Undeniably, music and the creative arts have the power to change lives; but for many, the access to music education in schools in Australia is limited or inherently uneven. As the world emerges from the pandemic, increased research and reports of inequality in learning and educational outcomes has also shed light on its impact and the severe repercussions on the education system as well as climbing concerns for the health and wellbeing of students. These very findings make the national initiative Music Education: Right from the Start, spearheaded by Alberts | The Tony Foundation, even more timely.

Bringing together key individuals and organisations from across the music and education industries with the shared goal of striving for quality, sequential and ongoing music education for all Australian primary school students, Alberts is set to formally launch the breakthrough initiative in Melbourne on Monday September 12, hosting an official launch event in St Kilda featuring special guest Peter Garrett AM.

Peter Garrett and Dr Anita Collins

The 2020 Music Education: A Sound Investment report, commissioned by Alberts | The Tony Foundation, highlighted the proportion of Australian primary school children with little-to-no access to music education. Its findings ultimately spurred the Music Education: Right from the Start initiative: not only do the benefits for music education heavily stem into collaboration, a sense of belonging and increased positive mental health, the implicit benefits extend well beyond the creative and mental facets, with ongoing and quality music education also aiding physical development, practical skills and beyond, as award-winning music educator and The Tony Foundation 2020 report leader Dr Anita Collins elaborates,

“Music learning has been found to impact brain development in children in so many ways – literacy and numeracy levels, self-regulation of emotions, academic performance and social skill development to name just a few. Every Australian child doesn’t just deserve music education – they need it”.

Led by Dr Collins and the Alberts team, the 2020 report featured in-depth consultation with music scholars and educators to not only explore the requirements, vehicles and educational outcomes and benefits of active music learning, but to seek to identify the barriers to access. While the lack or diminished access to study music education for younger students is itself entirely not a new issue, the repercussions faced by the global pandemic has shed further light on the proven benefits to be gained via music education at a young age, notably improved cognitive connectivity and efficiency, improved learning capacity, improved social skills and personal wellbeing, decreased stress and anxiety, heightened empathy, increased stamina and focus and boosted performance in English, Maths and Science. The findings in the initiative’s latest research have also revealed statistics lacking in tertiary education and teacher training, with limited practical and factual outcomes for those themselves building to educate in primary schools.

While the findings may, overall, showcase limitations and varying deficiencies, the ultimate goal for Music Education: Right from the Start is built around common understandings of quality music education and facilitating positive collaborative change, as Alberts and the 2020 report affirm, “While there is no silver bullet, we can say with confidence that there is at least one way – backed by research and experience – to lift the spirits, build collaboration and a sense of belonging, to get the creative juices flowing and to simulate the brains and lift attainment in literacy and numeracy for our students. Quality music education does all this and more”.

With elections scheduled for our two biggest states over the next six months, Alberts will host the official launch for Music Education: Right from the Start in Melbourne on Monday September 12, with a variety of guests throughout the program, including CEO of Songlines Robbie Bundle, CEO of Alberts David Albert, Dr Anita Collins, ARIA Music Teacher of the Year for 2021 Zoe Barry, Alberts Executive Director and Music Education Lead Emily Albert and Australian musician, environmentalist and former politician Peter Garrett AM. Previously acting as Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth and an ongoing advocate for young learners, Peter is no stranger to advocating to reduce inequality in education or for celebrating the power of music, as he shares,

“Music education for all students is a must. Learning infused with music can enrich, stimulate and prepare young people for whatever path in life they choose. The bottom line is that a grounding in music is good for you, irrespective of what you are studying, and we need more of it.”

Stoking opportunity and focusing on change rather than solely dwelling on issues, the Music Education: Right from the Start initiative is set to bring together, celebrate and enhance education, the broader music industry and learning across the board; and it could not have come at a better time, as Emily Albert concludes,

 “Alberts has long believed in the power of music to change lives and shares the belief that every Australian primary school student needs and has a right to a quality, ongoing, sequential music education. That is the promise of the Australian curriculum yet in too many schools a quality music education simply isn’t on offer. This is a systemic issue we can fix. Alberts is committed to working with others across the music industry and education systems to deliver on the promise and the myriad benefits music education can bring. That’s what the collaborative national initiative, Music Education: Right from the Start, is all about. Australian schools may be facing unprecedented challenges but such times give rise to equally significant opportunities. The opportunity to make the internationally recognised benefits of a quality music education available to all Australian primary-aged children is here. Right now.

The official launch for the Music Education: Right from the Start initiative will take place in Melbourne on Monday September 12.

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