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How can a real-world approach capture the cognitive benefits of music education?

Musical Futures

Marker London, United Kingdom
A non-profit organisation that seeks to transform young people's engagement in music through imitating the real-world practices of professional musicians.

What is Musical Futures?

Fran Hannan
“We want to bridge a dynamic and relevant music education in and out of school.”

Fran Hannan, Managing Director, Musical Futures

Research has found that music facilitates learning in other subjects and enhances skills that children inevitably use in other areas. A music-rich education has displayed many benefits including language development, memorization, emotional development and creative thinking, not to mention the general benefits of music for music's sake. As one child expressed: "I don't know anyone who doesn't love music. You can't not like it."

Based on Professor Lucy Green’s extensive research into how popular musicians learn, Musical Futures believes music learning works best when young people are making music, and when their existing passion for music is reflected and built upon in the classroom. Originally designed to address the gap between student engagement with music in school and that outside of school, Musical Futures is a tried-and-tested innovative approach to music learning with the aim of bringing relevant and engaging music lessons to as many young people as possible. Bringing non-formal teaching and informal learning into the more formal music classroom, Musical Futures has helped many music educators across the world reshape their approach to music teaching, increasing their skills and confidence and enabling them to deliver high-quality music education.

Student choice is integral to the pedagogy, which means that rock and pop genres are often a starting point. However, as Musical Futures is an approach to teaching music, it can be applied to any content, not just to rock and pop! This means that it is sustainable and transferable to a range of learning contexts, both within the UK and overseas.

Musical Futures focuses on providing training, support and resources for teachers and practitioners to help them transform the teaching of music with students of all ages in school and in other contexts outside school. Teachers and practitioners can download a Teacher Resource Pack or via the Musical Futures App to support them in their work. The majority of resources available on the Musical Futures website are open source and include guides such as Getting started with Classroom Workshopping, Getting Started with Informal Learning and Getting Started with Find Your Voice. Musical Futures offers a range of training specifically designed for international teachers and practitioners in the UK, Australia and internationally.

A case study by UCL showed that by taking part in Musical Futures students believed that musical talent could be developed rather than being an innate talent they are born with.

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Intended Outcomes
8 - 18
Age Group
Resources Needed
Before trialling the Musical Futures approach, it is vital that teachers and practitioners read up on the approach to ensure that the pedagogy is clear in their mind so that they can see how this will work for them. Successful Musical Futures lessons involve a change in mindset and approach by teachers and practitioners, so they need to have trust in their students that they will engage and respond positively. Ideally, teachers and practitioners should have access to a selection of musical instruments that would be found in a music classroom - tuned and untuned percussion, ukuleles, acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards and possibly a bass guitar and drum kit. However, in reality, most teachers and practitioners work with what they have available and adapt to their situation where necessary, rather than allowing this to prevent them from trying out the Musical Futures pedagogy.
HundrED Criteria
Musical Futures is a grassroots organisation driven by teachers. They make use of social media, website training and face-to-face professional development opportunities to share innovative teaching material and practices, always with a focus on improving learners' experiences.
A quantitative survey by the UCL Institute of Education found that Musical Futures impacted young people in a variety of ways. There were significant increases in motivation and improved positive attitudes towards music, while pupils’ self-esteem and confidence increased dramatically.
Teachers and practitioners are currently using Musical Futures in 72 countries. The pedagogy is transferable due to the practical nature of the Musical Futures approach, which means that language barriers are less of an issue.

See this innovation in action.

Usher sends a message to Musical Futures students
An Introduction to Musical Futures


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Fran Hannan
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