Questioning convergences between neoliberal policies, politics, and informal music pedagogy in Australia

Authored by: Clare Hall , Renée Crawford , Louise Jenkins

The Routledge Handbook to Sociology of Music Education

Print publication date:  March  2021
Online publication date:  March  2021

Print ISBN: 9781138586369
eBook ISBN: 9780429504631
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter questions how the possible convergence between informal music pedagogy and global trends towards neoliberal policies and practices is influencing music education. The aim is to investigate the effects of neoliberalism on school music education to challenge assumptions about who music education is serving and how. We do this by examining the unprecedented growth of the Musical Futures organisation in Australia through policy thinking. By analysing the organisation’s development of the programme through a sociological lens, we argue that the shared ‘trace elements’ of neoliberal ideology are in tension with social justice imperatives. The intriguing evolution of Lucy Green’s original conception of informal music pedagogy highlights how geopolitics shapes music education and vice versa, and we present a snapshot of this interplay between policy and practice in this locale. Drawing on sociological work from the global-South, our methods create a dialogue between a number of policy documents, including curriculum, educational ‘frameworks’, and public domain publications as policy in action. This dialogue represents for us the ‘elephant in the (band)room’ that is presented as a cluster of interrelated issues to do with the tropes of autonomy, relevancy, real-world learning, and quality education. This leads us to question whether the migration of Musical Futures, in the absence of local, research-led structural changes to music education, has led to the substitution of one form of cultural hegemony for another. We conclude by reflecting on the kinds of critical self-reflexivity required by music educators to navigate such complex issues and how sociological thinking can help in neoliberal circumstances.

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