Adam Jeanes – „Music for all”

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Adam Jeanes – „Music for all”

Adam Jeanes is the Senior Relationship Manager in the Music department of the London regional office of Arts Council England, focused on Music Education and arts and culture for Children, Young People and Learning in London.
He worked as a freelance arts consultant working in the UK specialising in music, and internationally with Intercult Productions in Stockholm, Sweden as the Project Director and producer of several large-scale EU Culture Programme projects. Until 2013 He also worked with the hub ( as an Associate on numerous training, organisational development and music projects.

Q: Alright, so first, what prompted and lead you to choose this specific pathway in your career and getting involved in fundraising music programs and projects?


A: So it’s a long story because I don’t remember really when I started working properly in this way. I’d always been doing very practical things. I’m a very practical person. So I like to put projects on. I’m a project manager. I’m a, you know, I’ m a producer. That’s what I think of myself as. But when you are producing, you find money from lots of places and you have to think of reasons or stories, narratives about why somebody should fund you. Because it’s not just like saying, “here’s my project, it’s great, please fund me”. You actually have to have, you have to say something about it! And I said a lot, I did a lot of that. I said a lot of stuff to a lot of funders over and over again. And I was thinking to myself, actually, I could be on the other side of the table because I know where that person is coming from, me, in other words. Any producer I speak to will instantly be able to say you know I will understand what they’re talking about when they’re talking to me and so I thought well this is a very interesting option, maybe I should swap into the funded side of the sector, into the funding organizations. And actually I’ve done this twice in my life. I was working as a producer with bands, which you call it, from Africa and Asia and the Arabian Peninsula and things like that. And I was getting money from the British Council. So I went and joined the British Council. And then you get a fantastic overview of everything that the British Council’s doing. And then after a while, I thought I want to be a producer again. So I went and became a producer. And then after doing that for a while, I decided I actually want to become a funder again. So I went back to being actually inside the Arts Council, which is the domestic funding agency.

Q: Changing roles, actually!


A: Yeah, but it’s never been anything that I planned. It’s always been the case that you do something for five, six, seven years, and then you think, oh, I’d like to try something else. And so you move into that area. But it means that now in my job in the Arts Council, I’ve got an incredible knowledge of how people put projects together, so that when they send their applications to us to fund, I can read them with the insight into how they’re thinking or maybe where they might be perhaps not so, where they could improve the project, or where in fact they may be just being too ambitious, and then you give feedback to those people and say, don’t put this application in, go away and think about it, and these are the reasons why you should think. So it’s actually quite helpful to have that background.


Q: All right, so what experience and qualification is required for someone to «judge» what music is worth, for example?


A: So this is a very difficult question! So the Arts Council, the organization I work for now, they have a published set of criteria, people apply and they get the money if they meet the criteria. It’s not as easy as that because it’s only so much money and there’s an awful lot of applications. So in any time that we put out or any time we receive applications and do what we call a funding panel, there’s going to be many more people who we can’t fund than the ones we can fund. And so you have to really whittle it down. We have a published set of criteria, and you measure them against those criteria. You’ve also got to bring to bear what I would say is like your artistic understanding. When you read a project, you look at it and you can see this isn’t really very interesting because you’ve got experience. So in terms of qualifications, I need people in my team, working with me, who have got experience of putting on artistic projects, and have experience of seeing and working with other artistic projects, and understand what is good and what is going to work, and what is not gonna work.


Q: So the potential lets say…

A: The potential is there, but it’s always the case of «is it practical?» and «does it actually make sense?» Is it high quality artistically? That’s another big question. And you need people who’ve seen a lot of work, who know what’s good, in order to make that decision in a meeting. And I say probably about maybe two thirds in an average meeting of applications will just not be funded. And it doesn’t matter, they could be the greatest projects ever, but it’s just that there’s a bunch of other projects which have arrived, which more closely align with our published criteria, and that’s the ones we fund.


Q: So the first thing, actually, it’s a strong proposal


A: So I think it’s a strong proposal, that it is answering our needs as a funder. So we have an interest in, say, for example, cultural diversity and inclusion.  So «Ιs the project actually working in that area?» «Is it working with interesting groups of people?» «Is it breaking new ground?» We also do a thing which is actually about risk, which is quite an important part of the process. We look at a project and we say, well, «is this a risky project?» In the sense like, it can be artistically risky, it can also be financially risky. We actually do fund quite a lot of risky projects. It’s just that you have to balance it. You have to say, on balance, this is a risky project, but it is still, say, a very good project and has a lot of artistic merit, and therefore we will fund it. It’s a very, it’s not straightforward. I always say it’s not straightforward when you say yes or no. There is no yes or no to funding. There’s a maybe, let’s talk about it. Yes, now I can see where it’s going. I think this one is probably better than that one. It’s kind of judging and placing things in a higher order, rather than saying definitely yes or definitely no.



Q: Describe me the difficulties you face in your role in funding a program.


A: The first difficulty is that you’ve got to design something which is open to everybody, and people can read the guidance and they’re okay about being able to make the application. That’s actually quite a big part of the job. You’ve got to write really good, clear guidance, why people should apply. That’s the first thing, that’s always an issue.

Then there’s, I suppose, when you receive the applications, the problem you’ve got is making some kind of judgment between them, obviously, but you’ve got several problems in that. So as I say, there’s a question about «Is it financially making sense?» «Is it making sense artistically?» «Has it got good public engagement?» Because the other thing is that our money, when it comes to us, is actually from the National Lottery of the United Kingdom. So it’s got to have a public benefit if we spend it. And if we give it to an artist who’s just going to sit in their garret and attic and paint pictures and never show them to anybody, that’s not what the money’s for. The point is that that artist should be showing and sharing what it is that they’ve created. Even if it’s like they’re preparing or researching something, there should be some kind of sharing or outcome from that research. So it’s when you’re looking at the applications, these are the skills that you’re, the areas that you need to be thinking about. It’s a difficult process sometimes because you have a lot of them. So you have to design it in such a way as to make it easy for the applicant to write a good application. One of the things I always say is there’s lots and lots of good ideas out there for cultural projects. Not all of them are fundable. So make yourself fundable. And that’s the biggest advice I give to people with ideas is read our guidance and make yourself humble.


Q: So, what’s your advice, for the new generation of musicians who want to apply for this kind of project?


A: Well, I think the first thing is be absolutely clear about what it is you’re going to do. You have to be really clear about it. A lot of people come with very vague ideas. They say we think this might be quite a good idea to work with this group or that group. Actually, you really need to be precise because you need to say “we’re definitely going to work with this group of people doing this kind of project for this amount of time and the time the outcomes are going to be this”. Now I don’t mind if actually 20% of the project goes wrong and you don’t quite do it. You know what I want is for them to be really clear, in the application what it is they’re going to achieve and that enables us to be able to say okay here is the money. It’s not a case of “we will give you the money because you’re a very good artist”. You have to say “why you would benefit”.


Q: And to be specific, actually.


A: Yes! And it’s also about organizations as well, because there’s a lot of organizations with very similar sort of approach to making applications where they sort of say, “yeah, it’ll be like this…” It has to be much clearer. And it must obviously answer our criteria as well.


Q: Alright, so describe me the main goals of music education in England in 21st century.

What is the purpose of music education nowadays?


A: Well, it’s a very big subject actually in England right now. So, we’ve had a national plan for music education for about 11 years and that has now just been republished, so there’s like a brand new plan. And the plan is slightly different from the previous one.


Q: When was actually the change?


A: The first one was published in 2011, and the new one was published in 2022. All right. So it’s literally just happened. And the new plan kind of “corrects”, if that’s the word, some of the problems with the old plan. So the old plan was very focused on children in school, or school-age children, and moving up to the age of 18, and then kind of stopped. But what the new plan is trying to do is to bring in places where children would potentially learn music, which is not school. So in non-school settings, outside the school, in youth clubs, or in private tuition, things like this. And it’s also bringing in the professional sector as well. So the professional business. We want there to be a proper link between teachers and say, for example, the music organizations like the orchestras and ensembles. And also, it’s actually not just classical music because of course it’s all kinds of music. It’s also studios, it’s also venues, it’s also all these other places. And so that’s quite a challenge at the moment, because what is happening is we’re going to go through an application process, and in fact we’re just in the middle of that now. This is a big challenge because it’s going to be a big change for the existing organizations that are working in that sector. They’re going to go from 120 down to 43, I think it is. So it’s quite a shrink. We only give out 43 grants, where we’re giving out 120. So this is our work at the moment, and a key part of that work is for those organizations to really work on their inclusion and diversity strategies. They really need to work on how that actually, does it actually mean that children from backgrounds like black or Asian or ethnically diverse children or children who have disabilities, whether they actually get into the system and start learning music for a consistent period of time. Because it’s often the case they will get into the system, they’ll be taught for a few years and then it will stop. So we need to have some kind of approach to inclusion. That’s quite a challenge at the moment to get everybody doing that.


Q: What are the best strategies bridging the musical world inside and outside of school, and I mean for the formal education of today’s students?


A: I think it’s about being actually listening to the child. So what you often find is that you get you know very high level or youth orchestras for example where the kids will play let’s say Sibelius and then they go home but they’re listening to something else on their headphones. So it’s a question of what is that life, that “headphone life” that they have, and “can you tap into it?” Because actually, musicality, it’s not just about playing classical music, it’s about being generally musical. So there needs to be a more holistic approach to the child, being much more centered on the child. Now, this is quite an expensive thing to do. But basically, what I would say is that there’s partners that you can work with. So for example, a lot of young people who are not involved in formal music education, work in, teach themselves, or are taught in, among others, in informal settings. So things like, for example, youth clubs, and maybe there could be all kinds of churches or a big area where children learn music, they’re there to sing, etc., in choirs. So in fact, if you can bring them into the circle of music, you know, it’s basically that the child has more than one place where music is being taught. And teachers need to be sensitive to the fact that the child has these other lives, because that could also be very useful. Musicality kind of is innate and not focused on any one instrument until somebody hands them the instrument. So it’s about hand them many instruments and see which one they really like, put them in front of a computer, put them in a rap booth and have them put down some bars, you know, this is just see what see what happens just like testing it out. I approve of that kind of that approach but it’s very just like testing it out. I approve of that kind of that approach but it’s very expensive to do. So you’ve got to find partners who will be willing to help you do it. They’re the ones with the resources.


Q: What is your opinion about introducing classical music in schools with the approach popular music is learned?


A: Teaching them notation and sitting in a room and playing with everybody else. That’s one set of skills. But there are also these other skills that the children really need to know. If they’re musical, they should also be given the opportunity to do improvisation and composition, because I think that that’s really it strengthens everything.

I think if you’re playing a musical instrument, you should be singing as well, because that’s everything. You know, that really helps with phrasing and all the other things. You know, we know this. This is all very straightforward stuff. So I think it’s it’s absolutely right to have a mix of opportunities in any musical setting for a child, because it just means that they will expand musically. Their horizons will open up. So I’m very in favor of that. Now, what happens, of course, is that not every school has the skills to deliver something like that. It’s tough. They might not have an orchestra. They might have problems putting things like that. And this is where the funding I give is kind of supplementary funding.

It’s extra funding to make it possible for schools to do that kind of work with kids. Otherwise, the school would probably stop music altogether. And there’s quite a few schools in England that just don’t have any kind of extra equipment. Well, they don’t have equipment.

They don’t have space. They don’t have any people who actually know anything about music. You know, and they don’t do music. I mean, they teach music because it’s in the national curriculum, but they do it in a very kind of not very exciting way. The money I give brings in tutors who can provide the kind of skills, musical arrangements and things like that. They organize concerts. They organize the school orchestra, the school choir on behalf of the school. It’s like a support to the school. And they and they also train the teachers as well. So there’s professional development for the teachers coming out of that. Yeah.


Q: And actually, I think that it’s one of the most important things a school should have. I mean, trained teachers who can deliver that knowledge.


A: Yeah, that’s right. This is the problem that they’re not. There’s not in primary education. It’s quite often the case that the primary schools, this is under 11 years of age.

There’s often no one there who’s ever got any music background. And if you’re a teacher in that setting, you’ve probably had half a day, if that, training in music in your entire training as a teacher! So that’s no help at all. You need to have people who can come in from outside with musical skills to support you, first of all, help you to put together a music lesson, but also then actually teach the children music.


Q: Describe me one of your next goals regarding music education in England.

I mean, a personal goal


A: My personal goal is to get through the investment process that we’re going on at the moment. So I want to see at the end of it. In London, we will have five very large music organizations taking over the music education role in London. I want five really good organizations. My personal goal is to see that that’s successful.

I suppose in the longer term, I would say there’s a kind of corporate goal

is that things just get better for children so that there’s the number of children who don’t get the chance to have a musical life is very, very small.

Like it’s never going to be completely every child is going to have every musical opportunity they ever want. It’s never going to happen, but we want to make it the largest number possible having that opportunity.

And I think that that’s well, you know, that’s a long way off. We’ve got you know, we’ve got to go through this process with these five new organizations. They’ve got to start their work. They’ll begin their work from September next year.

And then hopefully it’ll be it will be a different way of doing things. It’ll take time, but I’m sure it’ll come about.



Q: Yeah, actually, even the previous century in the Tanglewood Symposium,

it was mentioned the phrase “music for all”, but can that be achieved? I mean, realistically, music for all.


A: I mean, it’s a it’s a difference between the policy and the reality! And as I say, I’m a producer, so I do I produce things. And you have to be pragmatic when you do that. I always say that

you can’t hope that everything will be absolutely perfect and be upset if it’s not perfect. It’s like saying done is better than perfect. You know, it’s like you’ve got to do the thing. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Just do it. And I feel that about funding as well. It’s just my motto is we just need to pay the money. We just get the money. So we say out the door, get the money out the door to the people who’ve made the applications to us.

And we shouldn’t think about it too much. They’ve they’ve done the thinking. Here is the application. What do we think about it? Yes, we like it. Here is the money. There you go. That’s what that’s our job. And if we do, we make it complicated for people, we’re failing, actually.