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Talk Trinity: What music means to us

Nick Beach

In this latest #TalkTrinity piece Nick Beach, Trinity’s Group Director of Strategy, talks about Trinity’s newly defined music values, and explains why we feel they are so important.

Over the last 140 years Trinity has assessed millions of candidates in musical performance. And since those early days people have been drawn to us because we offer something different – perhaps something unique. So what is it, that ‘essence of Trinity’?  We think that it can be captured in three values, or principles if you like, and I would like to talk about these in this short article.

But firstly, why do we think it is important for us, as an awarding body, to nail our colours to the mast and publish our values? Surely our job is just to run exams and provide the results? Well at Trinity, we see our role as being much wider than that. We know that our exams have an impact on the way teachers teach and learners learn, we know that the exam is an important part of our candidates’ lives, and we think this means that we need to be clear about what we stand for – and the values I am going to talk about here are an important part of that.

Naturally at Trinity everything must come in threes, and our core values are no exception:

Trinity Music is for Everyone

Trinity Music is Creative

Trinity Music is Personal

At first glance these might seem pretty obvious: of course music is for everyone, of course it is personal – we all have our likes and dislikes – and of course it is a creative artform. But I hope by digging a little deeper into each of these I can show that these are not vague generalisations but actually have some important claims behind them.

First let’s consider ‘Trinity Music is for Everyone’. Music is extraordinarily diverse and covers the most amazingly varied range of activities. Whether it’s music from the distant past or music created today, music from classical traditions or rock and pop music, digital or acoustic music, music which calms or music which incites revolution, or music which grows from a myriad of diverse musical traditions around the world. It’s all described in this single term – music. Add to this the range of ways people learn music – individually, in groups, in classes, over the internet.

In our ‘Trinity Music is for Everyone value we establish that we are committed to supporting these diverse music practices and encouraging equally diverse teaching and assessment practices. Our aim is not to be prescriptive, or to place limitations, but to open up the extraordinary possibilities that the world of music has to offer.

Let’s turn to the next value: ‘Trinity Music is Creative’.

You might well say of course it’s creative – it’s music. But ask yourself the question – is everything that goes on in music and music learning about being creative? Or is some of it about slavish note learning or technical drilling? At Trinity we think the key is musical learning – by which we mean: ‘whatever you do in music – do it musically’. Creativity is not just about composing or improvising, although we support those too. It is just as much about the creative choices the candidate makes in their performance – how they make whatever they do reflect their own musical identity.

Of course, creative music making is supported by creative teaching, and through our training programmes we want to encourage teachers to think broadly, take creative risks, and support their students to develop as creative, free thinking, musical musicians.

Lastly, we turn to ‘Trinity Music is Personal’.

Imagine you were asked to write down your 10 favourite pieces of music. Then imagine everyone else you know was asked to do the same thing – do you think that any two lists would be identical? Now imagine a worldwide exercise in which everyone in the world was asked to do the same thing – how many identical lists would we find? I suspect the answer is very few.

Music is an important part of who we are – a part of our identity. It is a way we communicate our moods, our feelings. We can do this on our own or with others, and increasingly the web is the place where musical communities are developed, where people share their musical practices and enthusiasms.

So this third Trinity value captures that sense of self that is so central to music. It means that, in our exams, candidates can be assessed in the way which is most meaningful to them.

These values underpin all Trinity’s music work – whether it is the development of our qualifications or our teacher support. Like any set of aspirations, they are part of a journey and we would be the first to admit that we haven’t yet reached a place where everything we do reflects our values. But our values do represent the way we would like the world to see us, and we are confident that, over time, the world will see more and more evidence of Trinity’s music values in practice.

Find out more about music at Trinity

#TalkTrinity is a series exploring the wider thinking and values that underpin everything we do. We want to hear what you have to say so please use the comments box below to join the conversation.


2 Comments on Talk Trinity: What music means to us

  1. Why do examiners give so many negative comments and so few positives? One parent said she wont read the comments to her son because they were so negative.

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