Thurrock Music Hub

Essex is proud to boast some of the finest musical talent performing in the UK and around the world!

The Backstage Centre Director, Brian Warrens speaks with Roy Dignum, Director of Thurrock Music Services and our near neighbour here in the Production Park.

BW: Let’s cut to the chase, Roy. How can people work with you?

RD: Visiting will help interested parties get a feel for what we do in the Music Service and the Music Hub.  If anyone would  like the opportunity to work for Thurrock Music Services they can go to:

BW: How did you get into music? And what is your first instrument?

RD: I started playing in junior school.  To be honest I don’t really know why.  One day one of the teachers said – here’s a French Horn we think you and a friend should start learning to play it.  There was just the one French Horn and we took it in turns to play it.  There was little in the way of Health and Safety in those days.  I soon found my relationship with the French Horn was not a match made in heaven but for some reason, the tutor didn’t give up and after a few months they suggested I try the trumpet, and the rest as they say is history.  So there is a lesson for students today.  Sometimes it takes a while to find the instrument that is right for you.  Just because the first instrument you try doesn’t work out, don’t give up.  There is an instrument out there for everyone.

BW: What has been your most satisfying achievement working with Thurrock Music Services and steering the Thurrock Music Education Hub?

RD: There have been many proud moments but I think the high point had to be in 2008 when we took around 1000 students up to the Royal Festival Hall as part of our 10th Anniversary celebrations.

BW: What specialist skillsets are you hoping to recruit from your latest campaign?

RD: It is becoming harder and harder to find good musicians wanting to teach and we are struggling to meet demand in the ‘traditional instruments’ so we would welcome applications from all disciplines of music.  However, we are keen to broaden our musical offer to the young people of Thurrock therefore those with expertise in urban music styles and music technology would be of particular interest. 

BW: What kind of professional development opportunities are provided for instrumental/vocal tutors in Thurrock?

RD: We have an induction process to welcome new teachers into the Service.  We can offer ‘shadowing’ opportunities for new teachers to better understand certain aspects of the work, particularly whole-class teaching.  We also offer two training days a year that cover anything from Safeguarding to working with children with additional needs.

BW: How do you manage child protection and safeguarding training for tutors?

RD: All tutors have to take the Thurrock Council mandatory Safeguarding training every two years and sign to say they have read the Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance every year.  Other safeguarding training is offered as appropriate.

BW: How do Essex, Southend, and Thurrock Music Services ensure quality assurance among their tutors?

RD: Several years ago the three Services took a joint approach to quality assurance and developed a mentoring scheme that allows all tutors to be observed against a common set of criteria.  All tutors should be observed once a year but this is designed as a supportive mechanism to help tutors develop their practice.

BW: How could the Music Industry help you with training and provide CPD opportunities for teachers and teaching assistants in schools?

RD: The developments in the music industry are happening so swiftly.  However, the mindset in schools is often that there are few career opportunities for musicians.   It is not just about becoming an orchestral musician.  Many people do not realise the British Army is still the biggest employer of musicians in the UK.  But there are opportunities in the film industry, in sound engineering and recording, in the vibrant Festival scene, in theatres, etc.  The list goes on.  Changing the mindset of schools in the current education climate will not be easy, although schools are now looking more positively at creative subjects again.  But educating educators at a senior level in schools needs to happen.

BW: How will your planned projects excite and engage music educators? Which organisations do you work with?

RD: We work with a growing portfolio of partners including Kinetika Bloco, the Aurora Orchestra, and Orchestras Live.  Bringing live music experiences to young people is crucial but also diversifying the music offer and making the offer more relevant to young people today is crucial.  We have begun a series of DJing workshops for young people and now have a core of young people who attend these regularly.  The Bloco work continues to grow and has enabled young people in Thurrock to be part of national and local events such as the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in London and the Windrush celebrations in Tilbury.  The CPD work with the Aurora Orchestra targeted at early years setting will help inspire the youngest of our school children.

BW: How do you see the music industry are able to help plan and support schools in creating their School Music Development Plans?

RD: The new National Plan for Music Education requires local plans that have clear pathways to employment.  School music development plans should sign-post young people to local, regional, and national opportunities that can help them along their chosen pathway.