funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the DfES and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

musical futures project logo The project focused on the school music classroom at Key Stage 3. It developed and evaluated new teaching and learning strategies drawn from the informal learning practices of popular musicians. Pupils directed their own learning in small friendship groups, selecting their own music and attempting to play it by ear from the recording. Teachers stood back and observed, with the aim of understanding and empathising with the goals that pupils set for themselves; they then acted as guides and musical models rather than instructors. As the year went by, pupils were given more structured materials, then returned to their relatively unaided strategies, composed their own music, worked as bands with community musicians, and applied the learning strategies to classical music.

The teachers agreed that overall motivation, enjoyment and cooperation increased above, and in many cases well above what would normally be expected; and that in general skill-acquisition was greater than expected and greater than normal. Pupils at all extremes of the ability spectrum were considered to benefit, as were those who took additional instrumental lessons. Most particularly, many pupils who had previously been regarded as either unable or unwilling to participate in music lessons, or who were identified as disaffected within the school generally, shone as enthusiastic group leaders and able musicians.

Over ninety per cent of the pupils said that they preferred the project's approach to that of the 'normal' curriculum (their word, not ours). The teachers unanimously agreed or strongly agreed to the statement: 'Using informal learning practices in the classroom has generally changed my approach to teaching for the better'. The strategies were not intended as an alternative, but a complement to traditional approaches.

The project formed part of the national 'Musical Futures' initiative. Its teaching strategies, materials, and a documentary film are downloadable from The strategies and materials include practical advice for teachers and audio resources; the film shows footage of pupils and teachers engaging in the project and talking about their responses. The project has been recommended by the government's Music Manifesto, and the [then] DfES has made it available to all schools through its website At the time of writing, over 2,000 people from schools and other sites have downloaded the materials. A detailed, more academic account of the findings is available in Lucy Green: Music, Informal Learning and the School: A New Classroom Pedagogy (Ashgate Press).

project team...

  • Professor Lucy Green (IoE)
  • Abigail D'Amore (IoE)
  • John Witchell (Hertfordshire Music Service)
  • David Price (Musical Futures)

selected project public output...

Authored books

Short monograph

Research-based curriculum materials

Journal articles

  • Green, L. (2006) 'Popular music education in and for itself, and for "other" music: current research in the classroom', International Journal of Music Education, special issue on popular music, Vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 101-118, ISSN: 0255-7614
  • Green, L. (2005), 'The music curriculum as lived experience: children's "natural" music learning processes', Music Educators' Journal (USA), special issue on curriculum innovation, Vol. 91, no. 4, pp. 27-32 (also available in Börje Stålhammar (ed) Music and Human Beings-Music and Identity Sweden: Universitetsbiblioteket, pp. 15-27)
  • Price, David (2006). Personalising Music Learning, Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
  • Price, David (2005). Transforming Musical Leadership, Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
  • Walmsley, A. (2005) 'Musical Futures', Classroom Music, Vol. 2, no. 3.

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