Music Made Me, We Must Give A Chance To Make Others

Gary Cunningham
4 min readJul 2, 2021


Photo by Jonathan Chng vis Unsplash

Music made me who I am today. It gave me an identify, something to focus on, something to work for. It literally transformed my entire being.

When I first started school, and as I progressed onto each key stage, there were a few people, both friends of my parents, and teachers who would subtly hint to my parents that maybe I wasn’t going to amount to much, then one day, at the tiny age of four, I discovered this miraculous thing called music and as time went by, those around me discovered that I was actually rather good at it.

Thanks to a very supportive family and a team of dedicated educators who noticed my aptitude and took me under their wing, I have had over 10 great years of performance experience, from being in my first band at the age of 9 to landing my first U.K. tour at 18 and playing The Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2018.

Now, as a music educator, I, like my parents and musical mentors, witness my students discover themselves through the power of music and reach a new found freedom to express themselves, to become something.

We as teachers of The Arts know more than most about the continual slashing of budgets and growing lack of resources, but this should not prevent us from helping our young children to enjoy music and to potentially unlock a lifetime of memories through it.

I’d even go as far to say we have a responsibility to expose these young minds to the wonders of music. Yes, it is a harsh reality for the next generation when the focus in education has been primarily on the core subjects for a very long time and yes it is really disheartening when our subject is treated as a second class citizen on the school timetable.

but rather than let it destroy us, and destroy our budding musicians in the process, we should continue to fight for the subject we live for, the subject that made us all, in one way or another.

What do I mean when I say “fight”?

I mean that when a year 7 child comes bounding down the corridor declaring “Sir/Miss I’ve learnt a new song on the Piano” and proceeds to play yet another version of heart and soul or someone like you, that we should applaud them with so much enthusiasm and shower them with so many compliments that they feel as if they’ve just played at Wembeley Stadium in front of thousands.

I mean that when a very nervous but very talented year 11 is fretting about their GCSE performance exam, or their first gig, we should take the time to swap stories of our first time on stage, to make them feel just a little less alone, and a whole lot more capable.

They say that time is a healer, and I’m a big believer that giving time to the sorts of students I just mentioned, the students like us, could go a long way in healing the cracks in music education we see everyday.

Will it fix everything? No, but it’s a start and would do a lot more than sitting by and letting the next generation of musicians and teachers go unnoticed and unchallenged.

We MUST allow our students to be afforded the same opportunties that we were, if they’re not readily available, we must create them.

The one story that springs to mind through my time as a student is my first time meeting my head of music in year 7. He saw something in me, and made it known that provided I worked hard and remained focused , that he would find a place for me in whatever performance scenario he could, And he did just that, I was in the jazz band, the choir and represented the school at various concerts and open days. With each opportunity, my passion and confidence in my ability grew and grew. If it wasn’t for him, I may not have pursued music this far and wouldn’t be standing here talking to you all today.

An example from my teaching practice was allowing one of my piano students to come to one of my band rehearsals. At the time, this particular student was wavering in interest and confidence and all it took was that one Wedneaday evening of him coming to rehearsal and getting the chance to play with a “real” band to reignite the spark and push him to continue. I’m happy to say that this student and I are still in touch, and he has gone on to do great things.

Granted, my method was unorthodox but it worked, that one moment, that one extra thing that I did, kept that student’s love for music alive. My point is, there are opportunities to allow music to make others in many places, we just need to take the time to find them.

I know that sometimes, going above and beyond isn’t always possible. All I ask is that if there ever is a time where you could do that little bit extra for that one student, please do it, it could change their education, their confidence and quite frankly their lives.

I’ll leave you with this one last thought. Never EVER forget why we do this job, why we teach this subject. And never forget that even when it doesn’t feel like that extra time you gave made a difference, it probably most definitely did.



Gary Cunningham

Musician | Music Educator | Brand Founder | Music Education Advocate