Music education hub - Brighton & Hove City Council

SoundCity is a music education hub led by Brighton & Hove City Council’s Music and Arts Service, which brings together all the city’s leading music organisations. This case study forms part of the Value of culture - young people section of our online Culture Hub.


Carers helping a disabled person play an instrument

The partnership reflects Brighton & Hove’s unique artistic and cultural landscape, with the mission of enhancing and developing opportunities in music that reflect the needs of children and young people. Alongside schools, the strategic partners are Brighton Dome & Festival, Glyndebourne Opera House, the University of Sussex, Rhythmix (a music and social welfare charity) and representatives from public health and the music industry. There are a broad range of delivery partners and supporters.

Impact of the activities

Since its launch in 2013, SoundCity has been proactive in articulating the power of music for wellbeing. Much of its work is aligned with the public health outcomes framework and concepts are co-developed with colleagues in public health and the CRESS Lab (Children’s Relationships, Emotions and Social Skills research lab, based at the University of Sussex). For example, one initiative involved working with the child and adolescent mental health service to pilot a song-writing project for young people experiencing mental health challenges. The outcomes included increased self-confidence and an ongoing interest in engaging with other music activities, helping them to grow their network of friends through music.

Many SoundCity partners deliver important work focused on health and wellbeing outcomes, notably the Rhythmix ‘Wishing Well Music in Healthcare’ programme which brings live interactive music-making to patients’ bedsides in hospitals, hospices, respite and rehabilitation services. As well as being valued by the young people involved, this provides a positive shared experience for patients and staff, strengthening their relationships and contributing to general wellbeing.

SoundCity works with young people who have low self-confidence, helping them to find a way of self-expression through music and song-writing. It has also co-developed a range of music-making opportunities for children and young people in challenging circumstances as a stepping stone to enhanced wellbeing, increased attendance and engagement and, in some cases, improved attainment. Another initiative, Orchestra 360, is a creative music group for young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) and their siblings, parents and carers.

SoundCity is part of a regional partnership with the Surrey and Kent music hubs. They have pooled money to explore approaches to inclusive music-making for children and young people with SEND.

Some highlights of Soundcity’s activities include:

  • 7,643 young people reached in 2016/17 (23.7 per cent of the school population).
  • All primary schools in the city engaged with a 10-week all-class instrument tuition programme (2,615 pupils in total).
  • Retention rates for Year 2 and above are some of the highest in the country, with 12.8 per cent of pupils learning an instrument at this level and above.
  • 763 children and young people taking part in out-of-school music making such as bands or orchestras.
  • 849 children and young people accessing music through a subsidised tuition scheme.

Into the future

SoundCity was one of seven music hubs shortlisted for the Music Education Council’s 2017 music education major award. The judges noted: “With its breadth and strength of vision, SoundCity is not just a music hub but an integral part of Brighton’s ambitions for wellbeing, employment and digital skilfulness – all being delivered through music.”

Key learning points

  • Developing partnerships with a broad range of organisations/professionals to support the development of innovative music practice with wellbeing outcomes.
  • Investing time in co-development with partners, children and young people to ensure that new opportunities are tailored to meet identified needs.
  • Supporting music leaders to develop skills for working with young people in challenging circumstances and/or with SEND through a programme of training, peer learning, mentoring and evaluation to enable adaptive practice. 

For further information contact Emma Collins, Music Learning & Partnerships Manager, SoundCity: emma.collins@brighton-hove.gov.uk