ELOQUENT defence of music tuition for young people, based on personal experience, is not hard to find; solid data less so. For many, music became a life-long hobby, if never remotely a career, a root to self-confidence and self-discipline, a path to rewarding friendships and ways of working with other people.

There are mental and physical health benefits from learning to sing or play an instrument, but the easiest thing to appreciate is that music teaches how application is necessary to learn to do something well, and that attaining a level of ability can be a passport to whole new vistas of experience. The life lesson open to all through music is not replicated in the same way by anything else.

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That is why Music Education Matters, to borrow the title of a conference being held at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. It is the third such event to be organised by Enterprise Music Scotland (EMS), the Creative Scotland-funded organisation that distributes resources to volunteer music promoters across Scotland and develops new and established talent through its chamber music projects. The one-day conference, on Friday May 18, has speakers from Denmark, Sweden and Finland, where the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra has taken on a role as “godparent” to a whole generation of young people. The sharing of good practice from elsewhere will help inform what the teachers, musicians and administrators among the delegates do beyond the event – and they will also all be asked to contribute to new research on the state of music education here in Scotland.

Fifteen years ago the Scottish Arts Council published What’s Going On?, a report on youth music in Scotland undertaken by researchers based at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. One of those is now Professor Stephen Broad, Head of Research and Knowledge Exchange at what is now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. When the Scottish Government’s new Music Education Partnership Group, chaired former principal of the Conservatoire, John Wallace, commissioned an update, Professor Broad and his colleagues pitched for and won the job, and at the EMS conference he’ll be launching the data collection for the new report, to be entitled What’s Going On Now?

Although some of the recommendations made by the earlier report still await action, it gave birth to the Youth Music Initiative, a fund that has since underwritten much of what has gone on in Scotland to sustain music education (including the EMS conferences), but which has not been without its critics as well as its stout defenders. It will be under the microscope as much as the controversial recent decisions of cash-strapped councils such as West Lothian and Clackmannanshire to cut instrumental lessons. Broad is very clear about the breadth of his remit, from the core curriculum to informal music teaching in Scotland. “We want to know who is doing what out there. How supported do they feel? As well as the economics of it.”

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As conductor of the amateur Stirling Orchestra, which featured on the BBC’s Great Orchestra Challenge competition, and a presenter of Radio Scotland’s Classics Unwrapped, Broad is much more involved in Scotland’s music scene than he was as a young researcher 15 years ago, but he refuses to be drawn on what the new report might find.

“You don’t always get what you expect, and anecdotal evidence is not always correct, but the key to all research is that it needs maximum participation from as many different stakeholders as possible.”

His challenge this time round is that the sector is in such a state of flux and so much in people’s minds. “Ideally you want to do research at a relatively stable moment – this time we are trying to pin the tail on a moving donkey.”