Anna Kuoppamäki on adolescents’ musical learning paths

Children and young people should be allowed to get involved with music with varying intensity at different ages. It is also important to challenge gendered ideas of musicianship, says music education researcher Anna Kuoppamäki.

"I am a music educator, music education researcher, and a songwriter. I am also a researcher in the ArtsEqual project of the University of the Arts Helsinki, where I study young people’s musical learning paths in different musical contexts, for example, within basic education in the arts and within cultural youth work.

I also examine social and cultural mechanisms, which restrict adolescents’ involvement with music and their creative cultural activity. I am especially interested in adolescents’ cultural agency and gendered practices in music. My research partner in this project is Fanny Vilmilä from the Finnish Youth Research Network.

While Finland is known as a country of excellent music education, access to arts as well as arts and music education is still a challenge. Accessibility is often examined from regional and socio-economic perspectives, but it is also affected by cultural attitudes, which produce gendered contexts and practises within music.

In music institutes, about 70 per cent of the students are girls, who take an interest mainly in art music, whereas the majority of band music enthusiasts within youth work are boys. Our study indeed suggests that music genres are gendered, and, for example, the popular music scene still sticks to the traditional setting of girls singing and boys playing.

With regard to cultural and social accessibility, it is important to challenge these stereotyped and gendered concepts both in public debate and within music education.

Furthermore, children and young people should be provided different music learning paths, which allow an interest in music at different ages and with a varying intensity. Now, music training usually starts in early childhood, and the parents’ role is emphasised. According to our interviewees, access to high-quality teaching is restricted, if the interest in music does not bud before the teen years.

The need for music education at grass-roots level is increasing, and the synergy between basic education in the arts and cultural youth work should be utilised more efficiently. In the Finnish National Board of Education’s 2016 survey for young people attending basic education, the interviewees rated music as one of the most popular hobbies they would want to take up. Yet, only about 4.7 per cent of the whole age group studies music within basic education in the arts. The majority of children and young people is involved in music within cultural youth work and the private sector, outside the basic education system in the arts.”