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Institute of Education

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Q&A with Professor Lucy Green

1  What is your role and what does it involve?
I am an Emerita Professor of Music Education. This means I am retired from full-time involvement in the UCL Institute of Education (IOE), but I do still have some doctoral students, give guest lectures on the Music Education MA and the PGCE in Secondary Music, and participate in the life of the Institute in various other ways, as well as keeping in touch with a number of colleagues and institutions overseas.

I continue to sit on the Editorial or Advisory Boards of about 14 international peer-reviewed journals, and the reviewing pool for a further 25 or so. That helps to keep me up to date because I get to read research before it's published. My doctoral students also help because most of them will publish their work after they've finished, and some of my past MA students have done too. I give lots of keynotes at conferences and professional meetings here in the UK and overseas.

2  How long have you been at the IOE and what was your previous role?
I started in 1990. The kinds of things I'm still involved in have always been a part of my role, but for the first six years I spent half my time as a tutor on the PGCE in Secondary Music. I also was the co-ordinator of the Primary Music Specialism and Core Course, and taught on the Advanced Diploma/B.Ed in Music Education, and on the Music Education MA. I was responsible too for running in-service courses, including accredited and non-accredited ones. My first doctoral student graduated in 1996. She is now a Professor of Music Education herself, as are many others of my past students; I am very proud of them all, whatever they are now involved in; and also still in touch with most of them.

I became the Music Education MA course leader in my third year here, and did that for about 12 years. After I stopped being course leader I carried on teaching and being module leader of various modules for several more years. I retired from full involvement in the course two or three years ago. Because I started teaching on it during my first week here, I recently realised that I had supervised 115 MA dissertations to completion. I have seen about 25 PhDs to completion so far, all sole supervised.

Over the years I've sat on a number of committees, and contributed to various other courses, seminars and such like. I was involved with preparations for our Research Excellence Framework (REF) entry for many years, including co-ordinating one of five themes which ran across the Institute during two of the exercises. This is also nice work because I get to read the publications of a wide range of colleagues in fields that I might not otherwise find out so much about.

I have been giving keynotes at conferences since 1996, as well as short courses or seminars in other universities since before I started here. Sometimes I had up to six keynotes in a year in different countries, which became rather taxing and I’m now cutting down on that activity. Also I have been External Examiner for various undergraduate and masters courses, and have examined quantities of doctoral theses.

3  What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your students about the subject you teach?
To listen to the students. That seems like a simple thing to say, but after over 25 years teaching at post-graduate level I am still learning what it means. I can't emphasise enough how much of my own learning comes from listening to my students: to their views and perspectives on music and music education; to their experiences as musicians, music teachers and in other roles in the field of music; to their musical values. There is so much music in the world, and so many ways to engage with it; no-one can possibly know more than a fraction of what is there. I strongly believe that teaching is an exchange of knowledge between people, and how can we exchange if we don't listen?

4  What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

Probably my work on how popular musicians learn, combined with the work I did to bring their learning practices into schools. In some ways it may seem a simple thing to find out how something is done in the world outside the school, then to adapt it for the classroom. But actually it was not so simple. After having written a book called 'How Popular Musicians Learn', I started turning the question of how to use the findings for the benefit of students and teachers in classrooms, over and over in my mind. One day, out of the blue I had a 'eureka' moment whilst out walking my dogs along a sunny path. I suddenly saw how it could be done. I felt very excited. I started by trying it in just one school, then three more, then I was invited to become part of a new, major national project, Musical Futures, which gave the opportunity to develop it further.

At the start, for myself and the many teachers with whom I worked, it involved a leap of faith. We were all surprised and pleased at the results. I strongly believe in the ways that so many teachers and other researchers are taking this work and other similar kinds of work forward. Such approaches are now being put into practice in around half of UK schools and in various countries across the world including Australia, Canada, Singapore, Cyprus, Brazil and others.

I’ve also done work on musical meaning, ideology and gender, but my ‘swansong’ of book authorship was a book called 'Insights in Sound: Visually Impaired Musicians' Lives and Learning', which I co-authored with my colleague David Baker. It was my sixth, and will be my final authored book and the only one where I have shared the authorship, which was a great experience. I have edited two books as well but I found that a surprisingly light and pleasurable task compared to authoring a book.

5  Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list.
As my institutional duties are now light, I am taking huge pleasure in returning to the creative and practical side of music-making. All my research and academic work has been about encouraging participation and inclusion in music, and now it is great to be able to put that into practice. I am Stage Director and Assistant Musical Director of a community opera group called Richmond Opera. We have a strong inclusive ethos, encouraging everyone to sing in the chorus and also giving solo opportunities to relatively untrained singers or beginners wherever we can; as well as giving opportunities to aspiring, lapsed or otherwise classified professionals. At my own level I co-founded a group called Duo Maddalena, which specialises in Mediaeval, Renaissance and Baroque music, as well as contemporary music. We aim to include music by women in all of our concerts. Then I also sing in various local choirs, either helping out with the chorus or doing solos, or usually a bit of both. It is wonderful to return to practical music-making.

6  What would it surprise people to know about you?
I suppose given my work on popular musicians' learning practices, people may be surprised to know that I am a classical singer and pianist by training; Mediaeval music is the closest I ever get to performing popular music which is learnt to a large extent by ear. Oh, and I play the hurdy gurdy! (At a very elementary level!)

7  What other piece of research outside of your own subject area interests you?
Within or related to my own area there are such diverse fields already - pedagogy, feminism, gender studies, sociology, philosophy, psychology, cultural studies, media studies, musicology, ethnomusicology, anthropology, music history, music and special needs, lifelong learning... It's hard to think of any research I've read recently that doesn't have at least some relevance to my own subject area, or that I would class as completely outside it. However, perhaps I could point to the research and publications of authors such as Claire Tomalin, who writes wonderful, properly researched biographies. I've read her work on Samuel Pepys, Jane Austen and Nellie Ternan with huge admiration and enjoyment. I have her book on Thomas Hardy just waiting to be started.

Lucy currently guest lectures on: