Q&A: Beatrice Hubble

Hattie Fisk
Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Previously the musical inclusion practitioner and manager at Drake Music, oboist and music leader Beatrice Hubble is already immersed in her new role as head of education at Sound and Music. Hattie Fisk finds out more


HF: What initially led you to focus on accessibility and inclusion in music?

BH: My parents were very musical, so there was lots of music around me when I was growing up. I learnt the oboe and went to The Knights Templar School, which has a really good music department. I then studied Music at the University of Manchester, and from there I did a masters in Solo Performance on the oboe at the Royal Northern College of Music, where I formed a trio with Margaret O’Shea and Caroline Waddington. Together we auditioned for Live Music Now in 2011 as an ensemble, and we had to demonstrate how we would do an accessible concert for children with additional needs. We got onto the scheme, which completely changed my career trajectory.

HF: How did you find your first concert for children with additional needs?

BH: I found it very hard at the beginning. I remember standing on stage in front of 200 kids from special needs schools in the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, and I was incredibly nervous. I didn't know if they were going to like it, and I didn't know if I was going to do it right. I just remember being absolutely terrified, but I did it and they loved it! What I particularly enjoyed was going into that audience and improvising on my instrument – I was being an Arctic fox and I think we were going on a trip around the world…

HF: What do you think holds some organisations back from being fully inclusive?

BH: I think for a lot of people, the language is a barrier. My colleague from Drake Music Miss Jacqui, who is a disabled vocalist and artist, said: ‘You just have to ask’. I would add to that and say you must ask what people need, and you must be flexible and ready to do it. I would urge people to investigate the social model of disability, which really encourages people to take on the social responsibility of access. I love the terminology of barriers, and removing barriers, but classify what they are first. That's not about finding out what people's medical needs are but finding out what the barriers are. It may be that if they are visually impaired that they need brail, rather than just thinking ‘they can't read music because they are blind’. It is a different way of thinking; asking questions and seeing where people need support.

HF: What do you aim to focus on in your new role at Sound and Music?

BH: My predecessor Judith Robinson has left an amazing legacy: the Sound and Music's educational programmes. What I am going to do is spend some time going into those and making sure that what we do is really hitting all the access points. We need to ensure that we are working with disabled and neurodivergent young people, and that we are reaching minority groups – particularly that we are reaching geographical cold spots. I also I want to allow much more youth voice into the platform, so we can be led by what young people want and need.

HF: What is your advice for running an inclusive workshop?

BH: I would really advise people not to be separatist about access and inclusion. Try and find a way where you have disabled and non-disabled musicians and music leaders working together. It is so important that we don't say ‘we do inclusion over here’ – we need to do inclusion everywhere. Ask if you need support when things are new. Anything you do to make sure things are more accessible, such as adding in breaks for people's fatigue or using symbols to clearly chart the plan of the session, won't make it inaccessible for people who don't need that assistance. In fact, it will just make it more accessible for everyone. Be prepared to have a range of ways that people can join in.

HF: What key changes would you like to see in UK music education?

BH: I would really love for music education to take in the rainbow of what music education is for young people now, and to reflect what the industry and the sector demands from us in terms of varied skills. I would love to see what young people are doing in their own lives musically being legitimised in UK music education; I would love for the National Plan for Music Education to reflect that, and for it to cater for all kinds of music. Not that we spit on Mozart or banish Beethoven from the classroom – it's not that at all. Rather, we could allow much more youth voice into the playing field.