Voluntary municipal music schools have a long history in Sweden. By the mid-20th century, they were established in most municipalities in the country. Today voluntary municipal music and culture schools focusing on after-school activities for schoolchildren form one of the major areas of cultural activity at the municipal level of government. Since the 1990’s their activities have widened their focus from classical music to a broad selection of cultural expressions, including subjects such as music, dance, drama, theatre, and art, with music retaining its status as the most commonly offered subject.
The number of students has increased steadily since year 2000. In 2018, municipal music and culture schools had 237,000 pupils, i.e., 10.5 percent of children and young people aged 6-19. Many music and culture schools also organize open activities not included in these numbers. The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions estimate that more than 500,000 pupils participated in such activities in 2018. In 2016, a national subsidy of SEK 100 million was introduced for music and culture schools. Municipal spending on music and culture schools amounted to SEK 2.64 billion in 2019. At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the trend was that municipal spending on music and culture schools was increasing (Swedish Arts Council 2019; Swedish Agency for Cultural Analysis 2020). In 2022, 258 municipalities received government funding for music and culture schools, amounting to a total of 195 million SEK, in addition to their municipal funding.