In Scotland an amateur trombonist from a brass band recently got very cross about local authorities cutting back free musical instrument tuition in schools. So he started a petition which secured a resounding 11,928 signatures and a debate in the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee.
Ralph Riddiough, a lawyer by day, presented the case for giving every child the opportunity, free of charge, to learn an instrument in school for as long as they want. He was joined by co-presenters Making Music’s manager in Scotland Alison Reeves and professional trumpeter Mick Cooke (of Belle and Sebastian fame).
You can see the whole debate on the Scottish Parliament website, and well worth watching it is too, because they do a great job of making the points we’d all like to make to our legislators.
Before he even came across Making Music, Ralph had also already started a similar petition to the UK government. His case is that, unless it’s free, not every child will be able to learn an instrument if they want to.
And without that universal opportunity, community music will wither and die, depriving future generations not just of the fun to be had in being part of a group, but also of all the other benefits: social networks, mental and physical well-being rewards, personal development and confidence, and so on.
Ralph is aware that the educational picture in England is different. But his contention – which we agree with here at Making Music – is that we need to raise awareness that this issue is not only significant for the professional sector and its future talent pipeline, but almost more so for the around 3 million individuals and their 50,000+ music groups in the UK engaging with music as a hobby for whom this is a source of great joy and learning and often a lifeline.
You can sign the petition now. We will be in touch with members shortly about further action you can take to support this campaign.
As leisure-time musicians we can make a real difference here – we are not speaking as professionals, perhaps at risk of being perceived as ‘only’ wanting to protect their own livelihood and jobs, but as the beneficiaries of those professionals: of the music teachers, instrumental tutors, conductors, accompanists, soloists, workshop leaders, composers who teach, inspire and lead us musically in our school days and still do so when we’re adults in a band or choir.
As a nation, we need those musicians and teachers - we need them for a healthy society, for thriving communities, for happy individuals. Free instrumental tuition for all children in school is a small price to pay for that, a very modest investment indeed in civil society.