Learning music – the real picture

Learning music – the real picture
September 21, 2014 bbritadmin

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I was to advised the idea of blogs was to write on a variety of subject matters. As my last attempt was on the subject of classical music, I was slightly diffident about returning to the subject again so soon. However, I can’t resist the topicality.

Anyone who has ever had formal music lessons at school will know of the Associated Board of the Royal schools of music.

Well, the ABRSM has just carried out a major survey of children of school age. The good news is that the proportion of children who claim to be able to play a musical instrument has never been higher. And if you read the report’s executive summary, you could be forgiven for thinking all in the musical garden is lovely. What if the electric guitar has overtaken the violin in popularity and that “self assessment” is the order of the day in getting to the statistics? Reading the survey further however makes slightly depressing reading. Read the section “Behind the Statistics” for yourself.


Then, in today’s paper, (21 September) I saw that Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, the world famous New Zealand sopranos has weighed into the issue. What she has to say completely meshes with my “disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” approach to some elements of popular culture. She makes the point that playing an instrument requires years of application and self-discipline. Those are useful habits to develop. Conversely, the massively popular TV talent shows generate a culture of instant gratification and entitlement that ultimately serves nothing other than the TV ratings and the incomes of various minor “slebs”. In all honesty, how many of the individuals who have been the focus of so much hype and press attention over previous years can you actually now remember?

Personally, I’m not a great sports enthusiast. However, I quite understand the millions of people who are and I can well see the reason for introducing sport to children at the earliest possible age. Sport at any level is a civilising past time. But so is arts and culture. The pursuit and admiration of excellence in sport is great. The 2012 Olympic Games was a fantastic example of that. But why is it that what seems to be more admired in the music sector is an ”interesting” background (often of dubious provenance it turns out) and an ability to deal with the press rather than genuine musical talent? Are we going to continue the process of “dumbing down” or will the bottom of the pool soon be hit with a bounce back to see and hear real talent?

As is so often the case, the answer lies with the education system and the value placed by the government of the day on musical education. I have to say I’m not optimistic. I hope I am wrong.