How disgraceful to strip music lessons from schools…

MUSIC lessons are on my mind for two reasons. Those guitar pieces need to be practised before Thursday; and a report suggests music lessons are being “stripped out” of schools in England, with the only rise in access to music being in independent schools.

A guitar is never far away on this ledge: a steel-strung acoustic and an electric guitar bought in a fond moment. The electric guitar gives loud birth to a run of riffs occasionally, but the unplugged guitar is played most days.

Classical guitar lessons were a big part of my teenage years, recitals were given once or twice in the school hall. My fingers can still form the shapes for one piece, although most of the notes are misted now.

After the lessons stopped another long one was learned: a lifetime of strumming arrhythmically makes you good for strumming arrhythmically, if not much else.

The new lessons were a present from my wife, who has heard more of my ‘music’ than anyone else, although Airbnb guests have been kind enough to say in passing “you’re good”.

Oh, let me take you by the hand and lead you through a rendition of Streets of London, and I’ll show you something to make you change your mind.

There are also blues pieces, scales, a jazzy number (Fly Me To The Moon), some finger-picking and a Radiohead song to practise, all more varied than the old classical lessons given up in a muddleheaded teenage moment.

Music lessons should be a cornerstone of our state education system, but according to a report by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), state schools have suffered a 21% fall in music provision over the past five years.

Independent schools have seen a 7% rise in music provision, suggesting that music risks being a subject studied only by those whose parents can afford a private education. This is so many shades of wrong, so many discordant life notes, that you wonder how we let such things happen. Is this a plan, the result of austerity or just the careless ways things have been allowed to roll?

It is true that at a time when schools in England are reporting widespread chaos due to years of cuts, when schools are begging parents for funds, and when one headteacher reports that she is scrubbing the school toilets to save money on a cleaner, music lessons might seem a low priority. But music should never be a low priority, and an instrument taught in childhood can lead to a lifetime of music.

On a day when the word ‘meaningful’ is being dragged out again for another Brexit vote, we should stop and think how meaningful a music education can be.

Not that there’s really a problem of course, at least according to the Department for Education spokesperson/peddler of government porkie pies who gave a quote to the BBC: “Arts education receives more money blah-de-blah…” before waltzing off in 3/4 time to find another ‘fact’ from the drawer where they keep the dodgy statistics.

Saxophonist Jess Gillam (seen above in a Getty photograph) responded to the report by saying: “It’s about so much more than learning an instrument. It’s scientifically proven it helps academic results and it helps children socially. We need to do everything we can to make sure children have that.”

As they say nowadays on social media – what she said. Now it is guitar time and the chords for High And Dry need another play.

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