I’m big on children having the opportunity to play music. Obviously, as that’s why I set up my Music Exploration linky in the first place. Neither of my parents were musical (well, my dad played trumpet for a bit at school), but my mum was really keen on giving us the opportunity to learn if we so wanted. That stemmed from her having always wanted to play the piano as a child, but when she inherited her Nan’s piano, her dad refused her the chance to have it because ‘music’s a middle class thing to do’.
Of course music isn’t, but it’s definitely harder for some children to access musical instruments than others. While pop music is a start point for so many children, the discipline and benefits from learning a musical instrument can be seen in various studies.
Last week I watched Don’t Stop the Music, a documentary in which James Rhodes, a professional concert pianist, is leading the charge to increase the opportunity for all school children to have the chance to play a musical instrument. When we were children, I was lucky enough that we did have a few musical instruments around the school (percussion predominantly), and once at secondary school there were instruments you could access via the County Music Service if you so needed. Because I learnt from primary school age, I had private lessons, and my own instrument (although I did save up for my own A clarinet and saxophone later on, in addition to my normal clarinet and piano).
But the tv show really brought it home how much classical music could inspire children if they were given the chance. And how little money there is in schools to bring proper music lessons (and we’re talking someone who knows what they’re talking about to inspire the children, rather than having a generalist primary school teacher roped in). Our school was lucky that we always seemed to have a teacher who was experienced in music and wanted to share that with the children. We also had good links with the catchment secondary school on the music side.
The tv show made me cry. Watching the children be first introduced to classical music at a concert level, and their faces in astonishment as James played the frantic ‘Hall of the Mountain King’ was wonderful. And seeing the boy still struggling after a week to get a sound out of his flute was heart breaking – he did manage in the end. Classical music isn’t so out of reach to children as people often say. I agree when the show said that catching children younger, is the way to get them, before they’re dismissive of anything deemed ‘uncool’.
It really showed how much children can benefit from playing in an orchestra together, that sense of pride of achievement, the discipline and practice, time management that they need to put in. But also how much change schools need to make to start a music programme like this in their school. It’s definitely something the government should be looking at in more depth in my opinion.
Obviously musical instruments cost money and schools need help. That’s where the Don’t Stop the Music instrument amnesty comes in.
If you’ve got a musical instrument hanging around in your house un-played and unloved (or loved but maybe just forgotten), then you can hand it in to Oxfam shops as part of the amnesty. The instruments will then be handed out to schools to give more children the chance to learn to play and experience what so many of us as children and young adults had the chance to do.
Will I be handing in my instruments which are, admittedly, languishing in the loft and under the stairs cupboard? I do have a treble recorder to donate…it must be fate as I hand taken it to a car boot sale a when we did one, it didn’t sell and I was going to tip it. But then left it in the car. So I shall be taking that along. My clarinet and saxophone I won’t because once I’ve got the piano I shall get them out again, and set them up in a music area. Maybe N will want to learn in a few years. My A clarinet is unlikely to be used again as it’s an orchestral instrument. It’s probably not very useful to the amnesty, but they might be able to make use or sell it on to get some funds back for the campaign.
Will you be donating any instruments? Do your children learn? What’s the state of music for children in your area/schools?