The proposals come against a backdrop of cuts in council's Instrumental Music Services – a bank of full and part-time music tutors – across the Lothians, which will in many cases mean the end of one-to-one lessons.Part of the problem is that they know that brass bands and other community groups, to some extent, will pick up the slack including putting kids through exams. What they don't recognise is the benefit of music to discipline; self expression during the difficult teenage years and civic responsibility (taking part in civic events like remembrance Sunday).
I am old enough to remember Mrs Thatcher asking why the government was paying to train buskers for London Underground. Mrs Thatch could not see the connection between music tuition in schools and all the operas and concert she enjoyed going to. Just as your average council tax payer does not recognise the connection between the music they listen to on the radio and instrumental instruction.
We are running a serious risk of the joy of being able to play an instrument being restricted to the better off. Coincidentally Ian Rankin (near neighbour of mine and music fan) posted this to his twitter feed yesterday:
"October 1990, less than 1% of UK acts in top 40 were privately educated. October 2010 the figure was around 60%. (The Word)"
To add insult to injury I met a sheet music dealer this morning who said that their business is booming with trade from Edinburgh's private schools. I certainly see lots of kids carrying instruments on the bus wearing the uniforms of the merchants Company schools or the Edinburgh Academy. Rarely brass instruments though and never a euphonium or a tenor horn. That, of course, is an Edinburgh thing and why there has been no band in Edinburgh for nearly 30 years (excluding the recent University band).
So where does this leave us? Fragmentary group tuition, often run by volunteers, with music performance being marginalised in society. At the same time as singing is apparently getting very popular (x-factor etc being part of the reason).