Why learn music?

In a world where technology is becoming more and more advanced - faster than we could have imagined - and important, where the click of a button can bring instant gratification and success, where more and more of our interactions are in a virtual online world... what role does music education play?

When I was growing up in the 1980s, at the age of 7 I was offered the chance to play a musical instrument (free of charge, thanks to the forward-thinking LEA in Coventry at that time, before the cuts took free music education away). I didn't really know what a cello was, but it was the first instrument that was offered to me and I begged my parents to let me start to learn.

Above all, it was frustrating. Having to practise when my playing sounded like a bag of cats, even the act of unpacking and packing the huge, heavy instrument, sitting through Grade after Grade in cold Cathedral waiting rooms, figuring out how to tune the thing myself without having to wait til the following Monday's lesson, getting blisters on my fingertips, and just the sheer act of carrying an instrument around that was twice the size of me. The majority of my friends (well - all of them) gave up at the earliest opportunity. I didn't. 

Soon this frustration gave way to opportunity. I auditioned and gained a place in the prestigious Coventry Youth Orchestra when I was 13 and was lucky enough to tour pre-revolution Russia, amongst other places; my first taste of musical success. Friends started to tell me they wished they'd not given up on music so quickly. In today's society, instant gratification is so easy to come by. Hard work, patience and commitment are not. Learning an instrument teaches these incredibly important life skills - this is why we do it.

Music education nowadays is sadly not free. It is costly for families already struggling to give their children extra curricular opportunities, with not just the price of lessons but buying the sheet music, the instrument, joining a band/orchestra/ensemble, paying for exams. To be able to offer a taste of this in the schools where we work, being able to allow children to play various instruments, to realise that they have potential, is an amazing feeling.

But on top of all this, music is such an empowering and incredible thing. It crosses the boundaries between all ages, cultures and beliefs. It doesn't discriminate between wealth or intelligence. It has the ability to heal, to bring happiness, to allow people to reflect and remember.

Posted on February 12th 2018

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