Ryeview – August 2006

Time the chain gang justified no free music lessons

 John Clark writes…

First published: August 2006 – Gazette & Herald

I’ve got Van Gogh’s ear for music. My knowledge and understanding of classical music is limited. At school, the choir improved when I was politely removed. Despite this, music for me like millions of others is an important strand to life.

What does not fit in with this approach is music in schools. Learning a musical instrument used to be available to all, not compulsory but free. Now it is considered an extra. A good idea to be paid for. As a result, learning an instrument has become a benefit for those who already have all the benefits i.e. the better off. Despite all this we have managed to support our daughter’s music lessons through her school years. Each year we attend the North Yorkshire Schools Symphony Orchestra concert at Ripon Cathedral. We pay to go, pay for our tickets (reduced as parents) and listen to music played to a high standard by dedicated, enthusiastic young musicians.

If as a society we cannot afford to pay for our young people to learn an instrument for free, how is it that all the Councils in North Yorkshire can ‘afford’ to produce a ‘chain gang’? The mayors and council leaders arrive at the concert in their ‘chauffeur driven limos’ each with their chains clanking. They occupy the front seats in the Cathedral for free and have free refreshments provided at the interval. Tax payers also pay for the waiting limos outside.

Before I am accused of being a ‘killjoy’ or being negative, there is a glimmer of hope. As we waited for our teenage daughter to be ready, a woman came up to us. She asked if we were parents of a member of the orchestra. We admitted that this was so. She thanked us for supporting our ‘child’ and asked us to thank her for all the work she had done in learning an instrument etc. We said we would pass on the ‘thanks’ but what was her involvement? She replied that she was a Harrogate Councillor and a supporter of music in North Yorkshire schools. We thanked her for her support and paying for her ticket unlike those I’ve just described above. I hope she questions Harrogate Council on the same lines. Even more, I hope she is successful.

Could I add my thanks to all members of the orchestra for all their practice, hard work, time and commitment. Thanks to the parents for all their time, effort and money to support their young musicians. Simon Wright (the conductor) motivates and produces the best out of the musicians who have only been together for a few days. Thank you also to the North Yorkshire County Music Service for all the organisation which ran, as usual, very smoothly.  The concert was superb. It was a very enjoyable evening.

I hope one of the chain gang has the courage to try and justify not having free musical instrument lessons while at the same time affording privileges for those in power.

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