STUC 2010: I thought a good way of demonstrating the importance of free music tuition in schools would have been to start off giving you a few bars on my trumpet – an instrument I almost learned to play at school. But then I thought it might not be the best advert for the service.
But that in fact is the point. You don’t have to be great at a musical instrument to gain all the enjoyment and benefits.
Many of us here will have had the chance to try out musical instruments at school – not because we already had an aptitude – but so we could find out if we did.
No risk. We could do it free and many a musician will have been discovered that way.
But what if that service wasn’t there? Or it was rationed due to cuts, like the 50% cut in Fife? Or you had to face a hike in charges like in South Lanarkshire or a 14% rise like in Angus or almost doubled like in Highland?
A whole generation of young people would miss the opportunity to discover making music.
School is not just about training people to become wage slaves. It should be about learning experiences, about learning to think, about discovering talents.
It should be about being allowed to experiment. To get the chance to experience a musical instrument. To be given the chance to develop a singing voice.
American research shows that young people who participate in music and other arts do better educationally and socially.
Our members in community education and in community arts will tell you the same story. It brings a richness to life, it broadens horizons and creativity and opens up doors to appreciating all sorts of cultural opportunities.
Our members in social work will tell you that research shows that playing a musical instrument boosts self-image and confidence and creates positive peer experiences.
All hugely important benefits not just for young people but also for society as a whole.
Whether you become a virtuoso or not is irrelevant. It is the chance to experience making music that is important.
The years of enjoyment I’ve got from the chance to learn an instrument is probably only matched by the years of pain of those around me, right enough - but it is an opportunity every child should have.