It’s not all doom and gloom for Music is it?
So tomorrow is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year. Apparently it is the time when most people’s New Year’s Resolutions are forgotten and Gyms up and down the country will be getting back to their normal attendance levels.
Sure, there is plenty to be feeling a little blue about. The sales are coming to an end, prices for everything have gone, wages stayed the same or have gone down and the nights and mornings are dark.
Let’s be completely fair though. Last year saw many dark things occurring for music, and our lovely Education minister Mr. Gove, has certainly had his fair share in that. There have been positive things occurring as well – such as the Henley Report, the Curriculum Review and a positive community of music educators (www.teachingmusic.org.uk)
So, what are the problems then and how will these be overcome? When will things finally start to look up for music in this country and will it really make any difference to the musicians of this country?
The future of Brass Playing
Brass playing nationally has declined in popularity and even though there are many brass bands still in existence in so many communities, the teaching of brass instruments in schools is declining. In fact instrumental tuition (in terms of traditional private lessons) is in decline for most instruments. The only potential exclusion to this appears to be piano, voice and guitar. I guess that may be the case as these are given most media prominence, and appear regularly on shows such as X-Factor, Pop Idol, Britain’s Got Talent etc. etc.
Many local brass bands sometimes provide tuition and run development bands that greatly benefit all those involved. Does this, however, provide a wide variety of standards and expertise where some tuition may well put more would be students off than it actually creates?
We also have a great deal of political interference in education. This is potentially creating a two-tier educational system with core subjects being given priority. (Music is known as a foundation subject so generally isn’t included within the current priorities). There is lots of information, speculation, rumoring and scare mongering relating to the exclusion of music within the KS3 curriculum. Many music teachers currently fear for the future of their jobs, and for the future of possible GCSE’s or Music within the EBacc.
Considering the worst-case scenario, instrumental tuition may well be removed from schools in the future, leading to less support within the school community. This is a vital area of music making with many schools having their own orchestras, jazz bands, brass bands and small ensembles.
Of course all of the Music Hubs may well be able to cover this issue through evening ensembles or Saturday morning schools, but will all of the tuition that currently takes place still continue under these time constraints?
With all of the places at University in decline and rising tuition costs there is also a great fear that music will become only for the wealthy or elite. Music may, in the longer term, only be available within the private school system and qualifications reduced in their worth or value. Music study at postgraduate level may well become available for the wealthy due to soaring costs. Music from a wide variety of genres may be less accessible, and the desire to learn about the vast range of musical styles away from the media driven ‘popular’ music of the day may become a thing of the past.
Are there some positives?
So is there anything positive to consider? Well, probably yes. There are many of us who feel completely powerless to challenge government interference. Individually of course the music teacher’s voice will do very little, but together a community of musicians and teachers may well be able to affect change.
The work done by many community groups, brass bands and small ensembles will continue to fly the flag for British music. Grants, funding and Lottery funding may well continue to go some way to provide additional opportunities within a wide variety of music making opportunities. Brass playing looks set to continue much in the same way that it has always done, and maybe this may just be enough to pull this form of community music making through individual persistence, stubbornness and a desire to exist against the odds.
The time is now, and the place that you can make a difference is where you are. Join a band, orchestra or chamber group and get making music. If there is nothing around where you live, why not just start your own? If you ask people around your local community you will always manage to find a group of people that are willing to get involved. Do or do not. The choice now belongs to us. Leave a comment to share your thoughts or ideas, or even to discuss how to start a group in your local community.
Music will never die. Music is not bad or good; music just is.