Music was one of my favourite subjects at school. It gave me an opportunity to express my more creative side. I would often spend my lunchtimes in the music computer rooms, working on my compositions. I was very blessed to have some excellent music teachers, a well-funded music department, a school culture where music was highly regarded, and a family that encouraged me to play and listen to a variety of music from a young age. Our school orchestra, senior choir and swing band were once the envy of the county. Against the predictions of both myself and my mum, I got an A for music aged 16.
But if The Economist is to be believed, fewer children will experience the joys of music at school if current trends continue. https://www.economist.com/news/britain/21737444-barely-one-20-pupils-took-music-gcse-last-year-how-much-longer-will-world-dance. Fewer students are taking music at GCSE and A level, the two qualifications Britons take at ages 16 and 18 respectively. Music departments are facing funding cuts, caused by a drop in demand and cuts to education generally. A relentless emphasis on science and vocational subjects has come at the expense of music, which is understandably seen as economically unproductive and not useful for most people’s careers.
Britain still excels at music at the elite level. Many of the world’s most famous musicians were and are British. Our music conservatoires are amongst the world’s best. The problem is that music is increasingly the exclusive preserve of the well off. Poorer students have to contend with underfunded music departments and the expectation from parents to pursue more lucrative pastimes. Success in the music industry often depends on luck or connections, not merit.
I think this is a national tragedy that must be reversed immediately. Music has all sorts of benefits for children, even those won’t don’t engage with it later in life. It helps them to express their emotions. It allows them to be creative and imaginative. It teaches them about history and other cultures, as well as their own. I couldn’t help but notice that people at my school who did music were better behaved, got better grades and enjoyed school more. Music is also wonderfully sociable, giving children a chance to meet different sorts of people. A more musical nation will certainly be a happier one.