Most important school subject? Music, says Philip Pullman

Most important school subject? Music, says Philip Pullman


norman lebrecht

August 20, 2015

The best-selling children’s author has this to say:

Every child needs to encounter music as early as possible, and I don’t mean just listen and then answer questions: I mean make, with voice, with clapping hands and stamping feet, with instruments of every kind.

First of all I’d make sure that every school had a talented and qualified teacher of singing. Children will sing very willingly if they can see and hear that it’s fun. I vividly remember the first time I sang a round in class; I can’t remember whether it was “Frère Jacques”, or “London’s Burning”, but I do remember the delight of waiting till it was my turn to come in, and finding the right note, and hearing my voice winding in and out of the lines and making a pattern with others.

Then I’d require every school to provide instrumental teaching for every child…

More here.


In another interview, Pullman said today: 

‘Every government secretary of state or minister should jolly well go to the theatre, go to a concert, go to an art gallery, go to a museum, become somehow interested in these things,” Pullman told Sky News. “If they’re not interested, they shouldn’t be in government, full stop. You’re lacking a human dimension of some sort if you’re not interested in the arts. And I think it’s a terrible fate to be ruled by philistines and barbarians as we seem to be at the moment.’


  • will says:

    Dear Mr Pullman,
    This is WONDERFUL!

  • Dedri Biermann says:

    Dear Mr Pullman

    I’ve been oh so fortunate to land at Hartland International School in Dubai, where there is a very high emphasis on Music. I believe with my whole heart that leaning music is not just an extra subject,but a basic right of every child on this planet.

  • Paula Gangar says:

    A wonderful article. I love the comments about your memories of singing rounds. I am a music teacher in a primary school and I want pupils to experience the fun and sense of achievement that practical music-making can bring.

  • Karen D. Donofrio says:

    I’m not sure that every school has a talented and qualified teacher of singing. Pullman is cool man, but he looks through USA, as for me. My own opinion is published at , and show me, please, children who go to theater with pleasure, 1-2% in the country.

  • Alvaro says:

    The biggest BS story in the history of mankind: “classical music is good for kids, it makes you empathetic, caring for others, and makes you think of the high ideals. Look kids, just look at Anne Akiko Meyers and her……….oh, nevermind”

  • Cato says:

    Yes yes yes! I remember wanting to sing from the age of six and was lucky enough to be given violin lessons on a school instrument at the age of 8. It certainly inspired me and I now have a job as a singer. I am continually grateful for the policies of my youth and fervently hope the current education secretary will take notice !

  • Janis says:

    There isn’t one “most important” subject. There just isn’t.

  • Lennerd says:

    I continue to see that musicians are incredibly alert people. Both Albert Einstein and Thomas Jefferson played the violin. I just read that Wilber and Orville Wright, the two self-trained engineers and designers of the first really viable aircraft, played mandolin and harmonica. The brothers’ sister wrote angrily about how much that mandolin got played and practiced to the point where she complained about the incessant repetition of music being learned.

  • Victoria says:

    As one of many music teachers whose programs are entirely overlooked and underfunded, thank you for your plug – and of course, I completely agree! 🙂

  • Raz says:

    In any political debate around (funding for) music education I have never heard one valid argument why we should NOT teach music.

    How different my life would have been had any of the schools I attended had a music program.

    Like our beautiful Richard Gill says:’
    Music is good!’