We keep excluding the working classes from music professions

We keep excluding the working classes from music professions

Comment Of The Day

norman lebrecht

June 28, 2023

Comment of the Day comes from John McGee, responding to reports that kids from poorer British families cannot obtain music tuition.

My cousin, a professional trumpet player came from a working class background and went to the most socially deprived school in the area but they taught music. His dad worked multiple jobs to help him chase his dream and he managed to get a place at the Royal College of Music in London. Of course he worked hard as did his family to help him succeed but if the school didn’t teach music, would he have ever picked up a trumpet? By cutting music in schools we are merely reinforcing the tired stereotypes of working class person does good on the football pitch etc. A country which doesn’t do it’s up most to encourage the talent of all its youth, regardless of means, is failing its people, in my humble opinion.


  • Bostin'Symph says:

    Spot on. And in an age where computers, robots and AI have not only replaced many blue collar workers but are now coming for the white collar jobs, I’d have thought any sensible nation would be piling in resources to ensure that its people can have the edge over technology by developing creative skills.

    • Dave says:

      Totally agree, but you’re talking about sensible nations, not one that has completely taken leave of its senses over the last few years.

      • Curvy Honk Glove says:

        I totally agree. tRumpists have ruined everything, and have corrupted every corner of the world. The tRump administration’s response to covid was a complete failure and resulted in the world we see around us. If only we had locked down sooner, cancelled more, if not all, public events, and continued to do so for much longer, the world, and by extension, professional classical music, would be on a substantially more stable footing. If you voted for tRump, this is your fault.

        • Dave says:

          I didn’t vote for tRump and wouldn’t have even if I had the vote in the USA, nor did I vote for the corrupt and criminal bunch running, I mean ruining, the UK at the moment. The sooner we are rid of them the better.

        • John R. says:

          Wow….where to begin. Are you from the U.S., because if you were, you would know we have a federalist system of government, therefore each state made it own policies regarding the lockdowns. The federal government doesn’t have power to dictate the closures of schools, businesses, concerts, etc. Also, the research has shown that in the long run the lockdowns made little difference and the benefits it did provide have to be weighed against the considerable economic costs and other concerns, such as mental heath issues, etc. Btw, this is not a defense of Trump since I never voted for him and never would….but these are the facts. Btw, what does this post have to do with Trump and lockdowns anyway?

        • Maria says:

          We are talking about Britain – not America and Trump.

  • Max Raimi says:

    My first private viola teacher was Ara Zerounian, a legend in Detroit. Among his students were the Principal Violas in the Metropolitan Opera and Cleveland Orchestras, the Kavafian sisters Ida and Ani (who later became his stepdaughters), and innumerable other violinists and violists who went on to careers in major orchestras and as chamber music artists. During the day, he taught in the Detroit Public Schools until they discontinued their instrumental music programs at some point in the 1970s.

    • Reality Sux says:

      Respectfully, Max, if Michael Ouzounian, former Met viola leader, is to be considered a fine musician and someone to admire, as a former student of your teacher, we have a problem. I regret that Michael’s obtuseness and self-centeredness were eclipsed only by his sycophantic servitude to Yannick’s predecessor, as well as the scratchiest, most repellent sound among employed viola players, which is saying a lot.

  • Chrissy Kinsella says:

    As you know Norman, we at the London Music Fund have been working hard to address this issue for over 12 years now.

    Since 2011 we have supported over 800 children from low income families with four year Scholarships through their music hub (providing two hours a week of music making, including instrumental tuition, ensembles and mentoring). Graduates from this programme are now taking up positions in leading music colleges and national ensembles. In addition we have worked in partnership with schools, music hubs and professional arts organisations to provide funding for inspiring and collaborative projects. This funding has contributed to events like the TriBorough Music Hub’s ‘Music Makes Me’ concert just last night at the Royal Albert Hall, which featured over 1000 state school children from Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster and anyone who was there will tell you what an incredible, inspiring event it was.

    In total the London Music Fund has supported thousands of children and young people who would otherwise have faced barriers in their music making, and contributed over £4m in funding directly t support music education in London, since 2011. We are incredibly proud of these figures, but there is much work to be done.

    There is much excellent work going on in music education across the country, and many, many excellent music teachers and educators working tirelessly to support young people from less privileged backgrounds to fulfil their potential. We will all continue to work together to ensure no child is left behind.

    Chrissy Kinsella
    London Music Fund

  • HerrForkenspoon says:

    A far cry from when I went to school in the 1950’s. In Jr. High we had a beginning and an advanced band, in High School we had a Concert Band, Orch., Jazz Band and Instrumental Training class, where you could learn an instrument. The director was Sal Spano, a leading Oboist in L.A. Many excellent players came out that school and went on to have careers in music.

  • Barbara Wood says:

    Perhaps an even more compelling reason to support music education in schools is the need for young people to be a part of a group whose activities provide socialization and promote working together as a group toward a common goal, that of perfecting musical performance. There are so many life skills including responsibility, discipline and cooperation that young people gain from this experience. Team sports are another important medium that provides a sense of belonging and character building. The school system that strives to include as many students as possible in these group activities is providing an invaluable service to its community.

    • Kevin says:

      Excellent point! There is also the considerable enhancement to the development of young brains that music study & performance bring.

  • Ian Lawrence says:

    Local Authorities used to run most schools and their Music Services often provided free instrumental music lessons like the ones I received that were funded by the Inner London Education Authority, which was later abolished by Mrs Thatcher’s government. Since the Conservative government ‘austerity’ cuts to local council budgets and the rise of academy schools the situation is much more complex. Local music services do their best. They have often chosen to become charitable trusts. But a certain amount of parent funding for the cost of instruments and instrumental tuition has proved inevitable and poorer families have become ‘priced out’. This situation has also lead to a distortion in the range of instruments being taught. If a parent is asked to pay for an instrument for their child to learn they are more likely to invest in a flute or a clarinet than a much more expensive oboe or bassoon – more likely to choose a trumpet over a tuba for the same reason. Music, like drama, has always been treated as a Cinderella subject on the edges of the core curriculum in schools. Not so much in independant private schools, that are more able to respond to the interests of pupils and parents than state schools who have to obey the dictates of governments. It is no surprise that alongside the decline in working class orchestral musicians we have seen a similar decline in working class actors. Richard Burton, Michael Caine and Albert Finney did not come from privileged backgrounds. Now the route into acting is more likely to be through Eton and Oxford or Cambridge.

  • SoozB says:

    ah the good old ILEA! Growing up in East London in the 70s, I got free tuition, free use of whatever musical instruments the school had, and even the odd free trip to the ballet or opera. I came from a working class family in which Top of the Pops was the only music I was exposed to. I didn’t become a professional musician, but I now spend much of my disposable income on music lessons, sheet music and classical concert-going. Musical education isn’t just about nurturing future performers. Without it the audience will be even less diverse than it is now.

  • GeorgeRipley says:

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