Monday, December 27, 2010

Urgently needed, some very big celebrities

Anyone got Sir Paul McCartney's phone number? Please tell him his country needs him.

Music education in the UK's state schools is likely to be decimated by a fourfold attack involving local council cutbacks on peripatetic music teachers, the withdrawal of £83.5m from central government earmarked for providing music teaching, the exclusion of music from the subjects eligible for the planned new Baccalaureate and the withdrawal of all government funding for arts degrees.

These cuts are ideologically revolting (giving out the message that music is only for the rich) and furthermore represent a complete reversal of policy - it's not so long since education secretary Michael Gove declared that every child should have the chance to learn a musical instrument. (Not that this reversal should be a surprise given track record of coalition to date). Oh, and whatever happened to the enquiry into the provision of music education that was being headed by Classic FM supremo Darren Henley? Did they even wait for him to present his findings?

But these changes are not yet statutory and in our celebrity-obsessed culture, celebrity musicians could make an impact. Earlier this week, all it took to force a u-turn on the plan to stop Booktrust funding from being withdrawn was hard-hitting, dignified and well-worded intervention from celebrity authors including Philip Pullman and Carl Ann Duffy. And the forces for this were marshalled very fast and very effectively. So there's hope, if the right voices could please step forward swiftly and strongly.

We need Sir Paul. We also need, for starters, Nigel Kennedy, Nicola Benedetti, Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Mark Elder, Valery Gergiev (come on, mate, you're the LSO's principal conductor and you can move mountains everywhere else), Paul Lewis, Tasmin Little, Alfred Brendel, James MacMillan, John Tavener, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber & brother Julian, James Rhodes and definitely Katherine Jenkins. And more are welcome, as many as possible, as big as possible. I hope, of course, that the ISM is already trying to marshal such forces, but they need to do so with the greatest of alacrity.