Big names line up to support music tuition in local schools

  • East Sussex Music Service is celebrating its 84th year; it delivers music lessons to around 7,000 children in schools across the county every year and around 1,000 children, aged between four and 18, attend area music centres each week. East Sussex County Council recently announced that plans are being made to close the music instrumental service by 2019. The council has launched a consultation process to run throughout the summer.

Music has the power to change people’s lives in the most fundamental way!

That is one of the major messages in a campaign that aims to persuade East Sussex County Council to change its mind over a decision to axe the county’s music tuition service (ESMS) in its schools.

The biggest names from the world of music are lining up to support the campaign and they are not just offering their support they are telling their own stories and explaining how music tuition in schools impacted their lives and inflamed their passion.

World famous Simon Rattle, currently music director of the London Symphony Orchestra says: “Children are being turned in to mini robots, it is every child’s birthright to have access to music I believe it is essential to the wellbeing and success of our young people that their education prepares them for a future where imagination and creativity are the most important attributes

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Simon Rattle.

“…unless they have access to a vital cultural education they will be utterly unprepared for what this new world may require.”

While Tom Owen, Principal Oboe in Cologne State Opera and a chamber music tutor at the Folkwang University, Essen, Germany says he first came in to contact with ESMS when he was 11 and he has warned politicians that while it takes decades to build up a music service like the one we have in East Sussex, such a legacy can be destroyed overnight.

Tom says: “From the age of 11 the East Sussex Music Service provided me with many of the fundamental building blocks on which my entire life as a musician is based. I was given excellent lessons on my instrument and was able to spend two or three evenings a week playing in the local wind band and symphony orchestras.

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Tom Owen says ESMS provided him with the fundamental building blocks on which his life as a musician is based

“In my early teens I was given the opportunity to travel to Lewes and play in both the ESWO and ESYO, the latter of which I profited from right up until I turned 21 and started my first professional orchestral work.

“I was provided with expert advice when choosing my path and supported both as an artist and person. The music service is nationally recognised for its excellence and I am proud and thankful to have been part of it for ten key years of my development.

“When we play music together we learn to communicate on a level that goes beyond speech, creating a chance to connect with the great outside world, without the barrier of language. We learn acceptance and we are challenged by things that we cannot understand but can feel. All of these things we cannot learn from a smart phone or a laptop. Additionally young people learn the chance to focus, work in a team and to access a quiet, focused place, where there are no outside disturbances.”

There is no shortage of those who feel they benefitted from their involvement with ESMS coming forward to explain how they believe ESMS changed their lives, Darryl Noel-DavilaI explains: “I came from a background of violence and drug abuse and I had zero social skills, zero prospects, no passion for anything, until I started learning the clarinet with ESMS. Those weekly lessons became the focal point of my life for such a long time, I don’t know who I would be without them. Now I can use the skills I learned there to create my own music, make my own path in life, and really have options. I can choose to live, because ESMS gave me a life, friends, a goal, and something to look forward to at an otherwise difficult and confusing time of my life.”

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Politicians are wading in to the battle too, East Sussex Liberal Democrats say: “Such proposals are unnecessary, wrong and shortsighted. We have also been told that staff believe savings can be made without slashing such a valuable and much-loved music service. We need County Hall to pause, listen to the people they serve – us – and to go back to the music staff to ask them how the circle can be squared, rather than just propose a decimation of the entire instrumental teaching provision. A decision which if it goes through, will be horrendously difficult to reverse!”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan says: “Music is found on every continent, in every culture and – by extension – in every corner of our open and diverse city. While its enduring appeal to us all might remain one of science’s great mysteries, we know of its power to bring people together and not just to reflect or change moods, but to broaden horizons and transform lives.” Mr Khan is promoting a simple message, that music education shoud be protected, “at all costs”.

Jane Humberstone who is a representative of the National Education Union and one of the ESMS managers has pointed out that although the county council has launched a consultation the consultation process is about how to close the service not about whether the service should be closed in the first place and that’s something she is not sure everyone realises.

A petition to save the music service has now been signed by more than 12,000 people.

 

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