In the latest edition of Intelligent Life magazine, author and former English teacher Philip Pullman says that he considers music to be the most important school subject. One to pin on the staffroom pinboard or slip into the music bag for the parents, that.
‘Of all the things the body can do, the richest, the most interesting, the most emotionally and intellectually fulfilling thing is music.’ Pullman would have a ‘talented and qualified’ singing teacher in every school, require instrumental teaching for every pupil, and show schoolchildren, through proper pay and conditions for musicians, that music has ‘a real cultural and social purpose’.
Perhaps appearing in the pages of such a highfalutin rag will gain music some influence in the minds of policy makers, and make them realise what we all know – that the chance to play or sing music, to improve one’s ability, and to make music with others is such a magical, superb privilege that it should be an exalted right. Sadly, we have to prepare ourselves for the possibility that it will not.
However, you know it to be true, and sometimes that is enough. The new school year is here: and though it might not feel like it on a wet November morning with Year 10 up first period, or when Joshua hasn’t practised, yet again – September is an opportunity to do your bit for humanity.
You didn’t have to be Dutch virtuoso Erik Bosgraaf, second Doctor Patrick Troughton, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones or noughties songstress Dido to spot that the hand positions of the young man playing a recorder on the cover of MT August were somewhat unorthodox (as indeed they were again with the student on page 30). It is a long time since my last recorder lesson, in a cold infant school corridor with the rain lashing against the windows (it was always raining during those small-group recorder lessons), and incompetence is always more likely than conspiracy – but for the avoidance of doubt MT does not especially advocate playing in this way. It was a simple, and I hope forgivable, oversight. On a personal level, the bad associations with the recorder continue...