Without music life would be a mistake. (Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche)

Last week we saw Education Secretary Alan Johnson announcing a new £10million package intended to boost music and singing for young people. This is the government’s welcome response Music Manifesto’s recommendations as outlined in Music Manifesto Report No 2, Making every child’s music matter.

 Speaking at the Music Manifesto’s State of Play conference which took place at the Roundhouse last week, Mr. Johnson said: As well as being a worthwhile activity for its own sake, music is a powerful learning tool which can build children’s confidence, teamwork and language skills. A better musical education for pupils can also help them hit the right note in their studies. This is a summary, produced by Music Manifesto, putting the extra £10million into context of the plans for the future.  

1 – An extra £10m to boost music education, especially school singing, both in and out of school hours. The extra £10m invested represents a huge commitment in addition to the £25m already announced for instrumental tuition next year. The extra cash will also fund a major national singing campaign for primary schools led by Howard Goodall.

2 – A 21st century songbook to provide a top 30 song list for whole school/whole class singing. Singing teachers and children will be invited to nominate and then bid for their favourite material.

3 – Choir schools to work in partnership with local schools and other music providers to boost local singing. Some choir schools are already providing a wide range of outreach activities, including the provision of singing master classes and summer schools to their local community. There are 34 choirs schools, with 3 leading the way with outreach programmes. This initiative will be roles out to around 20 more choir schools in 2007, with additional funding to expand their coverage of local schools.

4 – The rolls out of Music Start to engage parents and young children in music making. There will also be more collaboration between school and creative and cultural sectors.

5 – Increased investment in training for teachers and music leaders.

The national singing campaign for singing in primary schools is to be led by the composer and broadcaster Howard Goodall, who was announced as the government’s Singing Ambassador.  

Speaking to the Cassandra Jardine of The Daily Telegraph, Mr. Goodall, as he is wont to do, spoke very clearly and simply about how he saw his brief:

My sister, brothers and I all sang and played instruments. The benefits are immense, not just for self-esteem but for identifying yourself as a person. I want others to have what I have.

Immediately after his appointment, he said:

I am passionate about the dynamic and inspirational effect of music on young people. For me, singing in particular is every child’s first, intuitive access to the world of music, but it is also a powerful and often untapped resource for social cohesion. There is barely an adult alive who does not wish they could sing with more confidence or that they had had a better start with their voices as children.

I for one wish this new initiative every success. I note that Goodall said in the interview with The Daily Telegraph, that “if children haven’t learnt pitch by nine, then it’s too late” So some fifty one years ago, because for various reasons, too painful to be recounted here, it had become too late. I personally do not ever want to see a child denied the opportunity of at least attempting to learn pitch in they way I was denied. That’s why any programme of this kind is unreservedly welcome to at least one member of this household.    


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