Have your say: letters to the editor, July 2024

David Vinden
Monday, July 1, 2024

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The future of music education

The sooner we get a change of government and politicians who understand the importance of music in everyone's lives, the better. At least Sir Keir Starmer was a student at Junior Guildhall and, as such, will understand the value of music education – we hope!

For deeper discussion, we do have to ask ourselves about what and how we teach children. We are always hearing that every child should learn an instrument. At one level I do not disagree with that, and the potential closure of RWCMD's junior department is, of course, regrettable when framed around instrumental lessons. However, we do not talk enough about the importance of singing.

We really should begin all music education with singing, starting with mothers-to-be (Kodály famously said that music education begins with the birth of the mother!). Singing was and is the first musical instrument because it comes from our own bodies and is a part of us. Once children have learnt the nuts and bolts of music through using the voice, learning an instrument is much more effective, in every sense.

The crucial thing we overlook is how singing connects with our inner hearing. This inner hearing is our most important skill, and it is guaranteed to work when we sing. If a child practices a known song on their instrument, then the song and inner hearing behave like a teacher or parent looking over the player's shoulders, correcting things as they go along.

Teaching singing is relatively inexpensive and works well in both one-to-one and classroom settings. It costs no more to put a singing teacher in front of a class than any other subject teacher. Policy-makers in Wales, with its wonderful tradition of singing folksongs, understand this, delivering a tradition that many of us can envy.

Let us really ask: ‘What is the best way forward?’. Teach everyone singing, regardless of background, and open the doors of all junior music departments across the UK. If we teach everyone to sing as a first principle, we will have more motivated youth that will lead the country in whatever direction is best.