ONE of Scotland’s top rock stars is “begging” council chiefs not to bring in tuition fees for learning instruments at school – saying it would “rob” youngsters of the chance to fall in love with music.
Garbage singer Shirley Manson, who has credited her career to a former music teacher in Edinburgh, has penned a moving open letter urging a rethink over plans to cut the music tuition budget in the Capital by 75 per cent.
The 49-year-old, who is now based in Los Angeles, has become the latest high-profile musician to express dismay over moves which could force the parents of hundreds of pupils to pay for weekly music tuition for the first time in the city.
Manson, who recently celebrated 20 years performing with her band, said there was not a day in her life when she was not thankful for music education that she came to realise was “exemplary”.
She has urged the city council to recognise that music was a vital antidote to the current “dark times”, telling the authority: “Music is an art form that transcends terror. It is the exquisite and beautiful opposing force to everything that is cruel and frightening in this world.
“Please do not rob the school children of Edinburgh of the opportunity to engage with music, learn from it, fall in love with it, master it.”
Manson’s intervention came as it emerged that 10,000 people have now backed an online petition protesting against the cost-cutting measure, which is aimed at saving the council around £1.7 million over the next four years.
Scotland’s biggest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), has vowed to resist moves to charge any pupils for access to the long-standing “world-class” provision on offer in Edinburgh, while there has also been criticism from violinist Nicola Benedetti and saxophonist Tommy Smith.
Both Smith and Manson attended the specialist music school at Broughton High. When the Garbage singer received an outstanding achievement honour at the Scottish Music Awards two years ago she singled out her old teacher, Mary McGookin, saying: “She fired up my imagination and introduced me to a recording studio. I always think about her when I think about who formed my musical talent.”
A spokesman for the city council said: “This proposal is not about putting a stop to these lessons, but exploring different ways of providing our music service.
“This could include the concept of a social enterprise model, which would introduce charging but still ensure Edinburgh’s most vulnerable pupils continue to receive free music tuition.”
SHIRLEY MANSON’S OPEN LETTER
It has been brought to my attention that you are proposing a 75 per cent cut to the budget that funds Edinburgh’s instrumental music tuition and all of the Edinburgh schools orchestras and ensembles.
I understand you are in a tough position. Setting budgets to run a city cannot be easy. But I beg you to rethink your position on this proposal.
We are living in dark times. The news is at best depressing, at its worst, terrifying. Music is an art form that transcends terror. It is the exquisite and beautiful opposing force to everything that is cruel and frightening in this world. Please do not rob the schoolchildren of Edinburgh of the opportunity to engage with music, learn from it, fall in love with it, master it.
I have personally benefited directly from the musical tuition that was offered up to students in Edinburgh as part of our educational curriculum.
As a result apparently of displaying an aptitude for music I was picked out by my teachers for both violin and clarinet tuition. I played in my school orchestras and sang with both choirs. I have gone on to enjoy a career in music that has lasted over 30 years. I’ve played all over the world and been exposed to so many experiences that I am so fortunate and grateful to have had.
There is not a day goes by when I don’t think how lucky I am. Everywhere I’ve travelled I’ve spoken of the immense good fortune of being born in Edinburgh where I received a musical education that I quickly came to realise was exemplary.
I hope that the pupils of Edinburgh schools with an aptitude for music continue to be as fortunate as I was. That is what I hope for them and for the great city of Edinburgh.