Nicola Benedetti backs free music lesson plea

Nicola Benedetti is calling for music tuition cuts to be scrapped. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Nicola Benedetti is calling for music tuition cuts to be scrapped. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Classical star Nicola Benedetti says she is “deeply worried” by controversial plans to introduce charges for music classes for children in the Scottish capital.

The award-winning virtuoso has hit out at “short-sighted” and “saddening” plans to end the right to free tuition in future.

Ms Benedetti said she had been left “heartbroken” at the move by Edinburgh City Council - which is aimed at saving £1.6 million and would see many parents forced to pay for classes for the first time - after years of campaigning on the issue.

The former BBC Young Musician of the Year said it was misguided to see music tuition as some form of luxury than a key part of education.

SEE ALSO: ‘Don’t put a price on the joy of music’

Ms Benedetti has been involved in projects encouraging youngsters to pick up instruments and take up music all over the world since she shot to fame just over a decade ago. The Ayrshire-born violinist, who began violin lessons at the age of five, is also a board member of Sistema Scotland, the charity created to help transform in the lives of children in some of Scotland’s most deprived areas.

There’s more of an understanding that music tuition is not a nice, fluffy addition to the real education of maths and English. It’s an integral and very serious part of education

Nicola Benedetti

The 28-year-old has attacked the city council days after leading jazz musician Tommy Smith credited his entire career to the free lessons he had at the Wester Hailes Education Centre in Edinburgh. The founder and director of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra has warned the council its proposed cuts will trigger a “downward spiral effect that will last decades.”

Ms Benedetti broke off from a holiday in the United States to enter the mounting campaign against a proposal which would see a 75 per cent cut to the council’s instrumental tuition budget. She has pleaded with Nicola Sturgeon to intervene, telling the First Minister on Twitter: “We are all praying for the correct outcome.”

More than 63000 people have backed an online petition against the proposed cuts in the space of just four days.

Ms Benedetti said: “There’s been such a big push in Scotland in recent years to prevent councils from cutting funding for music tuition.

“There’s more of an understanding that music tuition is not a nice, fluffy addition to the real education of maths and English. It’s an integral and very serious part of education.

“It is heartbreaking for me to hear of something like this happening when I thought we had a good, solid understanding of the issue in Scotland. It’s deeply worrying, saddening and lacking in long-term vision for society.

SEE ALSO: Tommy Smith slams cuts to music tuition

“I’m all for challenging and constant reformation of how we teach music and trying to make it as streamlined, fun, inclusive and effective as possible.

“But the minute you take away such a substantial amount of money like this it will make a lot of people think it is too tough for them and they will leave it alone.”

The row has flared months after Ms Benedetti described the prospect of music tuition classes being affected by future spending cuts as “catastrophic.” The cost-cutting plans in Edinburgh have emerged just weeks after a new culture plan for the city included a pledge that “everyone has access to world-class cultural provision.”

Ms Benedetti added: “In every single sector of the arts prominent members of their community will tell you that if it wasn’t for the free local services they had the benefit of enjoying as part of their education they would not have fulfilled any of their potential.

“How many stories like that do we have to hear?”

“This isn’t about creating the next handful of prominent musicians. People shouldn’t just look at the surface of this. They should look at what the great philosophers, musicians, writers and thinkers have said about the benefits of the arts.

“They’ve been saying the same thing for centuries - that art is one of the most important things you can have in your childhood. Study after study has proved the same thing.”