School pupil Sam Blott appeals to Midlothian councillors ahead of a crunch budget meeting today to decide whether to press ahead with proposed cuts to free music tuition.
Music has been a huge part of my life ever since I can remember. My family is highly musical so it was a given that I would be too.
The first instrumental tuition I got was in primary five when I took up learning the violin.
I carried this on for two years until I decided it wasn’t the instrument for me. However, it did show me that it was possible to learn an instrument in school.
When I moved to high school, I took up percussion lessons in which I mainly focussed on drum kit and xylophone and also became involved in the Midlothian training percussion ensemble and, eventually, the Midlothian regional ensemble, which has placed first in the Scottish Brass Band Association championships several times.
This percussion tuition also led me on to be able to play in a rock band at the Thursday Night Music Project and take part in the Midlothian Schools’ Festival of Music.
In S3, I took up vocal lessons which helped fuel my desire to sing in a band. This dream became a reality in 2017 when I was asked to be a part of a Mowtown and soul band called Electric Souls Project, along with 14 other young and highly talented musicians.
We were and still are part of the Friday Night Music Project (FNMP) but have had the opportunity to play at events such as Midfest 2017, Special Olympics 2018, Newtongrange gala day, FNMP gigs and many other gigs and small events.
These, along with many other incredible opportunities such as singing solo for the finale of the Midlothian Schools’ Festival of Music 2016 could not have ever been possible without Midlothian’s free instrumental tuition.
The tuition for me has been so important in helping me to become a better musician.
It has also helped me grow as a person and increased my confidence – and not just on stage. It has made me generally much more confident and outgoing.
The tuition has enabled me to meet some amazing people and make so many connections with young musicians like myself.
For example, when I first joined Electric Souls Project, I didn’t know many of the other people who had been pulled together to form the band but now, two years down the line, they are a group of my closest friends. We could almost be seen more as a family than a band.
This all comes back to the tuition we have been given as young musicians which has brought us together just as it has brought together hundreds if not thousands of students across Scotland.
For me as a student who is receiving the tuition, it is hard to describe just how much it means to every single fellow musician and pupil.
To make the tuition inaccessible to anyone below Higher level would be an incredible loss for every child across Midlothian and Scotland.
If the people making the decisions about budget cuts physically came into a school and saw first-hand the impact music is having, I would hope that they would think twice about taking it away from us.
Sam Blott is an S5 pupil at Penicuik High School and is one of the organisers of a campaign to save free music tuition in Midlothian