The recent lecture presented to us on the key idea of the power of the arts left myself and many others feeling incredibly moved, inspired and as always, interested in the cause. The movie played and young speakers really took me back to my own involvement in the arts and how it helped to shape the person I am today. It also encouraged me to reflect upon the long lasting impact the great privilege has had upon myself. For those reading who were not present in the lecture (there may be some!), the film outlined and gave a detailed insight into an organisation called Dundee School Musical Theatre; a free theatre group for all high school pupils from the Dundee and Angus area in Scotland.
As mentioned above, I had always been very involved in the arts growing up. From the ages of 8-16 I was an active member of the National Youth Choir of Scotland-following on from an extremely nervy audition! Most memorably however, I began playing the Tenor Horn in primary 5 and continued this passion for music through until the end of S6. I played in numerous brass bands over the years and was also fortunate enough to also travel Europe on multiple occasions.
Upon reflection I think it’s safe to say that throughout my childhood, confidence had always been an internal struggle of mine. On a more personal note, I grew up alongside my three incredibly talented siblings and whilst maintaining very close relationships with all of them, I still always compared myself to them and their successes. To give some background, all of them excel in singing and performing; all have played main parts with solos in school plays and have had numerous solos and successful auditions between them. I have never felt especially confident in myself with singing solos (despite being comfortable as part of a choir) however, I was lucky enough to discover my own area of music I finally felt relatively comfortable on my own in-brass.
I was given my beloved Tenor Horn by the school in Primary 5, completely free of charge with the incredibly valuable promise of free tuition. Not only was I taught to read and write music and learn the physical workings and methods of playing my brass instrument, I was also given the opportunity to play in numerous brass bands. Throughout primary school, I was a part of my school brass band and also West Lothian Schools Junior Concert Band. Both bands gave me enormous opportunities to meet and socialise with others from the community but also gave me a role in leadership and responsibility. As outlined in SHANARRI, a child having responsibility is essential to their wellbeing and in my case, the responsibility of eventually gaining the role of leading my other peers in my section gave me a great shot of confidence. I finally felt like I was good at something I personally loved. My time in numerous brass bands in high school resulted in the formation of my relationship with my best friends, the chance to perform and compete professionally nationally and internationally, the opportunity to work towards and move from 3rd Horn to Solo Horn and perhaps the most fun, the chance to travel.
Not only was a feeling of team work, hard work and belonging strongly formed within my school brass bands and also the West Lothian Schools Brass Band, we also attended and won overall for many years the Scottish Youth Brass Band Championships in Perth. Only confidence to continue and confidence in ourselves and abilities can ever come out of those fantastic experiences (and of course the most amazing memories of the buzzing bus journey home!). And, if Perth wasn’t far enough for us Westies lot, we were even taken on a huge tour bus and plane to 5 different countries, competing in the European Brass Band Championships and on a separate occasion, touring numerous different locations in Europe. Young people who had never been given the opportunity to travel outside of Scotland experienced for the first time the beauty and culture of our wider world. Sounds fantastic doesn’t it? Well, it gets even better. For all trips and competitions in Scotland it was all entirely free for every member of the band. For trips abroad, many children were paid for and for others, a large sum was also funded by West Lothian Council. The trips were inclusive for everyone, without children and families worried about the financial aspect.
Unfortunately, many good things all come to an end and this is exactly what has happened in my own council-West Lothian Council. This academic year has seen the introduction of fees for instrumental tuition in both primary and secondary schools across the whole county. This has had a detrimental effect on my local council’s children. Fees for instrumental tuition has seen a staggering rise from £0 per year to £350 a year. This clearly puts many families in extremely difficult situations and in my personal opinion, only widens the poverty related attainment gap. Shouldn’t we be moving towards closing the gap?! I am very saddened to hear of specific cases of young children who have had to give the hobby up-simply due to the cost their families cannot afford.
So what can we do? Well, I’m hopeful that as a teacher myself one day, I will be able to do something-even if something small. I firmly believe that as educators we should be fighting for the funding for these fantastic services so as we can give our children the future they deserve. If I greatly benefited from the free instrumental tuition, why shouldn’t my younger siblings and the many, many other children in the county? We should be working towards giving our children even more than what we had, certainly not less. As a teacher one day, I hope to not only fight for free tuition and funding for other tremendous performing arts programmes but also hope to have my own entirely free music and music literature classes for every single child in my classroom.
To conclude, I could probably write an entire extended essay on how the performing arts are such a remarkable and essential aspect of a child’s life and if that doesn’t show it’s fantastic worth, I don’t know what does. Perhaps the real-life stories and accounts of our young people?
Dundee Schools Musical Theatre Presents: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jissu5cF-ZE