Letter from Nicolas Chisholm MBE to Cllr Standley and MP Maria Caufield
Letter from a parent
This reply is addressed to Lucy Morgan-Jones, Head Of East Sussex Music, except for the last paragraph, which is intended for Councillor Bob Standley. So if you are Mr. Standley, feel free to skip the rest. Except you shouldn’t, because the rest may interest you.
Dear Ms Morgan-Jones,
Our daughter, Miranda (16) is an accomplished cellist. She led Handel String Orchestra for a year, led East Sussex String Chamber Orchestra for a year, got up to grade 5 in cello (merit) and did grade 5 theory (merit), doing grade 7 in the summer, She is now in East Sussex Youth Orchestra and she’s been in South Downs Youth Orchestra for three years. She got accepted into ESAM and plans on going there next year. She started sax less than two years ago and she’s already on the tenor at grade 5 standard. She’ll be doing the East Sussex advanced wind ensemble this summer. She is in a quartet and has been for five years, which is now going to play in one of the Sussex University concerts. She cannot conceive her life without music, and this got her through the challenges and turbulence of High School and her teenage years.
None of that would have happened without the instrumental teaching service. I will not bore you with details, though we are more than willing to elaborate, if needed, on how the service you propose to close was essential to each step of her education. She wouldn’t be a musician without the instrumental teaching service. More: she wouldn’t be a relatively happy, stable teenager without the instrumental teaching service. We know for a fact that she is not an exception.
We are not lobbying for any part in what I’m sure is a conflict of larger proportions that the ones suggested in your email. But as a family, we are deeply indebted to the faculty and staff at the Music Service and we have to tell you this:
1. We believe that closing one of the very few educational schemes that actually work in this country is a mistake. Unless it is done intentionally to level everything down, in which case it may not be a mistake but it’s probably even worse.
2. One thing is clear: there is no rhetorical turn in the known universe that could reasonably describe the closure of the instrumental teaching service as A new vision and way forward for the Music Service.
2a. (Which leads us to a marginal but potentially significant consequence of your email: your email is demonstrably untrue. We read it. Then we read the proposal. Your email is intentionally misleading and presents several things as the opposite of what they actually are, which, in the vernacular, is known as lying. If we were Mr Standley (is he reading at this point? We don’t know) we would feel the need to take this as an additional obstacle to accept your proposal. Lying is not nice, in general, but doing it as a civil servant should probably disqualify any proposal you may be pushing.
3. We understand the financial challenges faced by the County Council, but the history of democracy is filled with examples of polling and consultation that make your PowerPoint approach, Miss Morgan-Jones, incredibly inappropriate. If you have a proposal for a scheme that will impoverish the lives of thousands of children, please do state it as such and we may be willing to listen. (We won’t like it, but we will listen.) But please don’t try to sell us a damaging act as benign policy, because that’s just mean and demeaning to everyone, especially to yourself.
Dear Mr. Standley: this is insane and it has to stop. The music service works, when almost everything else doesn’t. It is exactly the kind of thing that made us choose England as a place to raise our daughter. Schemes like the instrumental teaching service are increasingly rare and you should be proud of it. This change would harm teachers and students. Who would benefit? Miss Morgan-Jones, perhaps, but she probably shouldn’t (see above). We hope that you can find alternative proposals of funding in consultation with the public.
At your service for anything else you may need,
Letter from a grandparent
Frankly, I have a tin ear for music. I’m an HR director and I don’t need to hold a tune, which is just as well. But that doesn’t mean that I think it doesn’t matter. I have grandchildren in Rye and Hastings. I’ve just written to several County Councillors….
I am writing to say how disturbed I am about the proposed closure of the East Sussex Music Service. I have spent my long career working in HR management in and around the creative sector – advertising, theatre, animation, film special effects, you name it – and I know how important it is. Our children and grandchildren are growing up in a world where anything that can be automated will be automated. Many of the jobs that they are being educated for right now will have disappeared by the time they get there. One of the few areas left where humans will still be better than the machines is creativity. But effective creativity also requires the discipline of practice. And what is an excellent way to instil both the creative spark and discipline from an early age? Music.
As an employer, I am less and less interested in the formal qualifications of the candidates that I recruit. Rote learning is useless in a world with Google, and where skills date so quickly. Frankly, any degree more than 10 years old doesn’t tell me anything about that person’s potential for contributing to a business. What I am always looking for are the soft skills. Being able to collaborate, to have confidence and the ability to learn something new are at a premium, and I will always want to hire the people that have them. And what is an excellent way to gain those qualities from an early age? Music.
The arts and music in schools are not frivolous extras that we can afford to push out of the curriculum in favour of the eternal STEM subjects, important as those are. The creative industries year on year in Britain outperform the rest of the economy, contributing £92billion of Gross Value Added last year. Britain is the second largest exporter of music after the US. It’s something that we as a country do very, very well. In many areas the UK is genuinely the world leader.
Why should our County’s children be left behind? Why should they have a more limited range of career and social options for the future than children from other areas?
I hope that you can persuade your colleagues on the County Council to reconsider this disastrous and short-sighted idea.