Music teaching at my school consisted largely of arguing with the teacher about the comparative merits of Vivaldi and Depeche Mode, in a feeble attempt to persuade her to let us listen to Tainted Love on the cassette player instead of the Four Seasons.
Unfortunately, this usually ended in the poor teacher sobbing quietly in the corner of the room whilst a mob of girls performed a rousing chorus of ‘Ohhh, tainted love’.
Given that the school I attended nurtured such musical talents as Geri Halliwell, it is a surprise that our introduction to live music consisted largely of a teacher dragging us to the local church for a lunchtime of organ recital fun.
I can only imagine that the plus side to such an excursion was that we missed out on a compulsory cross country run.
I am sure that musical instruments were taught at the school (although at a cost too huge for my folks to cough up) but I saw little evidence of it.
Recorders (or ‘gobsticks’), on the other hand, were readily available for all girls to puff and squeak Three Blind Mice on.
I became particularly adept at the recorder and was allowed to play the tenor and bass recorder as well. Unfortunately these instruments did not lend themselves to playing any popular songs from the New Romantic era.
Consequently, my musical career did not take off and I never have played the Royal Albert Hall. But I am thrilled to see my own children being encouraged to sing, play and compose at their own schools.
My older daughter in particular has a very good ear for music and her school has an exceptional music department. The other week parents were invited to an evening of musical performance put on by the pupils to showcase their various talents.
The girls didn’t have to audition for the show, just have the courage to stand up in front of the audience and play or sing their chosen tune.
The standard was very high and I reflected how I would have had real trouble performing with my gobstick in that environment.
Just a few days after this I was treated to an evening at the Portsmouth Schools Glee Competition at the Guildhall.
Again, children of differing abilities stood on the big stage, in front of a large audience and sang their hearts out. Their academic ability or economic background was of no concern; their courage and dedication was all that mattered.
There is little doubt that music can play an important part in building a child’s confidence, especially if they struggle with other parts of academic and social life. So it was notable that I should read the day after the Glee competition that Michael Gove is spending £375,000 on sending a King James Bible to every state school in the country, at the same time as reorganising the way music is delivered to schools. This reorganisation, although it has some benefits, is expected to occur with a severe cut in funding.
Portsmouth, with the support of the amazing Becky Hill, has a rich culture of music in schools. Let’s hope that this is not squandered by funding cuts or I might be forced to get my gobstick out again in protest.