Musical miner is top of the brass

A former miner's dream of becoming a music teacher and leading a school brass band has come true - but is now threatened by a funding crisis.

Eight years ago, in the former pit village of Gwaun Cae Gurwen, at the foot of the Black Mountains, only five children were learning to play musical instruments.

Now, thanks to ex-miner Wayne Pedrick, the support of the West Glamorgan Music Service and cash from the Assembly government's music development fund (MDF), more than 100 pupils are learning a variety of brass and percussion instruments.

Mr Pedrick said: "I had learned to play in the village silver band. I went to the primary school where my son had just finished and offered to teach brass as a volunteer." He also approached Phil Emmanuel, of the West Glamorgan Music Service, for help.

"He managed to find 12 instruments and we were able to get more children to start learning," said Mr Pedrick. "We started a band and entered the Urdd Eisteddfod.

"Once we had done the first Eisteddfod, other primary schools contacted me and asked if I could go and teach in them as well. Phil Emmanuel agreed to supply all the extra instruments needed and pay me as a part-time teacher."

But it was tough going for Mr Pedrick, giving lessons in the morning, then working at a local private mine in the afternoon.

In 2000, Mr Pedrick became a full-time peripatetic music teacher and also completed a brass music degree at Sheffield university.

He set up the Cwmtawe youth band, and as numbers grew a training band and junior band followed. More than 100 youngsters from schools in the Swansea and Amman valleys are involved.

Luke Griffiths and Owain Thomas, both 15, are in the trombone section of the youth band. Luke attends Cwmtawe comprehensive, and Owain is at Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera.

"I took it up in junior school," said Luke. "I like being in the band. We both also play in our school orchestras."

Lydia Williams, 14, of Ystradgynlais, plays the cornet and is also in the orchestra at Ystalyfera.

"We have made lots of new friends with kids from the other schools," said Lydia. "It's fun but we also enjoy playing."

Mr Pedrick believes none of this could have happened without the West Glamorgan Music Service and cash from the music development fund, as a good cornet costs pound;800 and a tuba can be pound;3,000.

The Assembly government, however, has cut MDF funding from pound;3.5m a year to pound;1.9m and also removed its ring-fencing. There are fears that the money will disappear into councils' general budgets and not re-emerge to fund musical tuition and buying instruments.

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