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Sadiq Khan: 'Protect music education at all costs'

We must ensure that children from all backgrounds have access to an enriching music education, writes London's mayor

We need to bring music education into early years settings, says Arts Council boss

We must ensure that children from all backgrounds have access to an enriching music education, writes London's mayor

It was heartening to see previous winners of the BBC’s Young Musician prize unite in calling for every primary school child to have the right to learn how to play an instrument at no cost to them or their families. I strongly support this vitally important campaign, because I want the lives of more young Londoners to be touched by the magic of music.

Music is found on every continent, in every culture and – by extension – in every corner of our open and diverse city. While its enduring appeal to us all might remain one of science’s great mysteries, we know of its power to bring people together and not just to reflect or change moods, but to broaden horizons and transform lives.

That’s why I’m very proud of the work of the London Music Fund, of which I am patron.

The London Music Fund was set up to support music education in the capital. It works in partnership with every London music hub, offering four-year scholarships to children from low-income families, and supporting wider collaborations which allow young musicians to learn from and perform alongside professionals in iconic venues. We’ve distributed more than £2 million and awarded 450 scholarships. Sixty-five per cent of these children are from BAME backgrounds.

These initiatives really work – giving disadvantaged young Londoners a unique opportunity to make the most of their talents. Young Londoners like 11-year old Tyrone, one of the more recently supported students from Newham who learns the cello and is in his final year at Scott Wilkie Primary School in Custom House. He is playing at grade 8 level after just over two years of learning, and has a place at the Royal College of Music Junior Department.

Music 'transforms lives'

That’s what the London Music Fund is all about – unlocking talent and giving young people the chance to discover music, develop skills and pursue their dreams.

This year, we’ve contributed more than £150,000 to the fund to support a four-year scholarship for one young person in each of London’s boroughs.

There’s no question that in London – and Britain – we punch above our weight in the global music industry. This is down to our incredible artists, incredible venues and the most vibrant music scene anywhere in the world. But we need to ensure that everyone can access the benefits of music.

I’ve always said that one of my big regrets is that I never got the chance to learn how to play an instrument when growing up. I don’t want others to miss out – especially if their opportunities are limited simply by virtue of the school they attend or the postcode attached to their estate. 

Of course, not every child who learns to play an instrument will go on to become a star. But that doesn’t diminish the potential that music has to enrich their lives. Music helps to develop skills, build confidence and encourage personal growth – and all the evidence shows that those who get involved in music, the arts and culture at an early age perform better in other subjects, too. 

We must protect music education at all costs, and ensure children from all backgrounds are able to enjoy the benefits of high-quality music tuition. If only the lucky few are able to access it, we risk overlooking truly talented individuals, placing our status as a global music capital in jeopardy and – perhaps more worryingly – robbing young Londoners of a chance to realise their full potential.

Sadiq Khan is the mayor of London

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