The day the music dies...

31st October 2003 at 00:00
...when a child's first attempts to sing or play an instrument are ridiculed by an adult. Helen Ward reports

Television's Fame Academy vocal coach Carrie Grant is a woman who is passionate about teaching the world to sing.

Mrs Grant has coached Victoria Beckham and Charlotte Church. As a session singer, she worked with Diana Ross and Rod Stewart.

Now she is backing research which says children can be put off music for life by parents or teachers mocking their early efforts.

Mrs Grant, whose husband David is also a coach and judge on the BBC programme, said: "Comments made in childhood are one of the main obstacles to people being able to sing well.

"David and I spend most of our lessons trying to get people over such comments. Singing is 90 per cent confidence.

"People like Alex (the winner of this year's Fame Academy) are probably born with talent. Many people in bands aren't like that, but they have worked hard and through working hard have come to be in the industry today.

"I think most people could enjoy singing. Everybody has it in them to do that."

Her comments came as a study from London university's institute of education this week said unease about music in adults could usually be traced back to a disapproving experience in childhood.

It recommended all primary teachers should be trained in helping pupils explore music-making and said secondary music teachers should tap into the music that already interests their pupils are and show then how it compares to other types of music.

Graham Welch, professor of music education, who co-authored the study, said: "There is a real mismatch between pupils' genuine interest and the structure of the curriculum.

"Why don't lots more people take up music when it becomes optional at 14? Fourteen to 16-year-olds listen to music for five or six hours a day - they are real consumers.

"If we are all musical, why should we have an educational system that lets people move into adulthood believing they are not musical, because they have had inappropriate experiences?"

His co-author Pauline Adams, a lecturer at the institute, said: "Childhood is a critical period for musical development and perceptions of musical disability can be lifelong.

"Parents should encourage and share musical experiences with their children from the earliest age, and teachers should make time for musical activities that are creative and fun."

Professor Welch was due to talk about his research yesterday at the first of eight music seminars organised by Janet Mills, of the Royal College of Music, to bring together researchers, policymakers and teachers.

How is Music Learning Celebrated and Developed? is part of the newly-launched Professional User Reviews series published by the British Educational Research Association. The music report and other reviews of research into numeracy, geography, citizenship, early years, ICT and education for sustainable development are available from BERA: 01636 819090 or email admin.bera@btclick.comFor more seminar information visit

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