Music and talent: it is instrumental, my dear

1st October 2010 at 01:00

I read your article on the "instant stardom" culture in Britain with some interest ("They think, it's what I want, therefore I should have it", TES Magazine, September 17). This is exactly why what we peripatetic music teachers do is so absolutely vital.

I know that at times we are not the most popular of people, as we seem to breeze into school a few days a week, yank pupils out of their academic lessons, and then go again. However, I strongly feel that during the half-hour or so that we are with each of these children, there is an enormous amount of good that is being done.

The word "talent" gets used quite a bit these days as a part of the whole reality-TV syndrome. It's a word I use very sparingly, as it doesn't always mean very much. I do have pupils who seem to have "talent" and have a natural ability to find their way around the violin. Nevertheless, it is always the case that the pupils who do the most work at home and show consistent dedication are the ones who succeed.

Wanting good exam results, or really liking a certain piece, is not enough. Music exams are quite complex and require not only a technical knowledge of the instrument but also the ability to perform scales from memory, sight-read and answer aural questions.

I also have several pupils working through learning difficulties, including dyslexia. I am constantly amazed by the enthusiasm and determination of these young musicians as they spend hours and hours practising and preparing at home, on top of their schoolwork and extracurricular activities.

Achieving positive results through performing in concerts or taking music exams reinforces the idea that good things come from hard work. Pupils emerge terribly proud of themselves, with improved self-confidence.

As musicians and teachers, it is our job to promote these ideals and act as living examples of the link between effort and achievement. We might not be creating "the next big thing" or making our students famous, but that doesn't make what we do any less valuable.

Suzanne Evans, Teacher of violinviola, Tormead School, Guildford.

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