A second-hand piano and free lessons led to glittering prizes for 'a musician's musician'. Jeremy Sutcliffe reports
Anne Dudley is a musician's musician. She's worked with everyone from Tina Turner to Jimmy Nail, and from Annie Lennox to Pulp.
As a session musician, composer, arranger and producer, her work is renowned in the music business. Her orchestral arrangements and distinctive use of keyboards were behind the success of top-selling 1980s hits such as ABC's The Lexicon of Love and Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Relax.
Her string arrangements can be heard on records by Rod Stewart and the Spice Girls, while her own band, the Art of Noise, has produced collaborative hits with Max Headroom and Tom Jones.
But while her name has long been known in the best rock households, it is her work for films that has brought her to the attention of millions. Last month Hollywood recognised her talent, awarding her an Oscar for best original musical score for The Full Monty.
Her achievements put her in the forefront of Britain's music and film industries, the twin peaks of the country's booming entertainment business closely associated with New Labour's efforts to rebrand UK plc as Cool Britannia.
Consequently, her views on the state of school music are likely to attract attention. In particular, she is critical of the Government's plans to allow primary schools to cut back on music in favour ofliteracy and numeracy.
"It's back-to-front," she says. "More time should be spent on music and less time on the 3Rs. We are talking about the youngest children and we should be spending time fostering their creativity. If you miss the boat in primary schools they are never going to want to be creative."
Anne's interest in school music stems from her own positive experience. "I went to an ordinary primary school in south-east London. I started to learn the recorder - lessons were offered to everyone and they were free.
"Then my parents bought a second-hand piano and I started piano lessons. At that time the Inner London Education Authority had a scheme where if anybody showed any musical aptitude, their lessons were subsidised. This meant I was able to have free lessons. All my parents had to pay for was sheet music.
"When I was about l0 I won a junior exhibitionship to the Royal College of Music, which meant I attended on Saturday morning for four hours of orchestral play, musical theory and instrumental lessons. The ILEA paid for all of that."
She went on to take a bachelor of music degree, gaining the highest marks in her year, before going on to complete a master's.
Anne began a freelance career as a session musician, specialising on keyboards. Her breakthrough came with ABC's album The Lexicon of Love, a number-one smash in the early 1980s.
Since then, she has not looked back, and has an impressive list of film and television credits to add to her work in the pop industry, including The Crying Game and Kavanagh QC.
Inevitably, though, most attention is on her work for The Full Monty. "It came about in the same way as most jobs come about. The producer approached me. He said, 'I don't know if you will be interested in this story about six steel workers who do their own Chippendales act'.
"I said, 'It sounds awful'. But I went to see it, and five or 10 minutes into the film I changed my mind and decided it was about much more than men taking their clothes off."
Anne had no expectation that the film would be such a big box office hit. But she does know a thing or two about success and how inspiring children can play a crucial part in fostering talent.
She has first-hand experience of the difficulties primary schools face through her six-year-old daughter's village school inHertfordshire, saying:
"Like all schools they do not have enough money for music."
She has got together several local musicians who put on concerts to raise money to buy instruments and subsidise instrumental tuition.
Parental support is one thing. She also has a message for the Education and Culture Secretaries. "I would love for David Blunkett and Chris Smith to listen to what all those professional music teachers have been telling them.
"I would not be anyone without music teachers. I've had some wonderful music teachers in my time. But now there's less money to pay for peripatetic teachers, so consequently they have to do other things. There's a real crisis here and something needs to be done.
"I always liked that quote from Nietzsche: 'There would be life without music, but it would not be worth it.' I think music is essential because it enriches our lives.
"But also our music industry is one of the most important in the world. We should celebrate our musical prowess. We are good at it and we should make sure we continue to be good at it."