So play on

28th November 1997 at 00:00
It was dismay and anger that I read Peter Cope's article "Just pick up a fiddle and play" (TESS, October 24). Dismay that a distorted scenario was presented as being the norm and anger at the sound of yet another axe being ground.

According to the author only instruments which play the tune should be taught. Surely a little thought would lead to the realisation that every instrument can be played solo. To take an example, tuba players do not spend their lives playing band or orchestral parts. In a lifetime of teaching I have heard solos played by every standard orchestral instrument with the players coming from ensembles for their moment in the limelight.

The claim is made that classical music is the sole ingredient in the repertoire of school instrument pupils.

This is quite untrue. Teenagers would vote with their feet if presented with an unvarying repertoire.

To claim that Scottish pupils feel an immediate kinship with Scots traditional music is ingenuous. All styles of music are new to a first-time player and in most cases equally accepted. Teachers are keen to find new material as they become as bored as pupils with a restricted choice.

The most jaw-dropping statement is that "the goal implicit, or explicit is to produce a concert player". Every teacher knows instinctively when a pupil of high potential comes their way, but equally realises that the majority will not be of that calibre. The player with professional aspirations puts in the hours of practice voluntarily, while the majority do enough to keep the teacher off their backs.

To imply as Mr Cope does that moves towards concentration on Scottish ethnic music would raise participation levels above 10 per cent in school populations is also misleading. Sadly this figure occurs largely because of the availability of instruments and time allotted to instruction time in schools.

At a time when council spending cuts have placed instrumental teaching in schools in jeopardy, it is disappointing to read an article which contains so many errors, which the uninformed might be misguided enough to accept at face value.


Principal teacher of music

Auchmuty High School


Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today