The young are all ears

10th February 2006 at 00:00
During the Celtic Connections festival, I was in a venue on Sauchiehall Street listening to my teenage heroes, folk rockers Fairport Convention.

Not having seen them for some time, I was concerned that they might merely be going through the motions, a trepidation not diminished by the companionship of my 18 year-old son, ace music critic and scrutiniser of his old man's weird musical tastes.

I need not have worried. Comfortingly surrounded by fellow fiftysomething baldies, in hairy sweaters and dubious jackets, I was rewarded with a tour de force in which new songs and 30-year-old antiques were presented with vigour and musical verve.

As tends to happen, I was transported back to the front room of my best mate's family home on Merseyside in 1969 where, with lights out to aid concentration, we would listen to the latest album and argue well into the night about the relative merits of different tracks. The memories were far more vivid than they had any right to be after nearly 40 years, and it emphasised once more the power of music in our lives. It also set me off on an international journey.

Having been catapulted through time and space from present-day Glasgow to sixties Merseyside, I found myself back in school, thinking of the fabulous work done by our hugely talented music department. A large number of our pupils, ranging from the prodigiously accomplished to the aspirant, gain massively from their exposure to music - in self-esteem, in the challenge, in excellent exam results and in widening their horizons.

A good indicator is found in their joy as they perform at our concerts, and in the tears of pride and emotion on the faces of watching parents and grandparents.

These thoughts led me across the Atlantic and memories of the rage of my cousins at their state governor's decision to make music additional to the curriculum in their children's schools - an extra to be paid for by those who could afford it. They, too, had seen first hand how it can add immeasurably to a child's educational experience in so many ways.

Finally, courtesy of the television news, I was taken to Venezuela.

Remarkably, there are 250,000 young people playing regularly in state-sponsored orchestras. This has led not only to a huge explosion in musical talent, ambition and accomplishment, but has contributed greatly to a lessening in youth crime and antisocial behaviour, building on community values.

It is time to recognise fully the role of music in the development of our young people, time to harness its combination of self-discipline and creative energy and time to travel hopefully. From Asbo to oratario?

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