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Top musicians warn of 'decay' of instrument learning

Being able to read and make music should be a 'universal right', say BBC Young Musician of the Year winners

Instrument learning: every child should have access to musical instruments

Being able to read and make music should be a 'universal right', say BBC Young Musician of the Year winners

A group of top musicians have launched a campaign to ensure all primary school children are given the chance to learn to play an instrument without it costing their families.

The musicians, all past winners of the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition, say being able to read and make music should be a "universal right", and are calling on the government to protect the future of music.

In a letter to the Observer, the group, which includes oboist and conductor Nicholas Daniel, violinist Nicola Benedetti, and cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, warn instrumental music learning is being "left to decay" in many British schools.

They write: "We are all deeply concerned that...it could seriously damage the future of music here and jeopardise British music's hard-won worldwide reputation.

"It is crucial to restore music's rightful place in children's lives, not only with all the clear social and educational benefits but showing them the joy of making and sharing music.

"We are especially concerned that this should be a universal right."

The group highlight the Every Child a Musician project in the London Borough of Newham, which gifts all primary school children in the area a free instrument and teaches them how to read and play music in weekly lessons, as an example that could be expanded.

Former acting Labour leader Harriet Harman, who is backing the campaign in Parliament, said austerity should not be prioritised over equality.

She told the paper: "The problem is that it's just a postcode and class lottery, and it shouldn't be like that.

"We can't say that, because of austerity, we will just accept inequality."

The Department for Education told the paper the government was investing nearly £500 million in music and arts education programmes between 2016 and 2020, including £300 million for a network of music education hubs, whose responsibilities include ensuring that every child aged between 5 and 18 has the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument.

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