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Why Nicola Benedetti is off-key on music teaching

Those who can should teach; those of us who are international virtuoso violinists should be careful where they lend their celebrity. Nicola Benedetti makes four points in the piece published in TESS last week ("Violinist urges schools to tune up musical education") which I would like to qualify or refute.

First, I agree that students should not expect music lessons to be "fun" and other subjects not. This is bizarre on both counts. I have never got over the excitement of cutting up a paper triangle to prove that its sides formed a straight line and thus added up to 180 degrees. Similarly, I often have to explain to my music students that this is a school, not a holiday camp.

Second, she supports Sistema Scotland, but this initiative reaches relatively few people and no one could afford for it to be nationwide. Based on Venezuela's excellent El Sistema, this high-profile and costly scheme has been dropped into a few areas in the UK, in some cases displacing a local inclusive music project.

Third, Ms Benedetti's comments on how schools can teach music are naive. She is right in saying that schools do not have a large music budget. But they need a specialist music coordinator, a dedicated room where music can go on all day uninterrupted, and for the role of music not to be constantly questioned.

Fourth, I wholeheartedly agree that children should listen to classical music, but how you introduce it is a complex affair, in which the life story of any particular white male European composer does not need to feature. In an hour-a-week's lesson, the music should speak for itself.

Victoria Jaquiss

Music teacher, steel band leader and fellow of the Royal Society of Arts

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Letters for publication in TESS should arrive by 10am Monday. Send your letters, ideally of no more than 250 words in length, including contact address and phone number, by email to or by post to TES Scotland, Thistle House, 21-23 Thistle Street, Edinburgh EH2 1DF. Letters may be edited

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