A dozen toddlers making music with an assortment of unusual instruments was a joyful sound for a Monday morning in Spalding.
The children were at Acorn Childcare in Cross Street where principal Kathy Holmes, a classically trained musician, says music is an important element to every activity.
However, 60 unwanted cellos reportedly sent back from Spalding schools to the county council’s storeroom tells a rather sorrier tale about the state of music in education.
Glenis Malkin, a professional cellist and cello teacher for over 25 years, says she has watched with sadness the decline in take-up in learning to play traditional orchestral instruments in schools.
She said: “Whole-class provision was heavily promoted by the county council music service in schemes which, on paper, make the figures for children learning instruments in schools look incredible. But in reality, while fun in the short-term, very little educational value for the children comes from it. Schools had to buy instruments, but as the scheme for each has come to an end, those schools now have instruments that no one uses.
“That, combined with rising costs for one-to-one and small-group tuition, meant uptake dwindled and around 60 cellos alone went back to the county council storeroom from Spalding.”
Kathy was a product of that system, studying piano to Grade 7 as well as violin as she was growing up, and teaching music to young children in turn. She chose not to take it further, describing herself as a “reluctant performer”.
Her own daughters all proved to be musical, from the oldest, Emily, who likes to sing, to Jen, Elle and Jess, who all learned violin and performed in the county orchestra. Kathy says Jen in particular, assistant principal at the nursery, is a “gifted musician”.
Kathy says: “My girls were all part of the school orchestra system and sometimes that was too much. They found it a strain and they didn’t choose to follow it through after school.”
Yet there are benefits – both educationally and socially – to learning an instrument, recognised by both Glenis and Kathy, with links to increased language development, maths and problem-solving abilities as well as improved physical coordination and sociability.
Kathy believes music should be about making “a joyful noise” and says: “I feel very strongly they don’t get enough experience of sounds in their lives. I remember early on being entranced by the rhythm of things. I feel passionately they should listen to classical music.
“It adds colour to their lives. I love to hear a little child absorbed in learning and singing a little song under their breath. It’s like their own little accompaniment to life.”