Cuts threaten Wales' musical reputation - Karl Jenkins

Composer Karl Jenkins told BBC Wales he fears that music tuition will become the preserve of the rich

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A leading composer has renewed his warning that Wales' reputation as a musical nation will decline with further cuts to youth music services.

Karl Jenkins told BBC Wales he also feared that music tuition would become the preserve of the rich.

His comments follow plans by cash-strapped councils to cut music funding.

Flintshire council has already made cuts while other authorities including Newport are planning to reduce their financial support.

Mr Jenkins, from Penclawdd, near Swansea, is said to be the UK's most popular contemporary composer and was previously a member of jazz and prog rock bands in the 1970s, including Soft Machine.

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Wales' reputation as a musical nation will decline, I'm sure”

End Quote Karl Jenkins Composer and musician

He has spoken previously about his concerns for music teaching.

In 2008, he was concerned that funding to enable young people to learn to play instruments had been cut and was no longer ring fenced, while in 2010 he spoke out about the future of school music funding.

He said the latest cuts showed a lack of vision.

"I think it's quite deplorable actually," said Mr Jenkins, who is a fellow and associate of the Royal Academy of Music and a fellow of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

"This issue was raised in Germany quite recently and the federal governments there increased funding to the arts, and when this question was raised the answer was: 'Well, we're investing in the cultural future of our nation.'

"When I came through the system 40 years ago I went to the local grammar school [and] music tuition was free for my chosen instrument which was the oboe.

Young musicians in concert outside Newport council offices Young musicians staged a protest concert outside Newport council offices earlier this month

"All instrumental teaching was free, peripatetic teaching, and then onto the West Glamorgan Youth Orchestra, National Youth Orchestra of Wales, which was the first national youth orchestra in the world.

"That's going to disappear eventually if young children don't have the facility and opportunity to learn instruments."

He said music teaching was crucial to the well-being of the nation.

The composer, who has worked with the likes of opera singer Bryn Terfel and the Royal Ballet, is also concerned that poorer families could miss out, with only wealthy parents able to afford music lessons.

"Wales' reputation as a musical nation will decline, I'm sure," he added. "Instrumental teaching will disappear almost completely, one would think."

Protesters perform

Young musicians staged a concert outside Newport council offices earlier this month in protest at the authority's plan to cut its contribution to the Gwent Music Support Service (GMSS) budget. GMSS teaches pupils to play instruments, organises orchestras and bands, and provides practice facilities.

The cost is shared between Newport, which contributes £290,000, Torfaen (£220,000) and Monmouthshire (£260,000) councils.

Newport council has said it recognised the value of music but needs to concentrate on frontline education.

Other authorities across Wales have already cut or are considering cuts to music education.

There are no council-funded music lessons in Powys at the moment and no directly funded lessons in Carmarthenshire. Flintshire cut £177,000 or around 30% of its budget at its last round of savings.

Many Welsh councils are said to be considering more cuts this year.

Newport council said it was consulting on a number of proposals to help tackle a shortfall of more than £8m in next year's budget. It said it had to make choices in challenging economic times and these become increasingly difficult.

Carmarthenshire council said after talks schools would directly fund the peripatetic music teaching in the future "according to their (schools) use of the service".

Flintshire council said it provided a service which offered music tuition on a wide range of instruments to learners in primary and secondary schools.

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