YolanDa Brown: Music education 'creates more well-rounded people'

By Kev Geoghegan
Arts and entertainment reporter

The CBeebies PromImage source, Guy Levy
Image caption,
The CBeebies Prom was held over the weekend

Jazz star YolanDa Brown says pressure must be brought to bear on politicians to understand the social benefits of music education.

The presenter and musician was speaking at the CBeebies Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Monday.

In March, the BPI said English state schools have seen a 21% drop in music provision in the last five years.

"It's not just learning notes or ticking things we can get a grade in, it's part of our wellbeing," she said.

"It's part of our personal development, team-working, understanding cultures and people and the education system and the powers that be [need to] understand that it creates more well rounded people."

Brown presents YolanDa's Band Jam on the children's channel - in which the award-winning saxophonist invites musical guests to play along with her band in front of a live audience.

"We all listen to music, to relax, to enjoy, to communicate, to dance, to allow our emotions out," Brown said. "It's not even a case of 'Oh, should we offer it?' We need it to survive."

Image source, Guy Levy
Image caption,
The event had a space theme, coinciding with the anniversary of the moon landing

This year's CBeebies Prom, which was hosted by several well-known presenters from the channel, co-coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing and had a space theme, featuring music pieces by the likes of Benjamin Britten, Jess Montgomery and Aaron Copeland's Fanfare for the Common Man.

The centrepiece was the world premiere of a brand new piece of music by Blue Planet II composer Hans Zimmer, Earth, which combined orchestration with vocal work from the BBC Singers.

Image source, Guy Levy
Image caption,
Yolanda Brown (centre) said music education forms "part of our personal development"

"That's quite an emotional moment, it has to be my favourite," says presenter Maddie Moate.

"I think what's so wonderful about this, it's been done in a really positive way. We're celebrating Earth, we tee it up by saying we want to keep our planet safe and look after it. There's nothing scary about it."

Moate presents the science and learning series Do You Know, which shows children how everyday objects work.

"I was thrilled when I saw the script and I saw that they had put actually quite a few moments of learning in there," she said. "I was ecstatic about the fact I get to talk about how rockets work and gravity and about how the astronauts actually landed on the moon.

"To put that inside a classical concert in the Royal Albert Hall for me, was an absolute treat."

Image source, Guy Levy
Image caption,
Families were treated to the world premiere of a brand new piece of music by Hans Zimmer

In March, a BPI report said just one in four schools in deprived areas in England offered music lessons.

In Scotland, MSPs recommended music tuition should be provided free of charge in schools, with some councils introducing charges of up to £524 per pupil.

"I know that music and the art subjects are being systematically stripped out of all of our schools," said Chi-chi Nwanoku, the founder of Chineke, the UK's first majority-BAME orchestra - which also performed at this year's Cbeebies Prom.

"That always hits the kids who go to the free schools."

A Department for Education spokesperson said in March: "Arts education programmes receive more money than any subject other than PE", adding the department will be working with music groups and practitioners "to refresh the national plan for music education".

Speaking after Monday's Prom, YolanDa Brown added: "I think the onus is on the industry for us to be able to provide these type of concerts with this brilliant quality and really engaging content as well.

"The schools will have to follow because the children are going to go back after the summer holidays saying 'I went to this amazing Prom, why can't we have music like that in our schools?' And maybe we reverse it and create demand."