Despite its inevitability, the UEA Council’s decision taken today to close the highly successful and popular School of Music is wrong and a sad indictment on our times. Vice Chancellors up and down the land are having to make difficult decisions in light of ill-thought through Government policy relating to HE funding. But the callousness, lies and deceit that surround this decision (there goes any chance of me working at UEA) are truly disgusting. All current staff and students at the School of Music deserved to be treated with dignity and respect; they weren’t. Alumni of the department (of which I am one), should take every opportunity to distance themselves from the University after this disgraceful decision. Let’s hope that alumni who have become public figures with a passion for music, e.g. Gareth Malone, speak out about this disgraceful turn of events. I would also hope that recent recipients of honorary degrees from the university return them (although I suspect neither or these things will happen).
More generally, as I have been writing about on this blog for some time, there is a concerted attack on music education in various forms across our country. Whether it be the closure of HEI music education departments (at least 3 in the last year), the closure of local music services (including the forthcoming sacking of all staff and their ‘redeployment’ as freelancers as in Leicestershire), the shutting of HEI music departments (e.g. UEA and Strathclyde with more to follow), the removal of a general music education from the curriculum in many primary and secondary schools and its replacement with private instrumental tuition, and more besides, wherever one turns examples of a comprehensive, systematic and developmental music education for all children are becoming harder to find. Instead, Music is actively marketed as something for young people who are ‘interested’ or ‘talented’.
Yet, our national music education organisations only seem interested in protecting their own backs. Last Friday there was a plethora of responses from these organisations to the Government’s recently published National Plan for Music Education. Most were sycophantic and self-servicing, focusing solely on how the plan might effect their chances of continued funding and engagement in new hubs. Why are they not speaking up about some of the atrocious cuts that are being made to music education across the country RIGHT NOW? Is it really a lack of knowledge, or lack of engagement, a lack of vision, or do they really not care?
Over the next few weeks numerous conferences and seminars will convene to discuss the implications of the National Plan for Music Education. These events are important. But, perhaps just for a moment, convenors and delegates at these events can pause, put their own self-interest to one side and consider the signficant losses the sector has already experienced before trying to cover their own backs and reconstitute their organisations for the inevitable reshuffling and repositioning that will follow. I’m sorry to say it, but many of these organisations should hang their heads in shame at their lack of action in recent months. You should and could have done better.