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David Lister – “Benedetti is right to say children should have classical music forced on them”

19th May 2015

You will eat your greens, tidy your room, and listen to Beethoven’s violin concerto.

Should listening to classical music be something that parents force their children to do? Nicola Benedetti, the violin virtuoso, says it should. When Nicola Benedetti talks, I listen. I’ve met her and have found the passion and intensity she brings to her playing is present in her personality, and is applied most to music education, about which she is evangelical and devotes an enormous amount of her time, particularly in her native Scotland. But for many, her latest plea to parents might seem extreme.

She said this week that children should be forced by their parents to listen to classical music rather than play video games. It will teach them “life lessons” and enhance their appreciation of beauty, she said. She added that at school the symphonies of the great composers should be just as indispensable as core parts of the curriculum such as great literary works or maths.  “Needing the child’s approval for what they do in school is just such an alien concept when you’re talking about maths, science, history or English, but suddenly when you bring music into the mix it’s ‘oh no, we can’t show them anything that they don’t instantly love because that would be like forcing children into something they don’t want to do.’ It just bemuses me.”

The bemused Benedetti has certainly given me food for thought. No parent would allow a child to say he or she was having nothing to do with maths or reading because it did not interest them. But we would all probably balk at “forcing” children to listen to classical music or indeed “forcing” them to partake in any of the arts, Gentle encouragement tends to be the way, a visit to the theatre as an occasional treat, a piece of classical music playing in the background or in the car.

But if one believes that classical music, and the arts in general, extend the sensibilities and enhance appreciation of life, then why actually are we so coy about insisting rather than hoping that they form a part of every child’s upbringing at school and at home?

Ironically, Benedetti probably has more hope of classical music becoming a core activity at home than at school. I see little chance of the government changing the core curriculum to include symphonies. So it’s on the nation’s parents that Benedetti has to work. No pressure then. But I can see her making some inroads, particularly if she were given a TV series to make her case. Most of all, it needs all of us to change our mind set – to accept that if we love an art form and believe it can change lives, no matter how “difficult” it is perceived to be, then it is not a burden to “force” it upon children. It is doing them an enormous favour.

Read more on the Independent website