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Did James Rhodes save music education?

2nd December 2014

Television campaigns are a great way of launching arts projects, but what happens when the cameras stop rolling? Charlotte Gardner investigates the current state of musical education in schools following James Rhodes’ high-profile instrument amnesty earlier this year. Has the campaign made a lasting difference?

Music education is getting plenty of attention in the press, thanks to a campaign by luminaries from TV pianist James Rhodes to head of In Harmony Julian Lloyd Webber. In September, Rhodes used a two-part Channel Four documentary to try and do for school music what Jamie Oliver did for school dinners in 2005. Despite the 2011 National Plan for Music, which led to the shake-up of the old system and the creation of Music Hubs, Rhodes claimed that the government ‘has not kept its promises’ on music education. He launched an Instrument Amnesty, in which the public was invited to donate unwanted musical instruments, to be passed on to schools after being reconditioned by experts at Universal Music and Yamaha.

Two months on, the success, not to mention the sheer speed, of the campaign, is impressive. Over 6,000 instruments were handed in to the 700 Oxfam stores acting as collection points. The instruments were then matched to specific requests from 150 primary schools across the UK, and delivered by Yodel. Each school has received up to 20 appropriately-sized instruments.

One of the recipient schools, Larkholme Primary, in Fleetwood, Lancashire, requested brass instruments and was presented with six cornets, a euphonium, and two piano accordions. ‘We really wanted brass, but we said we’ll give anything a go’, says class teacher and music co-ordinator Margaret Carradus, who aims to get a brass band going. ‘The piano accordions are very exciting and we’re going to give it a bash.’

Read more on the Sinfini website