A Childhood Without Music Isn't Childhood

I’m terrible at remembering things, particularly words. It’s always been an issue when trying to scratch together a career in communications or singing in a band. It’s made for some interesting gigs though. My wife watching me replace entire verses with a description of last night’s dinner is a particular favourite of hers.

However, there’s always been an anomaly, a line from a book which has become etched into my consciousness. It’s from Graham Greene’s Ways of Escape and goes as follows:

“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”

Now, possibly more than ever, these words strike a chord. Writing, playing music, composition – they aren’t frivolous activities of the indulged, they are a necessity – something long since forgotten in our education system.

As a child I was lucky enough to be surrounded by music – or at least a family that appreciated its importance. Dad playing Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath on Sunday afternoons whilst Mum played Bowie and The Sparks. At school our fierce-faced music teacher, Dr Anwyl, laboured us through lessons where we sat around clanging triangles in dusty classrooms or learnt the words to some nineteenth century hymn.

This was the mid-nineties in a small mining town in the East Midlands. It wasn’t perfect, far from it, but the fundamental principles of expression were still encouraged, it was as much part of the learning process as, say, Technology or French. Not anymore. A recent study by the University of Sussex suggests that music could ‘face extinction’ in some schools with “the majority of teachers in state schools warning of a stark drop in pupils studying the subject”. This is hugely worrying.

As a long term sufferer of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) – the result of the death of my brother – creative expression is, for me, as important as medical attention. Creativity opens up neurological doors…

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