The importance of culture
Nicola Benedetti, the former BBC Young Musician of the Year who will perform three times during this season’s BBC proms, has spoken out about the importance of ‘a cultural identity for youth in this country’. She condemns the current obsession with celebrity, and extols the value of strong parenting and the development of young people’s capacity to work hard.
I agree. Focusing just on the power of music, I have seen so many young people benefit over the years as they have built their musical skills and developed their ability both to create and to appreciate music of all types. As a head of school which girls joined at 7 and, we hoped, remained until they were 18, one of the great pleasures of my role was to watch their developing musical maturity over the years – from the first hesitant notes at age 7 or 8 to some amazingly accomplished and moving performances ten years later. I was aware of how the girls’ lives were increasingly filled with multiple (often simultaneous) stimuli, and how, in the light of this, the ability some of them had to focus exclusively on one thing, to concentrate on that for stretches of time in the way practising a musical instrument requires, was so impressive. I hoped that this kind of practice and focus helped them to refine their concentration skills, and certainly helped them to learn the lesson that disciplined repetition paid off – in music as it did in sport, for example.
Music was strong in my school – and sport was, too. We were committed to the learning opportunities each provided, and to recognising the importance of working in groups and teams as well as achieving solo success; to the value of co-operation and communication; to overcoming nerves and dealing with success and failure with good grace and determination. And I know that so many of the parents of pupils in the school held the same conviction that this kind of educational experience beyond the classroom would serve their daughters well as they developed ‘character’ – an old-fashioned word that we are perhaps reluctant to use these days.
So I agree with Nicola Benedetti, and hope that all those families which continue to encourage their sons and daughters to engage with and to learn from cultural activity remain strong in their commitment.
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