Visiting my local woodwind instrument repair shop I was saddened to hear that they will be closing in the summer. This I am told is caused by fewer children learning traditional instruments alongside the decline in instrument provision in schools.
Where instrument learning is provided by the school the parents are usually expected to foot the bill and for many this makes having lessons prohibitive. Government funding over the past three years has been declining and music is fast becoming the preserve of those people who can afford it.
This is combined with the problem that it is frequently no longer considered fashionable for children to learn instruments such as the french horn, bassoon and tuba.
The get famous quick attraction of programmes such as the X Factor and The Voice detracts from the daily graft that is required in order to become an accomplished instrumentalist.
However, the number of pupils learning the guitar and drums is increasing as children seek to emulate popular bands and there has been a huge increase in the number of children wanting to play the ukulele!
The ukulele with its four strings – as opposed to the guitar’s six – is easy to play and smaller to carry around than the guitar. It also has the appeal of a large amount of 20th century music available to you once you have mastered a few chords and is easy to play in groups. It continues to grow in popularity in primary school and there is increased interest for lessons in secondary schools. One of the examination boards tells me the main problem now is that there are lots of people playing and they do not have enough suitable repertoire for it in the examination syllabus!
My instrument repairer will be setting up at home once his shop has closed and so all is not lost as nothing will replace the personal attention of an expert testing for leaks on my clarinet with the trusted cigarette paper and oh the delicious smell of burning shellac!