Nicola Benedetti and Sally Beamish back petition against music tuition fee rise

Violinist Nicola Benedetti. Picture: Robert Perry

Violinist Nicola Benedetti. Picture: Robert Perry

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TOP violinist Nicola Benedetti and renowned composer Sally Beamish have added their support to an online petition objecting to Stirling Council’s plans to double music tuition fees.

There are fears the tuition fees increase will impact on the Stirling Schools Orchestra and turn music into an elitist pastime.

Composer Sally Beamish

Composer Sally Beamish

If Labour/Conservative controlled Stirling Council approves the proposal later this month, pupils receiving tuition through the council’s Instrumental Music Service will see annual fees jump from £246 to £492.

The move is being considered as the council tries to rid itself of a potential £6.3 million overspend.

More than 1350 signatures have so far been added to the petition on Change.org, titled: “Ask Stirling Council to consider not increasing their instrumental music tuition fees by 100 per cent.”

Ms Beamish, 59, who lives in west Stirlingshire and whose trumpet concerto for the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland was performed at the Proms said: “Music is hugely important in developing self confidence, motor skills, communication, acquisition of maths and language skills, social integration and self expression. It is not an optional extra, or a perk for the wealthy.”

The petition has gained support from across the world, with signatures and comments from as far afield as Melbourne, Australia.

Around 850 pupils currently receive tuition from the 15 full and part-time staff of the council’s instrumental service, but parents argue that if fees go up it would be cheaper for them to pay for private tuition. Gwenda Watt, who has a son with dyslexia at top local authority school Balfron High, said: “He has been learning saxophone since primary and despite his many challenges he seems to have no problem reading music.

“Music lessons are not just about learning an instrument. For us they’re about nurturing a talent that seems to come naturally and building confidence in a world that often seems challenging or overwhelming for my son. There is much more at stake here than budget cuts.”

Last week, Stirling Council leader, Labour councillor Johanna Boyd, said she had agreed “with a heavy heart” to accept the funding settlement offered by the Scottish Government, leaving the council to find savings.

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