Jazz star Tommy Smith furious over plans to close music school

ONE of the leading lights in the jazz scene has blasted a council decision to close a world-renowned music school in the capital due to budget cuts.

Tommy Smith in action during his first Edinburgh gig.
Tommy Smith in action during his first Edinburgh gig.

Tommy Smith - founder of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra - has branded the move to close the City of Edinburgh music school “nuts”, adding it would “cause a downward spiral effect that will last for decades” in a scathing post directed at council officials on his Facebook page over the weekend.

The school, based inside Broughton High in the Comely Bank area of the city is threatened with closure under council plans to redistribute the school across four sites in the capital in an effort to shave £363,000 from their annual budget as part of a new wave of cuts.

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However, the proposals have drawn the ire of critics, who have accused the cash-strapped local authority of “jumping the gun”.

The school has been the launching pad for the careers of a number of Scottish musical stars, with Smith, 50, counting Shirley Manson, lead singer of 90s band Garbage, and Celtic fusion artist Martyn Bennett among his fellow alumni.

Posting on his Facebook page, he wrote: “I absolutely, categorically and without a doubt, highly disapprove of these proposed cuts by The City of Edinburgh Council.”

“This is very bad karma for the future of our Scottish culture.

“I used to attend Broughton High School, when I was 15. I’d take the bus from Wester Hailes and have lessons by eminent specialists on flute, clarinet, saxophone, piano etc. and meet and be inspired by all the genius players.”

He continued: “I practiced harder because of this environment.”

“You need to have all the talented kids together, they inspire each other to reach high goals. If you were to take the young footballers and coach them separately across Edinburgh in a vacuum, how would they be inspired by their peers to work as hard as they can and reach those dizzy heights.”

“It’s not a posh school, it’s a music school that teaches Jazz, Folk, Rock, and Classical music from all walks of life.”

The decision to close the facility has shocked the parents of children attending the school, with one describing the situation as “really worrying” as pupils protested outside the city chambers on Saturday by playing their instruments at the entrance to the building.

Rounding off his Facebook post, Smith added: “Whoever thought of these victorious plans, are clearly only thinking of saving money and not of the country’s future musical legacy.”

“They also want to consider phasing out specialist music tuition for auditioned gifted primary age pupils and focus purely on specialist provision on talents secondary pupils, but you’ve got to discover that talent early, everybody knows that.

“Perhaps supporters of this cause could lobby the Scottish Government to keep supporting the City of Edinburgh Music School

“The future is bright; the future is silent, well, at least from Edinburgh.”