Julian Lloyd Webber: "ALL children should have access to music"

Julian Lloyd Webber, acclaimed cellist and founder of In Harmony, on why he is backing the Don't Stop The Music amnesty – and what needs to be done...

Don't Stop The Music: Why did you decide to support the Don't Stop The Music campaign, and what do you hope it will achieve?

Julian Lloyd Webber: I have always believed that ALL children should have access to music regardless of their parents’ ability to pay for instruments and tuition. Right now it is still a postcode lottery. Disgracefully, it is still possible for a child to go through their schooldays without having heard a note of music by the great composers – who produced some of mankind’s finest achievements. Hopefully the Don’t Stop The Music campaign might finally change this.

DSTM: What was your own experience of music at school?

"I owe everything to my teachers – these are the most important people who can inspire your interest in music."

DSTM: You've championed music education for over a decade. What made you first decide to get hands on and do something about it?

JLW: The UK had a music education system that was the envy of the world. Sadly that declined towards the end of last century to the point when – in 2003 – I formed the Music Education Consortium with Evelyn Glennie and James Galway.

DSTM: That consortium had great success, with the government ring-fencing £332 million for music education. What was that experience like and what advice would you pass on to Don't Stop The Music?

JLW: It was a great step forward but the day has still not arrived when ALL our children have access to music. So my advice to Don’t Stop The Music is: DON’T STOP THE PRESSURE!

DSTM: You later set up In Harmony with education minister Andrew Adonis. Why did you feel this teaching model was best and what are you most proud of achieving, as chairman of the Sistema England?

JLW: I would never say it is “The Best” but children learning music together can be an incredible, even life changing, experience. I am proud that the In Harmony programmes are achieving such fantastic results – academically as well as musically – and Sistema England wants to expand this way of making music into as many communities as possible.

DSTM: What action, in your opinion, is most needed? Ring-fenced funding for music education, more training for teachers, change to Ofsted's ratings system…

JLW: All of the things you mention! We will certainly be needing a large trained workforce of inspirational teachers if we are to deliver Sistema England on a wider scale.

But the Ofsted ratings system as it stands is proving a massive obstacle to the government’s stated aim of giving ALL children access to music.

DSTM: Why is it so important that children of all backgrounds get access to a good music education?

JLW: Appreciating music is one of life’s great joys! I think it was Nietzsche who said: “A life without music would be a mistake”. Right now far too many of our children are being denied the chance of enriching their lives with music.

DSTM: How can music teachers and head teachers help music blossom in their school?

JLW: The head teachers need to press the button and encourage music in their schools. They will be amazed at the positive effect that music will have on their pupils’ other subjects!

DSTM: And what can parents do to support their children more as they learn an instrument?

JLW: Encouragement is all that’s required (and, maybe, some earplugs)! Learning an instrument is not an easy process but the life skills it can teach you are more than worth the effort.

DSTM: Finally what advice would you give to the children whose schools have just received instruments donated by the public through the Don't Stop The Music amnesty? How can they get the most out of learning music, some for the very first time?

JLW: Firstly – together with your parents – try to find the best local teacher of your instrument [NB. pupils will primarily be taught by teachers at their school]. Secondly, go on YouTube and Spotify and watch/listen to great players playing the instrument you’ve chosen – maybe one day you will be as good as them!

Find out more about Sistema England and its programmes.

Support the campaign, sign James Rhodes's petition now.


Julian Lloyd Webber:
Julian Lloyd Webber. Image credit: Simon Fowler
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