In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare reminds us of the importance of music:
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted.
It is a dire and stark warning and one that has probably not penetrated the corridors of Government or the many state-funded organisations that exist to promote music. Yet, a recent survey showed that Poles are amongst the least trusting nations on earth. 9 out of 10 Poles do not trust other Poles. Could this be a consequence of the lack of music?
Research worldwide has shown that children who have a constant contact with music and the opportunity to make music in groups tend to develop intelligence and life skills more successfully than those who do not. Music has many hidden benefits. For example, most people have probably seen photographs of Albert Einstein sitting at his piano working out mathematical problems. Others will know from their own experience that making music with other people gives a great sense of achievement and togetherness.
The claim that music is good for you must be very hard to believe for most people in Poland. Their memories of music lessons in school are probably very negative. Learning about the lives of long dead composers or trying to play out-of-tune recorders is nobody’s idea of fun. Sadly, this is what music lessons still mean for most children who do not attend music schools. Music should be fun, it should be challenging and it should be done together. Music teaching should be based on singing, movement and storytelling: the three activities in which small children engage instinctively.
Whilst it is true that Poland spends money on music education, the example of the 300 hundred or so state run music schools is not a good one. These unproductive, underfunded, unimaginative institutions should be closed down and incorporated into ordinary schools. Thus, every child would get the opportunity of some contact with instrumental music and, if they wanted to, the opportunity of learning to play. Instrumental music should be an optional extra for all children.
Usually, children from non-musical families are drawn to music by peer pressure or through chance encounters in school corridors or assembly halls. Well-meaning or ambitious parents should not be the only motivation for a child to take up music. By incorporating music into the everyday life of normal schools, music itself becomes normal as much as maths, history or biology. Thus, the education system becomes more balanced and, as a result, produces more rounded, more self-confident and more empowered adults ready and able to make a contribution to the lives of others.