Teachers, pupils and parents across East Sussex are bracing themselves for the news on Monday April 30 that the Lead Member for Education and Inclusion, Special Educational Needs and Disability, Cllr Bob Standley, will recommend a review leading to the end of music instrument teaching to individuals and small groups.
Cllr Standley, who represents North East Wealden, including Mayfield, Rotherfield and Wadhurst, is expected to start the process after 84 years of music teaching in East Sussex. The Music Service currently delivers lessons to around 7000 children in schools, while nearly 1000 children aged between 4 and 18 attend area music centres each week.
LibDem campaigner Gareth Owen-Williams in Crowborough says: "It's too easy for councils to see music as irrelevant when setting budgets, whereas professionals know its immense value in self-esteem, mental health and personal development - not to mention the huge financial contribution it makes to the national economy. We urge Cllr Standley to consider very carefully the long term damage cuts will cause."
A Year 8 Beacon Academy student has been learning to play the clarinet for five years and provided the following statement on the school's website: "Now I am in Year 8 I can see how much of a benefit it has been for me in my life so far. With the supporting, friendly teachers, the East Sussex Music Service has improved my confidence levels massively, both in myself and in front of others. Closing the Music Service would absolutely devastate me and the future generations of musicians."
The issue has captured the attention of professionals outside of the county too.
Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, says: "The news that East Sussex County Council is proposing to close their Music Service by 2019 is deeply concerning. Music is central to our cultural life, a key driver of economic growth, and has a positive impact on children's cognitive development and emotional wellbeing. We are joining the thousands of voices calling for the Council to consider the impact the closure of the Music Service will have and to find an alternative proposal that would allow the service to continue."
Gareth Owen-Williams adds: "These draconian cuts along with other vital services are the result of central government's obsessive austerity programme. It's time the people who will be affected by this are given a chance to voice their opinion."