Poll shows up crisis in music education

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The Independent Culture

Only one in six musicians in Britain's youth orchestras can name three living classical composers, according to a poll that once again exposes the crisis in music education.

One in three of the 10- to 21-year-olds surveyed thought they knew their stuff but, when asked to list the names they had thought of, cited writers of film scores such as John Williams and Vangelis.

Their views on the most important piece of music since 1950 were equally disheartening: more than one in eight named famous themes composed by Williams for films including Star Wars, Jaws and the Harry Potter movies.

Two-thirds of respondents confessed that they never, or hardly ever, listened to classical music.

The survey was carried out among 1,500 young musicians drawn from 13 youth orchestras around the UK. It followed on from the latest Masterprize competition for best original classical composition, won last week by an American, Christopher Theofanidis.

The poll is the latest in a series of disconcerting surveys to illustrate the dearth of classical music knowledge in Britain.

Last year, a poll of 600 six-to 14-year-olds by Classic FM magazine found that many children mistook pop stars such as Britney Spears, SClub, Will Young and Gareth Gates for classical artists. It prompted three top classical musicians, cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, percussionist Evelyn Glennie and flautist James Galway, to write to Tony Blair demanding improvements to music education.