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Education News

Nicola Benedetti: Every young person in Britain should be made to study classical music

Acclaimed violinist criticises music teaching in the UK

Acclaimed violinist Nicola Benedetti has criticised the state of music teaching in Britain, saying that every young person should be “made” to study classical works to help them understand humanity.

Ms Benedetti, who is currently working with about 200 young musicians at the Royal Albert Hall, told The Independent: “There should be a substantial amount of complex great music in schools. It’s insane to me that there isn’t.”

She said teachers should be encouraged to take children through symphonies from Beethoven and Sibelius to Dvorak and Mahler and explain the form in detail. “Every single young person in this country should be made – within the context of their school curriculum – to listen to the greatest classical works.”

The 26-year-old musician, who is up for two Classical Brit awards and releases a new album My First Decade next week, said it was ridiculous that classical music was marginalised in schools because of the perception that children do not find it “fun”

“Since when did everything have to be fun? Music can be fun and enjoyable, but it also provides a way to go as deep as you can into our history and our understanding of humanity; of our expression and growth as people,” she said. “It makes me sad, the gross misunderstanding of its potential and power and influences.”

Today is the last of three days of musical workshops by Ms Benedetti at the Albert Hall ahead of her solo concert on the main stage next week. After days of rehearsals, 40 advanced second year Conservatoire undergraduate string players from the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music will perform Bartok’s Divertimento alongside Ms Benedetti this evening.

About 150 young violinists between grade four and six will also perform the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana before.

Ms Benedetti said: “The students will learn about how I would work on a piece of music and to what detail I would work. I hope they will leave them inspired and help continue their enthusiasm for music and practice.”

Jasper Hope, chief operating officer at the Albert Hall, said it was an “amazing opportunity” for the students to learn from someone “at the top of their game and “perhaps take a step to following in her footsteps”.

The move is part of the venue’s plan to further promote appreciation and the understanding of the arts among young people. Others to have held similar events include Emeli Sande, Foals and Soweto Kinch.

Ms Benedetti said: “This has been years in the making of me thinking up a dream scenario. I had the opportunity to take that format to people in Scotland and all the organisations got together to support it. It’s been the same at the Royal Albert Hall. This is not a token masterclass.”

Ms Benedetti is a veteran of the Proms, which this year culminated with the first appearance of a woman, Marin Alsop, conducting the Last Night of the Proms in its 118-year history.

Commenting on Ms Alsop’s statement that it was “shocking” there were still firsts for women in 2013, Ms Benedetti said: “It’s not a huge surprise. You take a slice across today’s world and in an enormous percentage of the world, women’s rights are non-existent. If you have a world view on women’s rights, this is the least of our worries. In this country and America you’re doing pretty well.”