Letter: Musical education

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Sir: I was shocked but not surprised to read Lucy Ward's report (Music taught to dwindling band of school pupils", 4 November) on the state of instrumental playing in schools, but delighted to read Diana Hinds comment ("It's instrumental to everything", 4 November) on the relationship between learning and music. Everything she says is absolutely right; music should be as much a part of our lives as breathing. Not only does it help learning itself, but it can and does combat drugs and delinquency when applied by those who understand the problem.

For me, the classic case is that told by Arnold Dolmetsch (1858-1940), the pioneer of the Early Music revival in Britain in the 1880s. In 1887 he was violin master at Dulwich School and had a pupil named William Boxall, aged 15 who was the "black sheep" of the school. The masters complained that he was moody, lacked concentration and worked only in spasms - to the despair of the entire staff, with the exception of Dolmetsch, who found his behaviour exactly the opposite when he came for his violin lesson. Dolmetsch persuaded the headmaster to allow Boxall more time for his music and Dolmetsch would be personally responsible for his other work not being neglected.

Boxall underwent a complete metamorphosis; his academic work improved, his personality took on a new vitality and his violin-playing reached a standard of excellence that Dolmetsch had not encountered in any of his other pupils.

W A Boxall went on to study at the Royal College of Music and the Brussels Conservatoire. He became a first-class violinist and played with all the leading orchestras all over Europe. He was music master at Charterhouse school until the outbreak of the First World War and from 1918 onwards played with the London Symphony Orchestra for many years. Even after his retirement, on a number of occasions he received a personal invitation from Sir Thomas Beecham himself to join the orchestra at Covent Garden.


Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire