Peter Maxwell Davies has said it’s ‘shocking and a disgrace’ that there are now hundreds of thousands of school children who have never heard of Mozart and Beethoven.
The British composer, 79, said we are in ‘grave danger of losing – through not learning or experiencing – centuries of a wealth of wisdom and works’. He blamed successive governments for treating classical music as an ‘elitist fringe activity’, suggesting the situation is at a 'serious tipping point'.
Maxwell Davies said that the lack of understanding about classical music, paralleled by the move away from teaching Shakespeare and Dickens, 'just shows what has gone wrong with areas of the educational system.’
'The danger is that music becomes the preserve of the better off – the parents who can afford to pay – while talented children from poorer families miss out,' he said. 'If there is one thing I believe passionately about it is that children should have free access to learning an instrument.’
Maxwell Davies is Master of the Queen’s Music, a role which he will step down from in March 2014. After leaving, he plans to try to make classical music more accessible to young people.
His comments follow a plea earlier this year from violinist Nicola Benedetti that all young people should have to study classical music at school in order to help them understand our history and humanity.
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It’s a sentiment that pianist James Rhodes has also echoed in The Telegraph: ‘It is a tragedy that in this age of entitlement and instant fame so idealized by The X Factor and its ilk, someone thought it a worthy idea to treat music education as an extravagance rather than a basic right. The impact of this cannot fail to be far-reaching and long-lasting.’