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Melody makers

Despite routine claims of decline, music in Britain is thriving. Bands, groups and choirs of all kinds are flourishing, and new digital technologies have opened up the world of music to a generation of bedroom-based producer-players. But can our schools and conservatoires keep up with these changes?

By Nick Crowe   July 2006

Britain is said to be suffering a gradual decline in musicality. The conductor John Eliot Gardiner recently told the Guardian that Britain’s musical culture was “getting worse.” The director of King’s College choir, Stephen Cleobury, complained about sightreading standards among choristers and the fact that students no longer have to study harmony or counterpoint at A-level. Composer and conductor James MacMillan spoke of a “monumental dumbing-down in Scottish music education.” Last year, Exeter University closed its music department. And, worst of all, runs the argument, music teaching in state schools remains in crisis. Our status as the listening nation is…

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