On Saturday I enjoyed reading Ian Jack’s fine Guardian article about the Queensferry Crossing, our striking new bridge over the Forth (see photo taken from the Pentland Hills yesterday). Many of his comments resonated with me, a fellow Scot. He recalled how the previous Forth Bridges were designed and built by British engineers with British components. By contrast, the new bridge sourced its designers, contractors and materials from around the world. A large part of the workforce was local, but otherwise the project was distinctly multi-national. Most Scots would share Ian Jack’s mixture of emotions on hearing that a) the expertise and materials were not Scottish but b) Scotland is successfully reaching out to the world.
Ian Jack’s words were still in my head when I was researching the result of this year’s Scottish International Piano Competition which finished yesterday in Glasgow. Its website lists the competitors and the results of the various rounds. If you have a look, you’ll probably be struck as I was to see that the vast majority of competitors were from other countries. On the one hand, I feel proud that Scotland now attracts people from all around the world. On the other, I feel dismayed by the lack of home-grown competitors. Is it really the case that we can’t field candidates to take their places alongside the oustanding young Turkish, Romanian and Georgian pianists who won the top prizes?
Part of the answer has indirectly been supplied by an anonymous A-level student who wrote a very enlightening blog, ‘Why are our schools pushing classical music to the margins?‘ for Gramophone Magazine. It’s worth reading in full. For now, an excerpt:
‘The increasing normalisation of viewing classical music as a niche market, as a long-forgotten relic of our past, has undoubtedly led many young people to overlook its qualities, meaning many who may have forged a lifelong passion for classical music have not. We must not overlook the power of a school curriculum to shape popular beliefs, and if a curriculum sidelines a musical genre, we will likely choose to sideline that genre ourselves.’