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Enthusiasm encourages musicians ... but so does money

Amidst all the gimmicky use of language that often seems designed to obscure rather than clarify the naming of working practice, the use of "learning" in place of "outreach" or "engagement" in the theatre world is a contrastingly positive development.

At one pen or key-stroke it turns the transaction significantly on its head, emphasising benefit, rather than process, and mutual benefit at that.

Last weekend in the Arches in Glasgow, Enterprise Music Scotland (EMS), the body whose primary role is to support the many music clubs and societies across Scotland who promote seasons of chamber music concerts in churches and community halls, held a conference entitled Music Education Matters, building on the huge increase in workshops for young people that EMS has encouraged alongside those programmes of concerts.

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It gathered together an impressively broad list of delegates whose practice ranged from primary classroom teaching to the Royal Conservatoire, from local authorities across Scotland and from special needs education and national companies.

It was a well-organised event with a wide range of contributions that lacked nothing in passion and enthusiasm - and contained some truly inspirational stories - but it ended on a slightly downbeat note.

The nearest the gathering had to a representative of the Scottish Government was David Green, chair of the Instrumental Music Implementation Group, which reported almost a year ago with recommendations for music tuition in Scotland.

Successive Holyrood administrations have been very keen on the idea of making the learning of an instrument one of the rights of a Scottish child. Labour's Jack McConnell had it as a stated aim and the SNP have reiterated the goal, hence the establishment of Green's committee. But those fine words have seen few root vegetables basted, and the actual availability of music tuition to young people continues to be reduced by cuts in local authority budgets.

I am sure Mr Green wishes it were otherwise, but faced with the concerns of the delegates at Music Education Matters at the plenary session, he seemed like the man in charge of maintaining the fence around the long grass into which the problem had been kicked.

On the following day, music education took a rather different but equally enthusiastic and just as encouraging form just a mile or so up the road on Duke Street.

Showing their mastery of ear-catching language, the team behind the East End Social, a programme of music events animating the area of Glasgow which will shortly host the Commonwealth Games, had created the Duke Street Expo, which was, in microcosm, an indie music version of what the EMS clubs and societies do in every corner of Scotland for chamber music, year in, year out.

Shops, cafes and bars all along Duke Street hosted a day of short performances by musicians, mostly playing acoustically, and often giving little solo snapshots of what they do in company in some of the city's most successful bands, including Sarah Hayes from Admiral Fallow (pictured).

There were also bigger concerts, with proper PAs and drums and all that gubbins, in a couple of the churches just off the main thoroughfare. Here was "learning" in the fullest bilateral sense to which theatre companies aspire, with the musicians finding an entirely new audience and the people of the East End encountering talents that they may not otherwise have sought out.

And, of course, many of these young musicians were, I know, lucky enough to have had the attentions of an inspirational teacher, live illustration of the benefit of an ideal that the Scottish Government endorses but just can't get its act together to properly fund.

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