Shirley Manson begs Edinburgh City Council to rethink music lesson cuts

Alt-rock goddess Shirley Manson has written an open letter to Edinburgh City Council, begging them to rethink a controversial proposal to introduce charges for instrumental music tuition for children in schools across the Capital.

The Edinburgh-born singer, who fronts genre-bending alt-rockers Garbage, claims tuition fees would “rob” youngsters of the chance to “engage with music, learn from it, fall in love with it, master it”.

The 49-year-old superstar penned an emotional open letter on her Facebook page, urging city chiefs to reconsider their plans to slash the music tuition budget in Edinburgh by 75%.

Manson, who grew up in the Stockbridge area of the Capital and attended Flora Stevenson Primary School and Broughton High, credited her former music teacher when she received an outstanding achievement award at the Scottish Music Awards in 2013, saying, “I would like to thank my old music teacher at Broughton High School in Edinburgh, Mary McGookin, who really fired up my imagination and introduced me to a recording studio.

“I always think about her when I think about who formed my musical talent.” added the singer, who is now based in Los Angeles but makes frequent trips home to Edinburgh, where her family still live.

Before fronting Garbage, Manson played keyboards and sang backing vocals with Edinburgh indie stalwarts Goodbye Mr Mackenzie, and was lead singer of the band Angelfish, who released the EP Suffocate Me in 1993.

In November, Garbage celebrated the 20th anniversary of their debut album with a triumphant homecoming gig at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall.

Read Manson’s full letter to Edinburgh City Council below…

Dear City of Edinburgh Council

It has been brought to my attention that you are proposing a 75% cut to the budget that funds Edinburgh’s instrumental music tuition and all of the Edinburgh Schools Orchestras and ensembles.

It is difficult at this time in our culture, where everything is weighed, measured and valued in financial terms or by how popular it is, for music education to be considered important or necessary.

However it is crucial as a society that we safeguard as many of the beautiful, wonderful, nebulous things that bring joy and happiness to people all across the globe, that are of cultural importance.

The difficulty being that the cultural importance and the impact of music is often impossible to evaluate in simple monetary terms.

Unless music is presented in the particular form that generates massive amounts of money for the corporate world and proves itself wildly popular to an international pre-teen audience, it becomes so easy to dismiss.

I understand you are in a tough position. Setting budgets to run a city cannot be easy.
But I beg you to rethink your position on this proposal.

We are living in dark times. The news is at best depressing, at it’s worst, terrifying. 
Music is an art form that transcends terror. It is the exquisite and beautiful opposing force to everything that is cruel and frightening in this world.

Please do not rob the school children of Edinburgh of the opportunity to engage with music, learn from it, fall in love with it, master it.

As a former pupil of Flora Stevenson Primary School and Broughton High School in Edinburgh, I have personally benefited directly from the musical tuition that was offered up to students in Edinburgh as part of our educational curriculum.
As a result apparently of displaying an aptitude for music I was picked out by my teachers for both violin and clarinet tuition. I played in my school orchestras and sang with both choirs.

I have gone on to enjoy a career in music that has lasted over 30 years. I’ve played all over the world and been exposed to so many experiences that I am so fortunate and grateful to have had.
There is not a day goes by when I don’t think how lucky I am.
Everywhere I have travelled I have spoken of the immense good fortune of being born in Edinburgh where I received a musical education that I quickly came to realize was exemplary.

I hope that the pupils of Edinburgh schools with an aptitude for music continue to be as fortunate as I was.
That is what I hope for them and for the great city of Edinburgh.

Finally…..I hope that anyone in Edinburgh with a love of music will repost this story of these proposed cuts, protest in their own voice where possible and lend their name to the petition of protest on Change.Org

I also urge any Edinburgh based papers to report on this story.
Perhaps if we all push together, we can make a change to this proposal.

After all, in the words of the mighty Patti Smith,
Love all, hate no one.