Your editorial on music education (22 December) is spot-on. As someone who has been a musician all his life, including 21 years as a concert and opera reviewer for the Guardian, I feel a great deal of anger at the downgrading of music studies. Music is not only for those who make it their profession; it enriches everyone’s life. It is essential to celebrations of every sort, and it alleviates suffering. It enriches lives and sometimes changes them.
I was the director of music for 21 years at the former Kingston Polytechnic, now a university. I taught students in a variety of disciplines other than music and I was amazed how, once they had the chance to learn to play and sing, they felt their lives open up to inviting realms of experience. Some abandoned their studies and made a career in music: one, indeed, is a successful composer and living off his work. Others are still active as performers, also forming a significant part of the audiences at concerts.
• I taught music in schools for most of my adult life. The key advantages to children of all ages are self‑discipline, teamwork, commitment, creativity and deep listening. Music links with many other subjects such as literature, fine art, history, physics, maths and English. I taught sound waves to seven-year-olds by putting a tuning fork in a bowl of water. They believed the theory when their faces got splashed.
If children are also lucky enough to learn an instrument, they are developing an amazing skill. The experience is beyond price.