La lucha de Sir Simon Rattle.

Sir Simon Rattle es uno de los directores de orquesta que tiene más atención mediática en este momento, no solo por que es el director de la prestigiosa Orquesta Filarmónica de Berlín, sino también por que durante toda su carrera ha luchado para que la música no desaparezca de los planes de educación de las escuelas primarias y secundarias. Esta pelea la comenzó desde su juventud, cuando a la tierna edad de 25 años fue elegido como director principal de la Orquesta Sinfónica de Birmingham, la cual convirtió, en casi veinte años de trabajo incansable, no sólo en una gran orquesta, también en una institución dinámica y con lazos muy activos en su comunidad: los programas de educación musical de la Orquesta de Birmingham se han convertido en modelos para muchas ciudades británicas.

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Exactly a year ago Sir Simon Rattle sat in Chris Smith’s office and gave the incoming Secretary of State for Culture a friendly warning. “I told him he was going to be hearing a lot from me and he might find some of it uncomfortable,” the conductor recalls. It was, perhaps, new Labour’s first intimation that it would not be getting an easy ride from the arts world.

Simon Rattle surprised Chris Smith on that May morning with his agenda. “He thought I would want to discuss orchestras and concert halls and theatres. I told him my main concern was music in schools,” he says.

Since then Sir Simon has become a man on a mission, stung into action, first by alarming reports of the decline of instrument tuition and then galvanised into fury by the downgrading of music in the primary curriculum. He sees this as a threat to the musical fabric of the nation and speaks of “the betrayal of an entire generation” and “the death of the imagination”.


Rattle ensayando con la Filarmónica de Berlin

Rattle ensayando con la Filarmónica de Berlín

“Whatever the politicians say, Chief Inspector of Schools Chris Woodhead is telling schools they will not be assessed or inspected on the national curriculum programmes of study in music, so of course it will get cut,” says Sir Simon. “Most teachers are overworked and underpaid and have been told they are crap for years, so it is hardly surprising if they welcome any reduction in their workload.

“Yet what right have we got to consider ourselves civilised if music isn’t a central part of what we are taught?” That Sir Simon still has time to campaign so passionately on behalf of the grass roots speaks volumes for a man who has not only run the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for the past 18 years but is also in huge demand as a guest con-ductor with the world’s great musical ensembles, from the Vienna Philharmonic to the Boston Symphony. But music education has always been at the core of his work, and under his leadership the CBSO has developed a schools programme that is the envy of every other local authority.


Sir Simon Rattle

Sir Simon Rattle

Since he started his campaign earlier this year, his weekly postbag has rivalled War and Peace in length and intensity. “I get so many letters from people who have felt abandoned, it makes me want to weep. Frankly, we still haven’t made enough noise.”

His greatest fear is that music in British schools will go the same way as in the United States, where his two sons, Sasha, 14, and Eliot, 8, live in San Francisco with his first wife, soprano Elise Ross. He describes with excitement the joy of watching them learn to read music or “crack the code” as he puts it, but says music is totally “unimportant and marginalised” in American schools.


Sir Rattle en plena clase...

Sir Rattle en plena clase...

Sir Simon recently told the arts editor of The Times that Britain was facing the possible “death of music”. Ask him if he was overstating the case and he replies that if anything he understated the danger: “What we are facing is the death of the imagination.”


“Music can have an extraordinary effect on every area of learning. It shifts the emphasis from observing to doing. Children have to work together to create a performance, so that every type of social, organisational and co-operative skill is used and everyone can contribute,” he says. “Music is not merely good for the soul, it can promote literacy and numeracy across the board. Everybody needs music in their life as a way of decoding a hostile universe. Education has become too narrow, and specialisation too early has been very damaging.”


Sir Rattle dirigiendo a la Orquesta Juvenil Simón Bolivar, de Venezuela.

Sir Rattle dirigiendo a la Orquesta Juvenil Simón Bolívar, de Venezuela.



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