Saturday, 13 September 2014

Don't Stop The Music!

Hitting the right note... Like Oxfam shops up and down the country, we're appealing for unwanted musical instruments which can be donated to primary UK schools. The idea is that you can leave instruments for the Don't Stop The Music campaign at either of our shops, and we will arrange for them to be collected, checked over, cleaned, and passed on to a participating school.  
The ‘instrument amnesty’ has been launched by internationally renowned classical pianist James Rhodes, who wants the Government to give every child in England the chance to play a musical instrument.  “Music education should be a right, not a privilege,” he says on campaign website. So, if you’ve got an old guitar, violin, trumpet, flute, oboe or anything else which is never used, and just lies in a forgotten corner of the house gathering dust, then James would like you to donate it, enabling a child to make music. The campaign will accept almost any instrument, as long as they are not electric (which rules out keyboards and some guitars), and are not too big (which rules out pianos and harps).

James fell in love with the piano when he was just seven years old but, despite his musical ability, he ended up working in the city. Then, as he explains the campaign website, one day he decided to swap bank notes for musical notes and followed his dream to become a professional musician.
“I was lucky,” he says. “Today, many kids never get a chance to play an instrument. Three years ago the Government declared that all school children in England should get the chance to learn a musical instrument. Presumably they didn't envisage sweet tins, rubbish bins and the other sad excuses for instruments I've come across while visiting some of our primary schools over the past few months.
“I've found schools where only those who can afford private lessons play music. Where there is not a single music tutor. Where teachers are squeezing what they can out of music budgets that are tighter than a guitar string.  The UK music industry is worth £3.5 billion to our economy. Yet instead of investing in musical education, we treat it as a privilege for some of our kids instead of a right for all.
“But music is about more than making money. By practising, kids learn discipline; reading sheet music demands concentration; playing in a band calls for teamwork; performing boosts self-confidence. The longer we continue to chip away at this country's rich musical heritage, the more we're denying our children the chance to develop these vital life skills, through learning an instrument.”
His efforts to show how learning a musical instrument can benefit school children are being followed in ‘Don't Stop The Music, a two-part Channel 4 TV (the second part can be seen next Tuesday, September 16, 2014).
James (right) in the TV show.
 He’s being backed by a host of celebrity musicians like Neneh Cherry  and Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson, and, of course, by Oxfam. The charity believes the power of music can change lives around the world, and the ‘instrument amnesty’ coincides with the annual Oxjam bonanza – a celebration of music which involves a packed programme of fund-raising gigs and other events organised by local groups around the country, with festival finales all taking place on October 17. Instruments must be donated before that date.
If you have a musical instrument you can give to the cause that would be great, but please, please, don’t just drop it off – there are various forms which need to be completed. First you need to register online, so your gift can be tracked, and you can see exactly where it goes. It may sound complicated, but it’s really quite easy – just go to and click on ‘Donate an Instrument’.
Once you have keyed in the relevant details, you should receive an ID number, which must be noted on another form (paper this time) to be completed when you drop the instrument off at the shop. I admit it sounds a little time consuming, but as well as letting you track your gift, it all shows that you have agreed to make the donation, and that you want the instrument to go for this project, rather than being sold to raise funds for Oxfam.
Volunteers in both our shops should be aware of the campaign, but if you are interested in making a donation, or need more information, the best thing to do is to pop into the Bookshop, and have a chat with manager Chris Hancox.

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