There is a council estate in Scotland where 80% of the primary school children play musical instruments.  It started as part of an experiment when Richard Holloway, a former Bishop of Edinburgh, noticed that although the council were putting lots of effort into physical regeneration of the area, there was almost no spend on spiritual regeneration.  He had seen a similar scheme in Venezuela, La Sistema, and decided to try it in Scotland.

So now 450 children practice musical instruments after school three times a week, are in an orchestra, and are demonstrating increased confidence, better concentration in school, and all sorts of other benefits.

Conductor Gustavo Dudamel, whose own musical education began in a Sistema when he was five years old, is patron of Sistema Scotland and has been keeping a keen eye on its progress.

The charismatic 31-year-old says: “Music can change society. It changes family and community because they have access to beauty, to sensibility, to creativity and to discipline. These are elements for a good citizen of the world.”

The benefits are not just limited to the children – the adults are getting involved as well, with their own orchestra and music lessons.

The organisers expect many more Big Noise orchestras to errupt over the next few years.

I wonder what the world would be like if in some estates and villages everyone was in an orchestra?  If the trend was not limited to the musical arts, but grew to include dance, drama, painting, sculpture, and writing?  What if, in the future, every estate, every village, had a focus?

I could see it being an interesting place to live.  Your neighbours would all have similar interests to you, and moving house would be a lot more complex as you would need to consider the artistic focus of your new area as well as what the houses were like.  And then of course there would be the pushy parents, who would choose where to live based on what they thought their children should be learning, not just at school like at present, but in the arts.

If the foster care system did not adapt with it, imagine the fate of a child who lost their parents.  Not only would they have to deal with emotional trauma from that, but every time they moved foster carers they might end up in a different artistic focus area.  There’s a story in there somewhere, I’m sure!

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