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Got any spare keyg? If there's a piano, guitar or trumpet lying unused at your home, James Rhodes wants it. The his campaign to give donated instruments to primary school children, making sure that they classical pianist talks to LISA SALMON about enjoy the massive benefits of a musical education.

Music can boost cognitive skills in children IT'S an old tune that most parents have heard lots of times: music benefits children. Plenty of studies have shown that learning an instrument is linked to improved language development, IQ, academic performance, reasoning abilities and creativity.

And in the most recent music education study published in June, researchers from Boston Children's Hospital found that children who had early musical training were better at quickly processing and retaining information and problem-solving.

But while there's little doubt playing an instrument is good for children both academically and socially, that doesn't mean most get the chance to play.

In 2011, the Government's National Music Education Plan promised to ensure children from all backgrounds had the opportunity to learn an instrument in a bid to address the nation's 'patchy' music education. But, according to the maverick classical pianist James Rhodes, that promise has not been fulfilled.

The musician passionately believes that the opportunity to learn music should indeed be available to all children and, as well as petitioning the Government to make more effort to fulfil its pledge, James has taken matters into his own hands and is launching a national 'instrument amnesty'.

The idea is that the public donate instruments languishing unused in attics and cupboards, and Rhodes will then give them to kids who need them.

To highlight his campaign, James, 39, has taken part in a new two-part Channel 4 series, Don't Stop the Music, which follows him as he visits schools to investigate their musical activities.

He says: "I've been concerned for some time about the state of music education in this country and, after spending some months visiting schools, the thing that horrified me was that it was such a lottery.

"Some schools are doing brilliant things, but in the majority, music barely featured at all, and where it did, parents were paying for instruments and tuition and there was very little time in the school curriculum for it."

The pianist says that the first primary school he visited on his quest had "no music to speak of whatsoever", with no budget, instruments, or music lessons.

"The challenge for me," he says, "was to get instruments into the pupils' hands, get time in the curriculum, get them playing and form an orchestra."

James spread the word in the local community that instruments were needed at the school, and says he was "so touched by the amount of people that responded".

A clarinet was donated, for example, with a note from a man saying his wife, who had played it, had died recently and would want it to be enjoyed by someone else.

"There were lots of stories like that," says James.

"I just thought, 'If this can work here, what's to stop it working nationwide?'" Earlier this summer, James asked primary schools to get in touch if they needed instruments and was inundated with responses.

Anyone with an instrument to donate can take it to any Oxfam shop, and it will then be reconditioned and matched with requests from primary schools.

James says: "It's a simple idea, and a really important thing to do. I think musicians have a responsibility to help every child get the chance to play an instrument, and I want to do what I can."

The instrument amnesty runs from now until October 17. For details visit | Don't Stop the Music starts on Channel 4 on Tuesday, September 9, 9pm


Band leader... James with pupils from St Teresa's Primary School

Pianist James Rhodes is collecting unwanted instruments to give more children the chance to learn how to play them
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 11, 2014
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