Colin O'Riordan Trust

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:21 pm on 24th January 2002.

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Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 5:21 pm, 24th January 2002

It is excellent that we are having a debate on this subject—it is the first debate relating to a particular individual that I can remember.

I had a close connection with Colin O'Riordan in three ways. First, when I was a councillor in Lothian and Edinburgh, Colin O'Riordan ran and helped to develop the area's music services. Secondly, I am chairman of the Edinburgh Youth Orchestra, of which Colin O'Riordan was the main musical adviser and mainstay. Thirdly, my wife used to play string quartets with Colin several times a month.

Colin O'Riordan was an interesting man because he was highly qualified and educated—he was a violinist of great quality and held a doctorate in music from St Petersburg. He had a great belief in bringing music to young people, both through individual tuition and through groups, bands, orchestras and so on. He did everything. In the case of the Edinburgh Youth Orchestra, he advised on the programme as well as helped to put out the desks and chairs. He put his heart and soul into the whole thing. When slightly more money was available, he made a great contribution to persuading Lothian Region, in particular, to build up orchestras, bands and musical groups. I think that seven of those groups played in the Usher Hall concert to which Angus MacKay referred. The hall was full and there was a great atmosphere.

Colin O'Riordan made a great personal contribution and it is right that we recognise that, but there is a wider issue. Colin O'Riordan typified the importance of musical education. That is something we must push hard. Some people—in education and outside it—think that musical education is a nice add on. That is not the case. Music should be at the heart of our education system and seen to be so.

I have a separate motion on which I am trying to secure a members' business debate on another occasion. It relates to the important issue of the future pay of music instructors. I will not trespass on that subject now, as I hope to secure a chance to debate it more fully at a later date. The overall question of the funding and promotion of music education is critical. In some council areas, people have to pay for tuition. In many areas, such tuition has been cut. One of the things that caused Colin O'Riordan stress in recent times was trying to manage an ever-diminishing budget.

We should ensure that the Executive puts its money and heart behind music tuition being at the heart of our education system—and we should ensure that councils do the same. It is not satisfactory that music is hanging on by its eyelashes and risks being pushed out altogether.

Many schools' main shop window to their parents and local communities are the concerts, shows, musicals and dramas they put on. Music teachers are at the heart of those events. They are important for schools and young people. There is no better way to develop team spirit than by playing in an orchestra. Someone who plays in a football team or a cricket team, for example, can still be egocentric and try to do it all themself, but someone who plays a flute cannot play the bassoon or fiddle that somebody else is playing, so they have to learn to fit in with the others.

Music instruction is of huge importance for people's intellectual and fingering development. I was the world's worst bassoonist, but I gained enormous pleasure from playing in various bands and orchestras. There is also a team-spirit aspect to playing in an orchestra, which is important. I hope that while we celebrate Colin O'Riordan and applaud and support the creation of the Colin O'Riordan Trust, the minister will give a clear indication that the Government really values music education.