les Davey de France

Alan and Pat live and work in Bordeaux. Alan is a pastor and Pat was a nurse. Now we work with UFM worldwide. Read on! (If you'd like to know what took us to Bordeaux, then start with the archives from September 2004)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The music schools - the way ahead

Up till the 1970s in France I think music tuition was pretty much like it is in Britain today. Keen parents would look for instrument teachers for their kids and musicians gave lessons on the side to keep some bread on the table.

Since the 1970s France has institutionalised the teaching of music in various ways and at various levels. I won't bore you with all the details but you have music schools and conservatories. Music schools exist at town level. Conservatories at town, department, regional or national level. Some music schools call themselves conservatory when they aren't really - it's a question of recognised and assured standards of achievement, etc, teachers who have passed their civil service exams,...

Anyway, town music schools can be municipal (run by the town hall) or associative (or I imagine, private). Pessac being a big long narrow town, we have two music schools. There's the one where I am on the committee and where Catrin does her singing lessons and I play in the jazz band, and there's the other where I have my trombone lessons. Both music schools function in a very similar way, both are funded about half by a subsidy from the town hall and half by what parents pay.

For a couple of years, and for the foreseeable future, the subsidies the town hall pays have been frozen. No increases. However the salaries bill for the teachers goes up every year. A couple of years ago this provoked a BIG crisis. The music school had to think deep and hard (not long, there wasn't time for long). Essentially the problem was how to do as much with less money.

The answer found was to bring in group lessons. Firstly for intermediate levels. Then the following year for beginners. At present the advanced students still get individual lessons. Also prices for families rose. Also the time spent on each student has been reduced. (Incidentally, this led to me switching music schools.)

One of the music schools asked a government funded group to look at how we work to see what could be done to make things work better, to do as much with less. The group suggested looking at both music schools together, and last night the report was delivered in the presence of various officials from the Town Hall, both elected and non-elected.

The upshot is that we are doing what we do very well. There's no obvious way to cut costs or to raise more money. The only thing that could be beneficial is sponsorship by rich individuals. (I thought of one chap in Pessac who might be interested). Other than that the music schools could become municipal (which would cost the town a whole lot of money and also raise big issues with the staff because they would become civil servants and have to have passed or pass the exam so to be or be paid less and have fewer advantages...) The model of departmental music school was also mentioned, but in the Gironde, with all these big towns etc, that's something outside our power to do.

It's great to attend meetings like this. For one thing you learn a whole lot about the way associations work in France. For another thing, you're a Christian presence in town life. Again, the problems the music school faces we all face. Many churches are wrestling with falling incomes, the need to do as much or more with fewer financial resources.

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