I was struck by a comment in a comment - if you like - made by a reader of the article. Simon Funnell is the Managing Director of the London Mozart Players and took some teenagers to a concert given in Croydon. One, a sixteen year-old called Lee, said:
I really wish classical music and instruments were a part of mainstream education. We have all heard classical music is supposed to make you more intelligent, so it would make sense.This is a view worth listening to, but it is a red herring. The line that gets me is the second. The lad thinks that having access to musical instruments is much the same as having access to computers. Computers are useful tools in a classroom as they are interactive, i.e. it takes little practical understanding of how they function to get begin to learn about and use them. Musical instruments require two non-negotiable extras to function in such a manner - a teacher and patience in the face of rewards-stymied effort on the part of the student.
This is probably why I find the whole Popstar To Operastar business fairly infuriating. At a stroke "opera" is reduced to songs and the Faking It nature of the programme suggests that one can make passable representation of such a song on the basis of a couple of weeks cramming. Lee from Croydon may or may not have seen this show but his (positive!) attitude is part of a cultural continuum of ignorance about the background to such acoustic art forms as opera (and by extension, classical music). ITV have bet-hedging arrangements for dealing with this argument - Rolando Villazon's involvement in the show, the persistent on-message disclaimer, solemnly intoned by everyone involved, that hard work over a long period is the true path to achievement in the form...
... but what the form is it's hard to say since it's not explained or even alluded to during the show; and what constitutes achievement is impossible to say given a) the lack of context b) the sealed-off, non acoustic bubble from which it is propagated across the country and c) the fact that despite this culturally discontiguous isolation an audience both in and outside the studio respond to it fanatically.
I don't blame ITV too heavily though, and for the reason that comes back to Morrison's point. It's far too great an expectation for ITV to incorporate a four-century appraisal of opera and its cultural ramifications into episodes of what is unequivocally lite-ent telly. I mean, the casual re-enforcement of worn stereotypes are not designed to shut people out but to encourage the fence-sitting audience that ITV's on their side. The fence-sitting audience exist because they have no institutional backup on which to predicate a dip into the unknown - it's not just an element of (in this example) opera that's alien, it's absolutely everything.
It may be that Lee from Coydon will be able to get his hands on a violin and, perhaps this cycnical pragamatist (read re-training secondary classroom music teacher!) will be vindicated when Lee returns it after a month. But the greater (Morrison's) point is that the lad would then have an experiential dais upon which to look out over cultural possibilities in front of him with confidence rather than cowed by his benightedness, passively-endorsed by the adult institutions that claim the opposite.