THE highly successful Isle of Wight Music Service, which has started young musicians on the path to great careers, is facing an uncertain future.
Government plans to re-shape the way music tuition is financed could, at best, see it paid for through an Arts Council England-managed hub with funding slashed from £360,000 to just £145,000 over two years.
If the Island is not successful in obtaining such a hub, the cuts could be even harsher, with fears of the well-used Saturday music centre and events, such as the New Year Concert, being lost.
Among those benefiting from music service tuition in the past are trumpet player Tim Parkin and his brother, Andrew, both of The Bees, and entrants to the Royal Colleges of Music and the National Youth Orchestra.
Former Isle of Wight Music Service staff have slammed the plans, claiming children from low-income families would be denied the chance to learn an instrument.
Currently, the service is funded by a Music Education Grant and provides tuition to 1,280 students at 42 schools, offering youngsters the chance to learn everything from the recorder to tabla drums.
The number of directly employed council staff would be slashed from 23 to just three posts, although it is not known how many of those made redundant would then be taken on by the new hub.
Neil Courtney, former head of the music service, said maintaining a properly funded, fully staffed service was vital to provide access to music for all children, regardless of their financial background, and warned there would be no bands, orchestras or choirs without it.
"I am saddened and appalled by these proposals, which are both short sighted and potentially catastrophic," he said.
"I would implore our politicians to reconsider as a matter of extreme urgency the dire implications of a move to a skeletal commissioned service.
"If compulsory redundancies occur there is a high risk that the Island will lose forever a wealth of highly skilled expertise to the severe and permanent detriment of both present and future generations of young musicians."
"At the very least the council should consider a phased approach, which retains the present pool of expertise while allowing for a less damaging long-term restructuring of this vital service."
Former music service tutor Mary Teague said: "I came from a single-parent family and had free lessons at school and it's terribly sad children from a background like mine will miss out now.
"Someone is going to have to pay more, either the schools or parents, and they have to make tough decisions about prioritising money.
"I know budgets are tight but music teaches children vital skills, fosters talent and boosts their confidence.
"Educationally, culturally and spiritually, it enhances their lives.
"The music service is an absolutely amazing resource and if it’s lost it will be a tragedy."
The new hub would, in effect, continue the work of the music service from this September but with greatly reduced funding.
The proposals will come before the council’s children and young people scrutiny panel on Wednesday, ahead of a consultation with service users, schools and music service staff.