The number of children signing up for new music lessons in Perth and Kinross has dropped sharply since council chiefs agreed a controversial 60% rise in tuition costs.
A trust set up to support families struggling to pay for music lessons revealed a “concerning” decline in fresh starts, amid warnings the price hike could turn Perth into a “musical vacuum”.
The Perth and Kinross Music Foundation (PKMF), which was established 20 years ago, has also experienced a 50% rise in the number of applications from local families for financial support.
At the weekend, staff from the instrumental music service will perform a fundraising concert at St John’s Episcopal Church. It is hoped they can raise enough money for the trust to meet growing demand.
Other groups, including the Gannochy Trust and city Rotarians, have also agreed to help.
Perth and Kinross Council agreed the 60% increase over the next three years. The first 20% rise came into effect in August.
More than 1,000 people have signed a petition calling for the council to rethink its spending strategy.
Andrew Mitchell, spokesman for the music foundation, said: “The music tutors have responded so generously to our appeals for help this year.
“In the light of the recent increases in costs set by Perth and Kinross Council, applications for our support are 50% higher than in any previous year.
“We are confident that, somehow, we will be able to match the demand.”
He said: “We are getting extra help from the Gannochy Trust, Perth Guildry, Rotary and a number of other trusts who recognise the value of our work with young musicians.”
Mr Mitchell said: “Perhaps more concerning for the future is the reduction we are seeing in applications from new families, seeking to get their children started for the first time with instrumental lessons.
“The value of a musical education is undisputed, playing a strong part in overall attainment as well as in a child’s health and wellbeing.”
He added: “For the past 20 years, the PKMF has supported low income families, but now we are seeing that the rising fees – with further rises in the pipeline – are impacting on a wider range of income groups.”
The concert at St John’s will take place at 2pm on Sunday. It will be compered by Dick Keatings, retired head-teacher of Kinross High School.
The price increase was also condemned by Leila Trainer, whose father Louis Barnett was co-founder of the Perth Youth Orchestra in 1962.
She said the hike will “plunge the music scene in Perth, for its budding young musicians, back into the limbo of the late 1940s, when opportunities for young people to learn an instrument were very limited.”
A council spokeswoman said: “Additional funding to support this service was provided in the local authority’s budget on a non-recurring basis.
“This money is being used to help extend the reach of the service further than at present. Any savings or changes to charges for services are considered by elected members as part of the statutory budget setting process.”
She added the local authority has already met with parent representatives to discuss the increased fees for the instrumental music service.