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Honorary Graduate's Speech: Ms Tasmin Little (Doctor of Music)  

One of the world's most accomplished classical violinists, Ms Little was awarded her honorary degree for her contribution to music. Ms Little was educated at the Yehudi Menuhin School and Guildhall School of Music and has performed as a soloist around the world. She received her honorary degree on Wednesday, July 10 at the afternoon degree ceremony. After the degree ceremony oration, she gave the following response.

First of all I would like to thank Dr Julian Boon for the very kind things that he has just said about me and also I would like to offer my very sincerest congratulations to all of the graduates here today on their outstanding achievements and wish you a very enjoyable rest of your day.

I have always believed strongly in the power of music to help us understand our emotions, to inspire us, to heal us and to restore a balance. However it has become fashionable during recent years and particularly in this country to denigrate the role of classical music and to label any higher art form or art as elite.

It seems that we have lost faith in classical music as a means of relevant expression and have come to dress it up into a more popularist style. While I know that classical music can lend itself to these extra dimensions without harm, it would be very wrong to continue to do this at the expense of more traditional styles of performance.

I passionately believe in the power of classical music - to overcome any barrier language, culture or social - and during the course of my work I have witnessed this power time and time again.

One of the most rewarding experiences I ever had was when I played to 850 young black school children in a deprived area outside Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. Their inherent attitude towards music of every kind allowed them to experience my concert without preconception and mistrust and not one of them came up to me afterwards and said that they didnít understand the music that I played to them.

During my concert I asked the children if they had any questions for me - and 850 hands shot up in to the air. Their questions were wide-ranging and enchanting. And afterwards scores of children ran up to me telling me that they wanted to learn to play the violin and asking me how it could be done.

No one suggested that if I were to put a rock beat to the music it would be more accessible and far less boring. But the whole foundation of our future audiences depends on education.

If we simply assume that young people will find nothing of value in, for instance, a Tchaikovsky symphony, we neglect to give them the education they deserve and confine whole generations to a future without experiences that may enrich them their whole lives.

We would not dream in this country of undervaluing the benefit of teaching school children about a Shakespeare play, with all its subtleties, humour and tragedy. No-one suggests that we give it a beat or change the language in order to liven it up a little.  

So I firmly believe that education is the critical factor in ensuring that classical music remains as vital and important a part in lives this century as it has been for the last four centuries, and this is why I value so highly this honorary degree of Doctor of Music which is presented to me today. 

I would like to express my sincerest thanks to the University of Leicester for this award which I accept with the utmost gratitude. Thank you. 

July 2002

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Last updated: 19 July 2002 17:00
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