Harp lessons cut 'maddens' Finch
Catrin Finch started playing the harp at the age of five
Former Royal harpist Catrin Finch has warned the instrument could die out in part of Wales following a decision to axe harp lessons in schools.
Ceredigion Council has taken the step in order to save money, but Ms Finch said she it was "maddening" and urged the local authority to think again.
Ms Finch, who is originally from Llanon in Ceredigion, started learning the harp at school aged five.
The council said the situation was under review.
It has to save £400,000 and as part of the savings, council officials have decided not to replace a peripatetic harp teacher who resigned.
But parents are angry that their children are being denied the chance to develop their skills, and staged a protest at the council's headquarters in Aberaeron on Tuesday.
In the future I suppose the harp will dwindle away
Ms Finch's interest in the instrument started when she was taken to Lampeter music club to watch a harp recital as a child.
In 2000 she was appointed the royal harpist to Prince Charles.
She said: "Learning the harp at school was invaluable. I don't know whether I would have taken up the harp if I had not started then.
"My family were not particularly wealthy by any means. They rented a small harp for me from the school and that's how it all started.
"The instrument isn't particularly elitist in Wales, but it's one of the only instruments that is perhaps too much for parents to afford."
Since her school days Ms Finch has become an internationally-renowned harpist who performs to audiences around the world.
But Ceredigion council's decision to stop school harp lessons has angered her.
"The harp in Wales is more important culturally than any other instrument. I find the whole thing maddening," she said.
She added that the decision could have far-reaching effects.
Many children have had harp lessons at school
"In the future I suppose the harp will dwindle away and if children can have violin and cello lessons for free, and parents have to pay for harp lessons, then the harp will lose out," she said.
"I think it's totally unfair. I can see Ceredigion not having any harpists."
At Tuesday's protest in Aberaeron, council leader Keith Evans said non-statutory services in the education and community department were coming under scrutiny.
He added: "But the reality is that we're having to cope with a tight budget and we're having to make very difficult decisions."
Last month, the council said the department had been asked to save £400,000.
"The task resulted in cutbacks in a number of services across the entire education and community services department," said the council.
"The peripatetic music service element had to find savings of £40,000 and this was achieved, in the main, through the resignation of a harp teacher and the decision not to replace the post."