Beyond music lessons; making the most of the opportunities for musical experience available to young musicians.
by Matthew Lee, Head of Strings in Norfolk Music service and editor of ESTA and Jesta.
Instruments acquired and lessons arranged, but what to do next. Will regular lessons and some practice in between be enough to develop your child’s musical potential? In all probability, the answer to that would be to the negative. Essentially music is a social activity and all musicians, whatever their level of proficiency thrive on making music together, whether formally or informally. Therefore as parents, you owe it to your budding musician to encourage music making in a wide variety of situations.
The most obvious place to start is by asking the person teaching your young musician. Any teacher worth their salt will be thoroughly encouraging of their pupils experiencing a range of music making, usually encompassing a wide variety of genres. They will be the person best placed to advise you on local music making opportunities delivered at a suitable level for young and inexperienced musicians. Often private teachers will run their own ensembles or hold a form of musical gathering where pupils will perform to and with each other. Teachers in schools will usually have access to a range of local area ensembles, structured to a variety of abilities. Usually these will be open to those students taught by independent teachers too.
For parents wanting to make their own enquiries about opportunities the first place to start would be your local music HUB. There are currently 122 Music Hubs chosen by the Arts Council England, creating a nationwide network across the country. Information about the initial HUBS is obtainable from http://www.artscouncil.org.uk , although given the climate of education in the UK at present these are subject to change. Any good HUB will have all the information that a parent would need about initial local music making opportunities for beginner musicians, being able to provide all the information needed to ensure a path of progression for the enthusiastic musician. Usually each HUB will have its own website giving up to date local, regional and national opportunities for making music.
Typically, one should find various opportunities on offer locally. Your child’s school may well offer opportunities ranging from recorder clubs and school choirs through to full sized school orchestras and symphonic wind bands at well-funded and motivated High Schools. Many towns will have a range of ensembles catering for a variety of levels of learner. These often culminate in a local area Youth Orchestra, Wind Band, Brass Band and a host of Choral Opportunities. There will also be opportunities for less traditional music making in the form of rock school type projects, music technology outlets and a host of other similar music making sessions aimed at all styles, genres and cultures. If your music HUB is unable to help you locate anything suitable, it is often worthwhile asking at a local music shop or contacting the head of music at a particularly vibrant local High School Music Department as they will usually have all the information on local initiatives, or know someone else to suggest!
Usually, provision on a wider scale is coordinated by either a local LEA Music Service or Chartable Music Trust. A comprehensive directory of these is available through ‘Music Mark’ – the UK association for Music Education, http://www.musicmark.org.uk . Typically, there is the provision of area ensembles aimed at graded ability leading towards membership of ‘Flagship’ Ensembles such as County Youth Orchestras, Jazz Ensembles, Symphonic Wind Bands, Rock Bands, Brass Bands and Choirs. The list can be endless.
For the more enthusiastic and talented musician it would be worthwhile considering exploring the opportunities on offer by one of the Centres for Advanced Training (CAT), endorsed by the Department for Education (DfE). Their distinctive schemes are intended to develop and nurture young musicians of exceptional potential through continued development. Nationally there are currently 15 Centres for Advanced Training (CATs). Your local Music HUB should be able to direct you to the nearest CAT provision. Often locally based professional orchestras will offer some sort of provision for enthusiastic and talented students too, so it is worth enquiring.
On a national level, the Conservatoires often have junior music departments attached to them. Birmingham Conservatoire Junior School : http://www.bcu.ac.uk/pme/conservatoire/juniors
Royal Northern College of Music – Junior Department: http://www.rncm.ac.uk/
Royal Academy of Music- Junior Department: http://www.ram.ac.uk/
Junior Guildhall: http://www.gsmd.ac.uk/
Royal College of Music Junior Department: http://www.rcm.ac.uk/junior/
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland: http://www.rcs.ac.uk/
Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama: http://www.rwcmd.ac.uk/default.aspx
Junior Trinity: http://www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/juniortrinity
There are also schools that take part in the Music and Dance Scheme.
Chetham’s School of Music: http://www.chethams.com/
Purcell School of Music: http://www.purcell-school.org/
Wells Cathedral School: http://www.wellscathedralschool.org/wells/
Yehudi Menuhin School: http://www.yehudimenuhinschool.co.uk/
St Mary's Music School: http://www.st-marys-music-school.co.uk/
There are also many Choir Schools attached to Cathedrals and information about these can be obtained from: http://www.choirschools.org.uk
For more information on schools within the music and dance scheme visit:
Within the realms of music, there is also a plethora of professional organisations to draw upon the experience of. These are usually associated with specific instruments either individually or within family groups. Many have junior sections aimed at the encouragement of young players and providing well researched information and courses covering a wide range of subjects. Examples of these include:
Music for Youth http://www.mfy.org.uk/
Youth Music http://www.youthmusic.org.uk/
JESTA, Junior European String Teachers’ Association http://www.jesta.org.uk/
National Children's Orchestra of Great Britain http://www.nco.org.uk/
Sing Up http://www.singup.org/
Sound Connections http://www.sound-connections.org.uk/
Trinity College London http://www.trinitycollege.co.uk/
Brighter Sound http://www.brightersound.com/
Centre for Young Musicians http://www.cym.org.uk/
National Youth Orchestra http://www.nyo.org.uk/
Musical Futures www.musicalfutures.org
Obviously, the vast majority of musical opportunity incurs an element of financial outlay. For many this can become restrictive and it is worthwhile approaching you HUB about sources of local funding in the form of grants, loans and trust funds. It could also be worthwhile approaching other organisations such as:
Musicians Benevolent Fund funding wizard http://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/help_you/young_artists/funding_wizard/
The Mayor of London’s Fund for Young Musicians http://mfym.org.uk
BBC Performing Arts Fund http://www.bbc.co.uk/performingartsfund/
EMI Music Sound Foundation http://www.emimusicsoundfoundation.com/
Hattori Foundation http://www.hattorifoundation.org.uk/
The Wingate Foundation http://www.wingatefoundation.org.uk/
The Worshipful Company of Musicians http://www.wcom.org.uk/
Awards for Young Musicians http://www.a-y-m.org.uk/
Whilst in no way a fully comprehensive guide to developing an enthusiastic young musician the information above should give you a reasonable start to researching the full range of opportunities available. With access to so much information at the click of a mouse, it is well worth spending a little time exploring the websites suggested and taking your research further. Who knows where it will lead our young musicians and what they will eventually end up achieving.
Mathew Lee is Senior String Teacher for Norfolk Music Service and External Relations Officer/Editor for the British Branch of the European String Teachers’ Association.