Bridging the Musical Gap
Posted on 29th October 2015 at 14:30
Across the UK there are outstanding young musicians whose financial circumstances are a real barrier to achieving their full musical potential. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, more than 2.5 million UK children currently live in poverty, and of these, 350,000 are not able to pursue a leisure activity or hobby such as learning a musical instrument due to a lack of available finances. It is estimated that, as a result of deprivation, between 600 and 1000 children with exceptional musical abilities are lost to our society every year.
Future Talent was founded in 2004, co-created with The Duchess of Kent. The Duchess spent 13 years teaching music in an East Hull primary school and has first-hand experience of the challenges young people face in learning an instrument. Over the past 10 years the organisation has worked with and supported many talented young musicians from across the UK, helping them realise their dreams.
The Music Workshop Company team talk to Future Talent’s Craig Titley about musical excellence without boundaries…
What is Future Talent?
“We support exceptionally talented young instrumentalists and singers up to the age of 18, who, due to financial hardship, low aspirations and lack of opportunity would otherwise struggle to realise their musical potential. We provide a bridge for young musicians from low-income backgrounds to enable them to study at junior conservatoires and ultimately give them the option of a career in music.
Our ambition is to make it possible for young people to make a career in music of all genres, whatever their start in life. There’s still a lot of work to do, but with the right level of support at the right time in the development of a young person’s musical journey, a career in music doesn’t have to be an unachievable pipe dream.”
Why is this important?
“The Making Music report, published by Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in autumn 2014, makes it clear that sustained, progressive music education sadly still tends to be the preserve of children born to wealthier parents. The cost of lessons and instruments is cited as a major barrier.
There is a particular need for our work in the current climate. Some low-income families face a stark choice between supporting the musical talent of their child and feeding their family. This level of financial hardship creates a culture of low aspiration, which in itself adds significant barriers to success in the music industry.”
How does it work?
“Through an annual application and audition process, we identify young people who most need our support.
We estimate that many parents of talented musicians spend in the region of £11,500 a year on singing or instrumental lessons, junior conservatoire, youth orchestra or choir and other training course fees.
The families of the young musicians we support are means-tested to determine financial need. It is a real challenge for them to find the money to give their child the same opportunities that children from wealthier backgrounds can take for granted.
We also offer advice and mentoring, which are vital to help the young musicians progress towards their goals. We don’t just provide funding, we offer performance opportunities, involve the musicians in events and masterclasses, and tailor the support to nurture each individual towards a career in music.”
"Without the funding and opportunities that Future Talent has provided over the last four years, it would not have been possible for Alex to have achieved all that he has in music. Your support has opened many doors, which would otherwise be unimaginable."
In September 2014, Alex was offered the Andrew Lloyd Webber music scholarship to study his A-levels at Eton College.
What do you provide?
“We provide a Bursary Programme through which we respond to each individual young person’s needs; for example, a bursary might help a young musician and their family to buy a new instrument, take lessons, and attend workshops, specialist music training courses and summer schools. Young musicians who are able to demonstrate financial hardship are able to apply for up to £3000, which can be used in a lump sum, perhaps paying for an instrument, or over a period of 3 years where it could fund instrumental lessons. ”
"Without the financial bursary of Future Talent it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for me to finish my last and incredibly important year in Junior RNCM. I would not have been able to take my Grade 6 Musical Theory Exam, and I would have had to do without the guidance of my JRNCM tutors in the run-up to my training in conservatoire. The bursary has allowed me to conclude this very important phase in my musical education in a positive manner."
“We also offer career advice. The musical world can be daunting for the young musicians we support. Future Talent staff work closely with children, families and teachers to negotiate instrument prices and recommend courses. We set goals and maintain regular contact with each young person and their family, selecting appropriate performance and audition opportunities to increase their confidence and help them discover and plan their individual music journey and potential career path.
This may seem basic, but it is actually vital work and can make a real difference. Unlike children from wealthier and better-connected backgrounds, most of the young people and their parents with whom Future Talent works do not know about opportunities that exist to develop their careers, nor do they know how to access them. Through our practical and ongoing support we give these young people the best possible chance for their talent to develop.”
Adam O’Shea, a tenor, received a Future Talent bursary in 2008 enabling him to accept a place at Chetham’s School of Music where he studied with mezzo-soprano Helen Francis, an important step in his music development. Thanks to that opportunity, he went on to study with the renowned tenor Adrian Thompson at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and is now beginning to make a name for himself as a young singer:"Adam O’Shea gives a courageous and skillful performance" – Bachtrack review of Workshopera’s new opera: Boys of Paradise
My aspirations for the future have only been made stronger by Future Talent, who have encouraged and supported me in my ambitions. I think Future Talent has been the best thing to happen to me all year and I truly owe so much to this wonderful organisation – Adam O’Shea
“We also offer mentoring and performance opportunities. We have strong partnerships in the musical profession; mentors and partners who have worked with Future Talent young musicians to date include Danielle de Niese, Natalie Clein, Vasily Petrenko, Chloë Hanslip, Lesley Garrett, Guy Johnston, Laurence Cummings, Tine Thing Helseth, the Rambert Orchestra and Sir Mark Elder. The musicians with whom we work would simply never have the opportunity to meet, work and perform alongside such inspirational musicians without our help. Many of these young people lack confidence. Contact with professional musicians of this calibre sends them a powerful message and gives them a strong sense of self-worth. As well as masterclasses and training, we also provide opportunities for young musicians to shadow professional players, rehearsing with organisations including the Hallé and Rambert Orchestras.”
How do you measure the impact of your work?
“Future Talent has a great track record in finding these young people and transforming their chances of succeeding in the music industry. Where appropriate, we will work with each child for up to three years, providing long-term support for greater impact. Our programme represents quality, rather than quantity. We focus on significant outcomes to transform the lives of a select number of exceptionally talented young musicians. A number of organisations exist to provide opportunities at a basic standard to enable large numbers of children to engage with music, and this approach can be a wonderful introduction to the music, but it rarely provides meaningful long-term transformative life changes. At the other end of the spectrum, there is support in place for young professional musicians who have already reached a high level of playing. Future Talent occupies a niche position to bridge the gap between these two approaches. We aim to make a real difference by providing holistic support to young people with exceptional musical talent; people who would otherwise not have the opportunity to shine.
We continuously evaluate our work and measure its impact. Our young musicians write reports of their progress every six months, and we receive annual reports from mentors, monitoring progress against the goals we set with the young people.
We measure long-term demonstrable musical achievements and career progression. Of last year’s award recipients, five were offered places at a conservatoire. Others hold positions in national ensembles including National Youth Orchestra, National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, National Youth Brass Ensemble and National Wind Orchestra. Ninety seven percent of our young people have passed their grade 8 exam with distinction and our musicians have won prestigious competitions and awards including Royal Overseas League, Young Drummer of the Year, British Flute Society Young Artist, and the ABRSM Sheila Mossman Prize for highest graded exam mark in the UK.”
Joy Becker came to Future Talent seven years ago, as a 14-year-old violinist, struggling with confidence. With our help she went on to become leader of both Junior RNCM Orchestra and Hallé Youth Orchestra and a member of National Youth Orchestra. Joy has just graduated from conservatoire and is now working on the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra’s professional experience scheme.
“As our work continues over a longer period, we are increasingly able to see the long-term impact of our intervention in the early stages of these musicians’ careers.”
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