The London Music Fund: working to make music a right, not just a privilege
Posted on 31st May 2023 at 14:14
Back in 2016, the London Music Fund blogged for us about some of the opportunities the charity provides for young people in the capital to fulfil their musical potential. This month, we caught up with Georgina Skinner, the charity’s Programmes Manager, about their inspiring work helping young people access high quality music education, and the impact this work has had.
The London Music Fund was established in 2011 following a review of music education in 2009 undertaken by the Greater London Authority. The review identified that there were a number of gaps in provision for children and young people across the capital. These included opportunities for young musicians from low-income families once their whole-class tuition had come to an end, and access to wider creative partnerships with professional art organisations, particularly in the outer London boroughs.
The London Music Fund (LMF) was created to address these issues, and over 10 years on we are incredibly proud to have directly reached over 13,000 young Londoners through our programmes. In 2022 we celebrated our 10th anniversary with a spectacular gala at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, hosted by YolanDa Brown OBE. Involving past and present Scholars and project participants, this showcase highlighted the impact of our work throughout the past 10 years, and we are excited to share more about our work and the impact of our programmes in this blog.
LMF’s Scholarship programme is a four-year award given to children in primary school who show significant potential on an instrument but whose families are unable to pay for music lessons once free tuition in school ends. Scholars are given a plethora of opportunities through which to progress with their instrumental learning. These include weekly lessons on their chosen instrument, membership to regular ensembles at a suitably challenging level, an instrument they can take home, free tickets to concerts and other exciting events, regular performance opportunities and a dedicated Mentor from their Music Service. The Mentor role has been key to the success of the programme, providing a crucial link between the Scholar’s family, instrumental tutor and Music Service.
Playing Days are a key element of a child’s four-year Scholarship. These termly events provide unique opportunities for Scholars to work creatively alongside professional musicians in inspirational venues across London. In the past year we have held some of our largest events to date, involving nearly 400 Scholars. We have been thrilled to have ABRSM (the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music), The London Chamber Orchestra, The RIOT Ensemble and musicians from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama working directly with our Scholars. Venues have included the Royal Academy of Music, Conway Hall (a much-valued partner of LMF) and the Royal College of Music.
Image: 2023 Playing Day at Conway Hall
Since the programme was established, over 700 Scholarships have been awarded to children all across London, over 65% from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse backgrounds. Ten years on the programme continues to grow, with 100 Scholarships being awarded in September 2022. Scholars have gone on to study at junior conservatoires, passed their Grade 8 exams, joined advanced orchestras in their borough and even become instrumental tutors at their Music Services. Significantly, our Scholars have been able to experience the joy engaging in music sparks; ordinarily this would have only been available to their better-off peers.
LMF’s Partnership programme provides funding for ambitious, inspirational, collaborative projects which address specific gaps in provision across the capital. London Music Services & Hubs can apply for up to £15,000 of funding for a project which aims to tackle a clear gap and where applicants can show that their project will have a lasting legacy. Projects must also include two professional partners. Current beneficiaries include the Tri-Borough Music Hub’s ‘Music Makes Me’ project, which will amplify the stories and lived experiences of D/deaf, disabled, and neurodiverse young people through high-quality music-making, and Waltham Forest Music Service’s ‘Big Up Brass’ which aims to inspire a new generation of brass players.
Over the last decade LMF’s Partnership programme has granted over £705,000 to Music Services, supported 54 projects and directly engaged over 12,000 young people. Since 2021 this programme has been supported by The Karlsson Játiva Charitable Foundation, through the Signatur programme for the advancement of the art of music.
In 2020, we launched Amplify London, in collaboration with YouTube Music and Sound Connections. This ground-breaking new programme supports grassroots organisations that are providing training opportunities and industry pathways for young people (aged 14+) in music, music production or music technology, by funding specific local projects and helping the organisations to forge links with the music industry and the music education sector. In just three years Amplify London has funded 15 projects, invested over £89,000 in grassroots music organisations and supported over 400 young people. Projects include ‘Spit Game’, a talent development programme to support rappers, singers, producers, DJs and creatives. Since the project three of the four young leaders who took part have secured part-time employment with Rap Club.
In September 2022, we were delighted to launch the pilot year of our Senior Scholars programme, with generous support from John Studzinski CBE. Our 10 Senior Scholars, aged 16-19, are all graduates of our main Scholarship programme, now playing at an advanced standard, and intending to pursue music at higher education or conservatoire level. As part of the programme each Senior Scholar has received a grant of £1,000 to support their ongoing musical learning (anything from travel and audition costs to instrument purchase, coaching or tuition). In addition they enjoy opportunities that are tailored to their personal musical aspirations, and are developing their leadership and education skills through working as mentors to LMF’s younger Scholars. This has been a hugely successful programme and it has been a joy to see these excellent musicians mentoring the younger Scholars at our Playing Days. Most recently, all 10 of them performed in a special concert at the Mercers’ Hall, alongside professional pianist Sasha Grynyuk. The Senior Scholars gave beautiful, high-quality performances and received glowing feedback from our audience of supporters and friends.
Despite the positive outcomes of our work over the past 10 years there is still work to do; a report by the think-tank Onward in 2022 found that music lessons are still mostly the preserve of wealthier children and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra reported that 85% of children would like to have music lessons, but music is increasingly seen as an ‘add on’, or a ‘luxury’. As we work to tackle this inequality, we are continuing to assess our offerings to ensure they meet the needs of young musicians in London. We recently responded to feedback which suggested that playing events held on weekdays after school, in more local locations to certain boroughs, would be easier to access for some families. In January 2023 we launched our Twilight Sessions, with one held in North, East, South and West London with a host of professional musicians including Musiko Musika and the English Folk Dance and Song Society. We were hugely encouraged to discover that 50% of the children attending the workshops were those who had previously not been able to attend one of our usual Sunday Playing Days.
As the London Music Fund strives to evolve we will continue to work towards our vision that every child who demonstrates significant musical ability, enthusiasm and commitment to learning an instrument is given the opportunity to develop their potential. In the words of our Patron, Sadiq Khan: “Music should be a right, not a privilege.”
You can read our earlier blog post on the LMF from Chief Executive Chrissy Kinsella here: https://music-workshop.co.uk/resources/blog/harnessing-potential-for-london%E2%80%99s-young-talent/
London Music Fund is a registered charity, Charity No 11412162.
Tagged as: ACCESSIBLE ARTS, MUSIC AND YOUNG PEOPLE, MUSIC EDUCATION, SUPPORT FOR YOUNG MUSICIANS, YOUNG MUSICIANS
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