Author Archives: Adam Cooper

Is There Really A Music Education Crisis?

For years there have been cries from national newspapers and educational bodies that an expulsion of compulsory music education would be inevitable, citing the decreases in uptake for music at GCSE level. Even primary schools are experiencing a lull in provision for the arts subjects to make way for additional numeracy and literacy lessons.

The plight of music in state education has always been a contentious issue with many concluding that there is a crisis in music education that additional funding cannot solely resolve. It is becoming increasingly clear that many of those who are arguing for more attention to be given to music in the curriculum do not have a clear plan for rectifying these issues.

Music education in schools

But the flurry of media headlines, stating the end of music in schools as we know it is somewhat misleading. In fact, not only is this narrative unhelpful – it’s also untrue. The doom and gloom story is in danger of drowning out the significant successes of the last decades. And it’s doing a disservice to the large number of individuals and organisations who are engaging and inspiring young people through music.

Amid talks of cuts, it can be easy to forget that the Department for Education invests £75m a year into music education hubs. Arts Council England’s national portfolio funding for music organisations, many of which deliver education work, exceeds £90m annually.

The charity organisation Youth Music invests around £9m a year in projects that foster a wide range of musical, personal and social outcomes.

Music education has faced criticism, often justified, for being the preserve of the wealthy, too focused on classical music, and of varying quality. But the emergence of exciting new groups and initiatives is rapidly changing this, and the field is now more creative, diverse, inclusive and relevant than ever.

Fresh ways of engaging in music

The Electric Youth Ensemble is encouraging traditional orchestral players to develop new performance skills and think about music differently. Last year Grime: An Opera performed in a disused bus shelter by professional grime musicians and music producers and Essex Youth Orchestra.

Watch the highlights from A Grime Opera below:

At a recent panel debate, several GCSE music awarding bodies confimed that newere forms of music-making like MCing and music production are legitimate pathways through the qualification.

Making music-making more accessible

Music education is also becoming more accessible. The charity Open Up Music has developed a musical instrument called the clarion that can be played with any part of the body. Along with other accessible instruments, it’s being used in 54 open orchestras that take place in special schools across the country.

The South West Open Youth Orchestra in Bristol is the country’s first regional disabled-led youth orchestra. And a range of other initiatives are supporting participation from under-represented groups, such as the large-scale Both Sides Now project for emerging female music creators in the north of England.

The sector is also being enhanced through digital resources like Charanga’s VIP Studio Suite, which enables young people to compose, record and produce popular music styles in the classroom, so teachers don’t have to be specialists in these forms of music. Charanga’s new music resource for people with special educational needs and disability is already being used by over 150 special schools across the country, supported by music hubs nationwide – including Tees Valley Music Service.

Glimmers of hope

With all this said, there have undeniably been significant cuts to music in some secondary schools, as music’s place in the curriculum has been downgraded due to the Ebacc and funding pressures. The scale is not fully known, but these cuts have probably affected at least one-third of state funded secondaries.

But this decline started long before the Ebacc even existed, and may well be counterbalanced to an extent by an increase in more vocational music qualifications. In some schools, music is positively thriving. At Manor Academy in York there were 146 expressions of interest to take GCSE Music last year, out of a year group of 220 pupils.

Ofsted recognise the value of music, stating in a recent announcement that a new inspection framework will assess schools on whether they offer a broad, deep and rich curriculum which is promising news for the arts subjects.

There are fantastic examples of music-making outside the classroom too. Projects are being set up all over the country, taking place in all kinds of spaces from youth centres and libraries, to hospitals and housing estates.

An uncertain future

Even with the optimistic outlook for music education in the UK, there are notably threats which do need consideration to plan and manage. The government has announced rises in pay and pension contributions for teachers, but it is still unclear if there will be enough funding for this to include those centrally employed by music services – 4,900 music teachers, working both in and outside schools.

Further down the line, there’s next year’s government spending review, as well as Brexit to consider and the declining investment from local authorities. Current funding for music education hubs ends in 2020 and a Department for Education announcement on their future is awaited.

But the crisis narrative doesn’t reflect the complexity of the current situation. Now, more than ever, music education providers should be looking at narratives that strengthen the need for music in education to benefit the young musicians of today and tomorrow.

Going forward, music practitioners will need to alter their perception of how music education should be delivered. The landscape is changing, and those in the music education sector need to change too. A recent report commissioned by Arts Council England warned that organisations will need to become more experimental, adopt new organisational practices and foster a sophisticated array of cross-sector partnerships.

Closing conclusion 

Music education in England (and the wider UK) is miles ahead of most other developed countries. But this doesn’t mean we should halt or hesitate. It’s time for greater cohesion, honest reflection and a dialogue that focuses not on rhetoric but on solutions.

Music education ‘must move into 21st century’ or risk failing young musicians

Music education must evolve to fit the needs of the 21st century or risk failing generations of young talent, a new report has warned.

There are “huge disparities” in provision of music lessons between schools and a failure to recognise how young people engage with music, according to The Music Commission. who published the report.

The report, entitled Returning our Ambitions for Music Learning, comes as a result of an 18-month inquiry chaired by Sir Nicholas Kenyon, who is the managing director of arts centre the Barbican and a former controller of the BBC Proms.

It argues that young people from all backgrounds can achieve their musical potential by forging better connections between schools, music teachers and publicly funded music organisations in the community.

Music education

The Music Commission warned that the delivery of music education would have to change to halt falling music student numbers.

Other recommendations include universal free school-based music tuition, a stipulation that schools can only be classed as ‘outstanding’ if they have a broad cultural programme, and initiatives to get young people involved in the planning of music organisations’ work.

Sir Nicholas said: “There is a host of pressures we understand on schools to meet targets and achieve results.”

“But there’s a growing understanding that this is not enough. Part of this is about funding and connecting young people with the opportunities there are to progress, but we have got to do more to move music education into the 21st century.”

The report also argues that music is “central for creating skills for a modern economy and society”, according to a statement from The Music Commission.

The music industry generates “significant economic value” but education in the art form also improves confidence and broader academic attainment among pupils”, it added.

Sir Nicholas said: “Every young person should be supported to achieve their musical potential, whatever their background.”

“This is a basic issue of equality of opportunity. There is some great practice out there, especially in the early years, as we’ve shown that we can start them on this journey.”

“The problem is that too often we are then failing them – and ourselves – by not supporting them to progress and realise the personal, creative and economic benefits of the initial investment that we all make”.

A spokesman for the Department for Education (Dfe) said they are currently working with music groups to “refresh” the approach to music education, adding “We want all pupils to have the opportunity to study music at school.”

He continued: “This is why the subject is compulsory in the National Curriculum from the age of five up to 14. We are also putting more money into arts education programmes than any subject other than PE – nearly half a billion pounds to fund a range of music and cultural programmes between 2016 and 2020.”

Key findings from The Music Commission report

Read the summary of findings from The Music Commission report here.

Tickets for BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend Sell Out In 2 Hours

Tickets for the widely anticipated Big Weekend concerts at Stuart Park have sold out in less than 2 hours.

The two day event will see huge names in the music industry travel to Middlesbrough in May. Stars already billed to appear include Miley Cyrus, Little Mix, Mumford and Sons and Rita Ora.

Priced at £18.50 a ticket per day, people were given the option of selecting one day over the other or opt for both days for double the price. Unfortunately, many underestimated the speed at which tickets would sell out.

Tickets went on sale on Thursday evening at 5pm but rapidly sold out with all 64,000 tickets selling in less than 2 hours. Teessiders had priority, with those living within Middlesbrough having access to half of the tickets before a further 35% of the remaining tickets were made available to those residing in Stockton, Redcar Darlington and Hartlepool. The rest of the tickets were subsequently were opened up to the rest of the UK.

Ticketmaster reported that tickets available for Middlesbrough sold out in 90 minutes, tickets sold our in an hour for the surrounding areas and just 40 minutes for the remainder of tickets available nationwide.

Many were left frustrated as the website crashed multiple times as people who were in-line for being allocated tickets. Others experienced lags on the server, resulting in many who had reached the payment screen being pushed back to the ticket options page.

One disgruntled fan wrote: “I would like to complain about how bad the sale of the tickets was. I was put in the queue for over one hour and tickets had sold out. How can you be in a queue for something and not be able to buy?”

The lucky ones who secured tickets to the major event on Teesside expressed their delight and excitement. One Facebook user posted onto the BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend’s page: “Thank you, got myself and my daughter tickets to both days. We are ecstatic!”

Another posted: “Just cancelled our holiday so we could attend the concerts. This will be the highlight of our year.”

Radio 1 responded following the tickets selling out:

Radio 1 Big Weekend takes place on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th May. The full list of performers attending the concerts is available on the BBC Radio 1 website

Former TVMS Pupil Talks Helping the Homeless and Opera Singing

A former pupil of TVMS has been lavished with praise in the press recently for her work with asylum seekers and the homeless. Emily Smith, an opera singer who initially received lessons from Tees Valley Music Service in 1997, has been working with MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) and conducting the Middlesbrough Homeless Choir. Onlookers stop to listen, overwhelmed by the impressive sound, as the voices prepare for a concert as part of the Streetwise Opera project.

Streetwise is an award-winning charity that helps people who are, or have been, homeless to stage operas, and singer Emily is readying them for a concert in Middlesbrough Town Hall. With her husband, tenor singer David Pisaro, Emily conducts a choir of asylum seekers at the Middlesbrough Institute for Modern Art for the Methodist Asylum Project (MAP).

Emily Smith has worked with many disadvantaged people in Middlesbrough.

“Asylum seekers are so often vilified”, Emily says. “They are people who fled their homes to save their lives. They enrich the group with the music they bring. Many are professionals and people with skills who would be an asset to this country. I want their music and voices to be heard”.

Emily, who is one of the teachers at this month’s Stokesley Song Fest, is passionate about the positive effect music can have on people’s lives. Ms Smith continued: “I always work to a high level but we have fun, and the atmosphere is supportive and inclusive,” she says. “We look at common and relevant themes within the opera stories, and they often put their own lyrics to the music. During MAP sessions, we work with different languages of the people we teach. They share music from their own countries, which enriches the experience, and we hope that our sessions bring a moment of peace in their own difficult lives.”

Emily has always had a passion for music. Her family are musical, her music teacher (Mr Lewis) supported her to achieving a Grade 8 in piano, singing and cello, before going to study at the Guildhall School of Music in London, where she met David. After two years working in London, they decided to move back up to the North East so they could work in a less competitive and crowded part of the country. They quickly set up the Sage’s Sing Up project, where Emily traveled around primary schools, encouraging teachers to set up school choirs.

Speaking to the Darlington & Stockton Times, she said she wanted to bring the experience of singing to places where there isn’t much music as well as making the lives of those less fortunate better. She taught opera to people with learning difficulties which eventually culminated with a massive concert at Bridlington Spa, written by Lee Hall, the writer of Billy Elliot.

Emily, with her husband, leading the Middlesbrough Homeless Choir at MIMA.

Emily says there are no obstacles to prevent people from singing. ” Language is not a barrier,” she says. “Three times a year I work in Spain. I travel around the main cities in Southern Spain auditioning students for youth choirs. We worked with both the youth choirs and children’s choirs of Andalusia, as well as performing in concerts and recitals ourselves.”

She wants to expand her work with asylum seekers and homeless people and recently received a message from one of the MAP asylum seekers. It read: “The singing sessions at MAP are not just the best thing I have done since coming to the UK, but the best thing I have done in my life.”

The homeless and asylum-seeking choirs performed at Middlesbrough Town Hall on Friday 1st March at 7PM on an evening that was filled with joyful and refreshing music which cut through the stuffiness of traditional opera. It also included the premiere of After the Storm, an opera piece created by composer Hayley Jenkins. Emily was also one of the teachers at Stokesley Song Fest over the weekend of 15-17 February.

Sixteen Benefits Of Playing An Instrument

Choosing to play an instrument is the beginning of a journey. One that is exciting, but often filled with struggle and hard work. It will require you to take in new information and master new skills.

Listed below are some of the many benefits of playing an instrument. Many people who take up learning a musical instrument frequently get discouraged due to the level of dedication and time commitment it takes therefore it’s important to keep the benefits in mind.

Reduces stress

A study, published by The National Center for Biotechnology Information, researched into how effective music was in lowering stress. The test involve putting dozens of volunteers into three groups and exposed to different stimulus. Group 1 – relaxing music, Group 2 – the sound of rippling water and Group 3 – resting with no sound present. After, their stress indicators were measured. The study showed that those who listened to relaxing music had significantly lower cortisol (the stress hormone) levels than those in the other two groups.

Life is often stressful so listening to music can be a way to relax and take your mind away from the complexities of day to day life.

Strengthens patience and perseverance

The process to play an instrument is not always easy. It doesn’t just involve expanding your mind but adapting your body as well. You will have to learn fingerings and/or chord shapes, develop techniques, and memorize new information. Slowly, with consistant practice, you will find yourself getting better. With each new milestone you gain a small reward and a fresh incentive to continue your musical journey. Making music requires patience. Instead of getting immediate results, you will have to persevere.

Develops appreciation for music

You don’t have to become Mozart to reap the benefits of music. You can gain many of these benefits by just learning the basics. Through going through a variety of pieces, you will find different composers, styles and genres of music that suits your particular tastes. Not only does this cause you to be more well-versed in music, but it also leads to a higher appreciation of the skill.

There are so many genres and styles of music to experiment with.

According to Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, unless you have taken part in music education, or in learning a musical instrument, you have no real basis for assessing the quality of a piece of music.

Cultivates creativity

At its core, music is an art form.

Music is a language, and the more “words” you learn the more you will be able to say. You will soon find yourself wanting to apply the knowledge you’ve already gained to create music of your own by using different chord arrangements and so on. Music is not just about knowing how to play specific songs, it is about expressing emotion through sound. Whether it’s just playing your own version of a song, or creating an entirely new one, learning how to play an instrument enables you to use your creativity to say something original.

Utilities every part of the brain

Science has shown that musical training can change brain structure and function for the better. It can also improve long-term memory and lead to better brain development for those who start at a young age.

Furthermore, brain scans have been able to identify the difference in brain structure between musicians and non-musicans. Most notably, the corpus collosum, a massive bundle of nerve fibres connecting the two sides of the brain, is larger in musicians. Also, the areas improving movement, hearing and memory abilities appear to be larger in long-term players.

Interestingly, even brief periods of musical training can have long-lasting benefits. Increases in reading, memory capacity and happiness were also outlined in the report, conducted by the University of Westminster.

Strengthens your immune system

While investigating the effects of music, physiologists and neuroscientists Daniel J. Levitin and Mona Lisa Chanda found that listening to music and playing an instrument benefited the immune system. These activities lead to the manufacturing of the antibody immunoglobulin-A,  (IgA) which kills viruses.

Improves time-management skills

Adding learning an instrument into an already busy schedule can be challenging, especially if you want to become an advanced player. The desire to get better will help you to schedule in practice during your already busy day. You also learn the life skill of how to waste less time and to use your time wisely.

Increase memory capacity

Way back in 2003, ABC Science included a study conducted amongst school students, half of whom had been musically trained, and half who had not. The test involved reading a list of words to the students and asking them to recall the words after a period of time had elapsed. The study found that the boys who had been musically trained had a significantly better verbal memory than the boys who had not. In addition, the more musical training they had, the more words they were able to remember.

Allows you to share with others

Once people know you can play a musical instrument, they will want to hear you play. Perhaps unsurprising to hear, the ability to play a musical instrument is not commonplace and most family circles do not have that mother or father, brother or sister, who can competently play aninstrument, let alone perform in front of a group of people.

So once you learn how to effectively play an instrument, not only do you have the ability to Young violinist performing to a crowd of peopleshare your gift with family and friends, you can bless those at nursing homes, church, large family gatherings, and on special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas’. The list is endless!

Increases emotional perception

In 2009, the European Journal of Science investigated the relationship between musical training and the processing of vocal emotion. They found that those who were musically trained better detected vocal emotions. This makes sense because there are many “emotions” conveyed through music. For example, excitement is produced through dynamics that get progressively louder and higher pitched. Being exposed to this tonal variance in music can help you to not just detect the emotions of music but the emotions behind people’s words.

Evolves personal discipline 

No one can learn to play an instrument overnight. Making music requires work and a consistent investment in time and effort. As they say, practice makes perfect. Discipline is necessary to go through the process of consistent, focused practice, especially with all the distractions that are so apparent in modern day life. This discipline can carry over into other aspects of your life, elevating the quality of the life you live.

Enlarges the brain

Another study initially carried out in 2003 from the Journal of Neuroscience compared the brains of professional musicians, amateur musicians and non-musicians. The study found an increase in grey matter in many areas of the brain of professional musicians. Grey matter includes most of the brain’s neuronal cell bodies. This type of matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, speech, decision making and self control.

The study found that amateur musicians had less grey matter in those areas, and the non-musicians had the least gray matter. According to Via Radiology, grey matter provides us with information processing power. The more advanced you are in music the larger volume of grey matter you have in your brain.

Builds confidence

The process of learning music leads to you playing in front of other people. This could include playing in front of your teacher, playing at a seasonal recital or playing for curious family and friends. This fosters the valuable expertise and grit necessary to confidently hold it together when other people are watching. The confidence instilled from your experiences with performing to large crowds will be carried over to all other areas of your life.

Benefits spelling and IQ in children

The National Center for Biotechnology Information directed a study involving a group of German elementary students to study the effects of musical training. they compared three groups: those who played an instrument, those who didn’t play an instrument, and those who didn’t play an instrument but had a member of the family who did. They found that the non-verbal IQ of those who played an instrument was the highest. In addition, those who played an instrument had the fewest spelling mistakes; likely due to the precision needed to learn music.

Perhaps playing an instrument is the perfect solution for a child who is struggling in school!

Decreases age related hearing loss

Hearing musicIn a study performed by the then doctoral student Benjamin Zendal and Dr. Claude Alain, participants were instructed to attentively listen to complex sounds. It was found that the older musicians auditory cortices responded the same as the younger participants and at a higher functionality than the older non-musicians, who had age-related hindrances. This is ironic because many musicians experience hearing loss from the loud music they are a part of, but if you protect your ears from the “loudness” of music, music can actually benefit your hearing.

Speeds up reaction times

A study by Dr.Simon Landry at a Canadian university lead a study comparing the reaction times of musicians who had at least 7 years of training with non-musicians. Dr. Simon had the participating students place one hand on a mouse, the other on a vibrotactile device, and placed a speaker in front of them. If the students felt a vibration from the vibrotactile device, or heard a sound from the speaker, or sensed both happening at the same time, they were instructed to click the mouse. The results demonstrated that the musicians had significantly faster reaction times all three ways they were stimulated.

In summary…

Above everything else, music makes you happy! There are few pleasures in this world that can be compared to the high you feel from sitting down with your own instrument and letting your soul flow through your body and out across the freeing flowing chords of a musical piece. And this is what underpins every benefit of learning to play an instrument: it’s enjoyable.

And if it’s enjoyable chances are you’re going to stick with it.

Full Credit
This report was originally published by Mike Levitsky from Drums and Guitar.

Two Thirds Of British Students Make Music

A new poll by Youth Music shows a massive rise in music-making among young people – especially among those from lower-income backgrounds.

New research has found that more than two-thirds of young people are active musicians.

What did the study show?

The study by music charity and TVMS partner Youth Music polled more than 1000 Britsih children aged from seven to seventeen about their music habits. Unsurprisingly, 97% of them had listened to music in the previous week – but 67% had also engaged in “some form of music-making activity”. It’s a huge rise from 39% in 2006, when Youth Music conducted their previous survey.

Among those who said they made music, singing was the most popular means, with 44% saying they did compared with 17% in 2006. Thirty percent of surveyed children played an instrument – 39% of whom are somewhat self-taught – with the piano proving most popular. Eleven per cent made music on a computer while fewer than 10% rapped or DJ’d.

Children singing with singing teacher

What was the cause of this increase?

It’s been over 10 years since Youth Music conducted the same study which looked at the levels of engagement children have with music education. One explanation as to what could have caused such a sharp increase in music education was the implementation of music hubs across the country. In 2012, to combat the erosion of music in public schools, Arts Council England established Music Education Hubs to provide access, opportunities and excellence in music education for all children and young people.

The shift from provision being delivered by schools to external providers delivering the National Plan for Music has certainly contributed to an increase in engagement with young people.

Another possible reason interest in music has increased is the popularity of musical figures and specific instruments that dominate the mainstream. Nowadays, the likes of Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande are role models for young people and watching Ed Sheeran’s skills on the guitar or listening to Ariana Grande latest album affirms to children that learning to play an instrument can be modern and worthwhile.

Ed Sheeran is one of the UK’s biggest pop stars.

What did the study show?

Not everything in the report was positive however, as additional evidence has found that music-making tends to fall off as children get older – 79% of all children aged 7 to 10 made music versus 53% of those aged 16 and 17.

Income affected the findings: 76% of children entitled to free school meals described themselves as musical, versus 60% of those not entitled. Activities including rapping, DJing, writing music and making music digitally were all markedly higher among children following lower-income backgrounds.

The research comes as enrollment in music qualifications is in decline, with the number of schools offering A-level music falling by 15% in the last two years, and 60% of schools reporting that the introduction of the English baccalaureate (Ebacc) was negatively impacting music education.

The report’s authors argue it is vital “to make music an indispensable part of school life”. But they also acknowledge the potential in mobile video apps like TikTok, saying: “While there may be a lot of music involved, the app encourages young people to be creative, autonomous and hone their performance skills, often in highly humorous ways.”

Writing in the introduction of the report, Youth Music CEO, Matt Griffiths outlines some of the problems around access to music for young people: “While we might have online access to more music than ever before, we still can’t afford to go to that festival, be a regular gig-goer, rehearse with a band or afford to buy that instrument we’ve always wanted. And if we’re at a school, it’s getting increasingly more difficult to access music in the curriculum where its importance is in many cases being downgraded.”

The report’s authors recommend that “public music education funds should be targeted towards those who face greatest barriers to access” and “those involved in supporting young people’s well-being should give greater consideration to the role that music can play, and how young people’s passion for listening to music and their everyday creative lives can be interwoven with wider strategies to support good mental health.”

Youth Music and other organisations continue to work with young people throughout the UK on musical projects to enhance their lives and provides the facilities to make great art which benefits the wider community and has an impact on everyone’s lives.

Read more about Youth Music are the work that they do here.


Young People Are Listening To Classical Music in 2019: Here’s Why

Scarla Radio, a new classical radio station, conducted a fresh study into who the consumers of classical music are and what the trends show. Surprisingly, the research discovered that a growing audience for the classics are under 35 year olds.

To many, the decision to greenlilght Scala Radio, a radio station founded on the belief that classical music can appeal to younger audiences, will have come as a surprise. But the study has shown clear indications of new listening trends, with almost half (45%) of young people saying they see classical music as an escape from the noise of modern life.

The new digital radio station will have DJ Simon Mayo at the forefront of its presenting team when it launches in March. Mayo, who left BBC Radio 2 last year, will be joined at Scarla by the unorthodox orchestral music lover Goldie.

The launch of a new classical entertainment station aimed at younger listeners is based on more than a hunch. Research found that a new generation of listeners was switching on to classical music through different sources, with 48% of under-35s exposed to it through classical versions of popular songs such as Taylor Swift’s Blank Space. By merging contemporary pop songs with classical arrangements it offers a new spin on the original version which bridges the gap many young people have with current music and more classical works. An example of how this works in practice is demonstrated below:


Furthermore, 74% of people in the same age group had experienced classical music via a live orchestral performance at a film screening, according to analysts at Insight working for Bauer Media, owner of Scarla Radio.

The media company had this to say in reference to the research: “Our studies have shown that film screenings, experiential events such as Secret Cinema and themed performances such as Pete Tong Ibiza Classics are key drivers in exposing younger audiences to classical music.” And this analysis appears to ring true as classical music is resonating more with the younger demographics than it has in decades. What has caused this resurgence is still a cause for debate but one possible indicator is the role it plays in modern entertainment and society as a whole.

Jack Pepper, Britain’s youngest commissioned composer, explored this theory: “Classical music is surrounded by the misconception that it’s irrelevant, sterile and inaccessible to a majority of people. What many don’t realise is there is an authentic modern-day narrative to accompany classical music which is really connecting with people.”

Citing the appeal of soundtracks for video games as well as for primetime TV dramas and the cinema, the 19 year old said that even the greats of the conventional repertoire still had something to say. “Even the classical masters like Beethoven and Mozart have shocking, entertaining, humorous and sometimes tragic life stories. A classical composer is a normal human being with the same ups and downs we can all relate to.”

Composer Jack Pepper

Jack Pepper has composed for the Royal Opera House and has collaborated with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Jack will also be joining Scala Radio when it launches in March.

The growing popularity of classical music among young people follows recent survey results highlighting young people’s use of art galleries and museums as sanctuaries and figures released last week showing rising sales of poetry among young readers.

These findings can only serve as a positive for the classical genre with fears it could slip into insignificance for many of the British public. This research highlights a turning point, one that is hopefully not short-lived, so that many people can enjoy the genre of classical music for generations to come.

A Look Back at Tees Valley Youth Orchestra

Tees Valley Youth Orchestra has now entered its 50th year and is celebrating in style, with a return to Sage Gateshead for a special Anniversary Concert in May and a performance at Carnegie Hall in New York in July.

The history of TVYO

The Orchestra, in its present form, dates back to 1969 when the Teesside Youth Orchestra was formed to bring together the most advanced young players in the area. After local government reorganisation the Orchestra became the Cleveland Youth Orchestra, and achieved their first Outstanding Performance Award in London at the National Festival of Music for Youth.

In the late 80s the Orchestra founder and conductor, Edwin Raymond, retired and was succeeded for over twenty years by David Kendall, Head of the Music Service, during which time the Orchestra became known as Tees Valley Youth Orchestra. On David Kendal’s retirement in 2006 the baton was handed to Chris Johns who left at the end of 2010 to take up an appointment as Director of Music at Leicester Cathedral.

Since 2011 the Orchestra, now known as Tees Valley Youth Orchestra has been conducted by Nicholas Nowicki.

Nick Nowicki conducting TVYO

Nicholas Nowicki at Christmas Gala Concert 2018

There have been numerous highlights during the Orchestra’s history, with tours throughout Europe (and this year to America for the first time), and performances in outstanding venues such as the Vigado in Budapest, the International Festival of Youth Orchestras in Florence, Symphony Hall in Birmingham, the Sage Gateshead and the Eden Project in Cornwall.

Many former members have themselves gone on to achieve great things in the music world, and we hope to catch up with as many of them as possible at the Orchestra’s Anniversary Concert at Sage Gateshead in May.

We are extremely proud of the Orchestra’s achievements in the last fifty years, and we look forward to many more successes in the next fifty!

New Year, New Music – Coming Up In 2019

This year is gearing up to be a very special year for Tees Valley Music Service. With more events and activities planned for this year than in previous years, music in Tees Valley has never been more alive and vibrant. Have a read of some of the events, concerts and opportunities we have planned for 2019 below:

Guitar & Brass Taster Session

Have you ever wanted to learn the guitar or the trumpet but were put off by the hefty tuition fees? On Monday 14th January come along to a free guitar and brass taster session at Redcar & Cleveland College. From 4:30pm until 5pm, learn the basics of guitar and brass playing with our experienced and professional teachers. If this session sparks (or reignites) your interest in learning to play guitar or a brass instrument then there will be an opportunity to enroll in weekly lessons commencing the 21st January 2019.

Call TVMS on 01642 603600 to let us that you will be attending and if you require us to provide an instrument.

TVYC Baroque Concert

For the third consecutive year TVYC will join St Peters Choir and Guest Orchestra in a new year Baroque celebration. The programme will feature Handel’s The King Shall Rejoice, and music by Fisch and Zipoli. Tickets are £10, all adults, and are available from The concert is at St Peter’s Church in Stockton at 7:30pm.

Orchestral Workshop Day

Have you ever wanted to play in an orchestra? Join current members of Tees Valley Youth Orchestra as we give you a taste of rehearsing and performing in a top youth orchestra. On Saturday 2nd March, 10am – 5pm at Ian Ramsey Academy, you will be coached in instrumental sectionals by our professional tutors as well as play all together under TVYO’s conductor, working on a variety of pieces. You don’t need any previous experience of playing in an orchestra, just enthusiasm!

This opportunity is open to players of any orchestral instrument from Grade 3 upwards to join in this exciting and rare opportunity. Family and friends are invited to come along for a short performance at 4:15pm on the day. For your child to be part of this workshop please complete the form and send it to the TVMS Office.  For more information about the orchestra or enquiries about the day, please contact

Snappy Spring, Snappy Opera & Snappy Christmas

Snappy Music is back in full force this year with a trio of Big Sing workshops for primary school children to get involved in. For some children these mass-singing events are one of the first and only opportunities they have to take part in music, certainly at this scale. That is why it is essential that these events continue to get evolve so the benefits of Snappy Music grow and reach even more primary pupils.

Snappy Spring takes place in March with a selection of Snappy Songs for schools and their pupils to learn and perform. In April, Snappy Opera will tackle the difficult but hugely influential genre of opera (following in the footsteps of Snappy Carmen in 2018) where pupils will look at pieces of music not commonly heard. Snappy Christmas will also return this year in November and December for another round of festive fun, certain to include a few seasonal surprises.

Schools who would like to participate in any of these events please contact the TVMS Office on 01642 603600.


Great North Jazz Big Band Festival with TVYJC

Premier ensemble Tees Valley Youth Jazz Collective will take part in the Great North Jazz Big Band Festival on Sunday 3rd March between 3pm – 6pm at Park View Academy on Chester le Street in Sunderland. For many members of TVYJC this will be the first major festival they will be a part of as the event will not only allow them to meet like minded peers and make new connections but also play music in a competitive environment.

Tees Valley Youth Jazz Collective formed in 2018 and held their first ever concert as a band at Middlesbrough Town Hall in October where they performed alongside the National Youth Jazz Orchestra.

TVYO’s 50th Anniversary Concert

TVYO celebrate 50 years with a special concert at the Sage Gateshead, featuring the current orchestra members. They will also be joined with orchestras featuring many former members. This is a performance not to be missed! The concert will take place on Sunday 5th May.

North East Festival of Youth Choirs

Tees Valley Youth Choir will perform at the annual NEFYC. Taking place at Durham Cathedral this ‘not to be missed’ event will bring choirs from around the country together for a spectacular day of choral music.

TVYO Tour to New York City

It’s the largest and most anticipated event of the year as over 100 members of TVYO travel to New York City for a once-in-a-lifetime performance at the world famous Carnegie Hall.  They will be staying in Times Square, in the heart of Manhattan, so there’ll be lots of opportunities for sight-seeing. The entire tour will span 5 nights with the concert taking place on Thursday 11th July at 8pm. Tickets are not yet available but keep a look out on the Carnegie Hall website for details as to when they will be released to purchase. Also keep up to date with TVMS’ Facebook & Twitter pages for the latest information as soon as it’s released.

Press Release – TVYO Tour to New York

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Tees Valley Youth Orchestra celebrates its 50th Anniversary with a performance in Carnegie Hall

Talented musicians from Tees Valley have been handed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform in one of the world’s most famous venues – Carnegie Hall, New York – as part of the Orchestra’s 50th Anniversary celebrations in July 2019 under the baton of Nicholas Nowicki.

The 120-strong orchestra is run by Tees Valley Music Service and is made up of students from across the Northeast who rehearse each week and who perform both nationally and internationally, including recent concerts at Sage Gateshead, Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, and tours to Granada, Hungary and Italy.

A major fundraising campaign is currently underway with a target of  £130,000 so as to ensure the youngsters can take advantage of this opportunity. Local businesses are being approached to see if they can help, and the Friends of Tees Valley Youth Orchestra, together with students and their families, have been fundraising too – it’s very much part of a massed team effort to be able to put our region on the map and let the Americans see what wonderful young people we have in Teesside and what fantastic support they have received to be able to make their dream a reality.

Sponsor a Seat promotional flyer

Find out how you can support the orchestra here.

Megan Robinson, who plays flute in the Orchestra, said, “To be part of an orchestra that is playing in such a world class venue has raised my aspirations for a future career in music. Carnegie Hall will be an amazing experience which I will never forget throughout my life as a performer. Truly once in a lifetime!”

Another Orchestra member, James Corking, who plays trumpet says, “It is a great privilege to be part of an orchestra that is playing in such a prestigious concert hall performing challenging repertoire for all members of the orchestra. I can’t wait!

The Orchestra’s 50th Anniversary celebrations also include a return to Sage Gateshead, and have recently performed at St Nicholas’ Cathedral in Newcastle on Saturday 8th December and have featured in a Christmas Gala Concert on Saturday 15th December in Stockton Parish Church.

TVYO at the Christmas Gala Concert

TVYO at the Christmas Gala Concert on December 15th.

For further information, or if you would like to contribute to our fundraising efforts, please contact Tees Valley Music Service. To see the Tees Valley Youth Orchestra in action visit their Facebook and Twitter pages as well as TVMS’ YouTube channel.