Money and musical youth

The world of youth music has suffered two blows just recently: the decision by the National Association of Youth Orchestras (NAYO) to cancel its annual Festival of British Youth Orchestras and the financial crisis which the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) finds itself in – which seems to be linked in part to the NAYO problem because NYJO was a regular performer at the festival.

One of the things that both organisations have in common is that they have recently lost funding from Youth Music (YM). NAYO’s festival, it has to be said, was looking more and more like a festival for Scottish youth orchestras, as fewer bands from England, Wales, Northern Ireland and abroad have been attending over the past few years, justifying funding from a specifically English body would have been difficult. Quite why YM cut its funding to NYJO, I don’t know.

YM supports a lot of really good projects all over England, reaching young people who might not otherwise have a chance to take part in music, and also managing the Sing Up project which is aiming to revive choral singing for the 21st century. You can’t argue with those aims. It clearly doesn’t see its role as supporting what some people might see as the ‘elite’ end of youth music – the equivalent of county-level youth athletics or the national colts teams – then where will these organisations get the support they need?

Similarly, In Harmony, the ‘El Sistema’-a-like project bringing orchestral playing to inner city estates, is absolutely brilliant, but at the same time our existing county youth orchestra system is desperate for just a little cash to keep them going. In the days when music lessons and membership of county youth ensembles was free and didn’t carry the fees which endless cuts have necessitated, we wouldn’t have needed El Sistema, or we could have had a system where El Sistema could feed into an existing strong system to the benefit of all.

It shouldn’t be either/or – we should be able to run grass-roots development projects for people excluded from the mainstream, but we need to keep the mainstream going too. Where are the politicians and funders who will grasp this?

Published in: on January 20, 2010 at 12:19  Leave a Comment  

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