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Participation and belonging

5 years ago

As a charity promoting musical participation, Music for Youth is an organisation we are proud to support, as Rhian Morgan finds out.

Making musical involvement possible

As a teenage musician growing up in Leicestershire, Judith Webster remembers enjoying every minute of the experience. Violin lessons, concerts, county orchestras and tours were all on offer and part of everyday life. But today, as Chief Executive of Music for Youth, a UK-based music education charity providing free access to performance and audience opportunities for young musicians, Judith wonders how different life might have been if she’d played, say, the bass guitar or another instrument which didn’t have so many organised opportunities for music making.’A big part of being a musician is the involvement – playing with other people,’ she says. ‘And that’s exactly what we are doing with our Regional Festivals. With the backing of ABRSM, these events give more than 40,000 young musicians the chance to perform in front of an audience each year, whatever their instrument, age or standard.’

Music for Youth and ABRSM

ABRSM has a long-standing relationship with Music for Youth – sponsoring their Regional Festivals for 20 years. The charity’s work is split into four areas: the Regional and National Festivals, the Schools Prom and Showcase Music, where young musicians take centre stage at major political, business, industry and education events.To Lincoln Abbotts, Director of Strategic Development at ABRSM, the Regional Festivals provide ‘something extra special’. ‘It’s an opportunity for groups of all sizes and musical styles to perform with and to each other,’ he says ‘and also to benefit from expert feedback. Each year these unique events bring together so many young musicians at venues all over the UK in a real celebration of musical skills and talents.’

Quantity, quality and variety

Music for Youth stages dozens of festivals and concerts each year. Just a glance at its website shows the huge number of events on offer. In February alone, there were festivals at Aldeburgh, Southampton and Gateshead, not to mention a performance at the Royal Albert Hall.There are the expected bands, choirs and orchestras, but there are also valuable opportunities for rock, pop and urban instrumentalists and singers, and for performers of world, folk and roots, traditional, jazz and international music. Ensembles, meanwhile can encompass anything from 20 clarinetists, to a collective of junk percussion players, to a group of early music performers.

Creating the feelgood factor

Judith well understands the excitement these young performers feel when they walk out on to that stage, whether at a top London venue or in a school hall in their home town.‘I still find time to play the violin in orchestras and I still absolutely love it,’ she says enthusiastically. So what is it – and in particular what is it about Music for Youth festivals – that creates that special feelgood factor for performers and audiences alike?‘We get some amazing feedback from performers, music leaders, teachers and parents,’ explains Judith. ‘It’s popular because there are local opportunities, which are easy for people to get to, yet everyone is part of a much, much bigger, national movement. It’s a supportive environment where you can see what other people are doing and aspire to achieve what they have done.’

Skills for life

But, she believes, it’s not just about the music. ‘Of course, being involved is a big part of this and taking part really has an effect on your whole person, on your identity. As a former music therapist, I’ve seen how music can help you develop an empathy with others; you really learn to express yourself.'‘I feel so strongly that the skills you learn in music, to whatever standard, help you on your life journey,’ she adds. ‘Music gives you hooks you can hang things on.’The sense of being part of something special while gaining skills for life, say many of those who have performed, is exactly what Music for Youth gives to everyone who takes part in their Regional Festivals.


The Music for Youth Regional Festivals are for groups of two or more musicians, based in the UK, aged 21 and under, performing music to any standard.

It’s free to enter and you can perform in any style.

Performers get the chance to: play live to an audience; receive feedback from Music for Youth Music Mentors; watch performances from other local groups.

To find out more, visit www.mfy.org.uk.

This article was originally featured in the March 2015 edition of Libretto, ABRSM's magazine.

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We are always interested in hearing your feedback on our magazine. Please contact the Libretto editor to share your thoughts. Lucy North T+44 (0)20 7467 8253

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