Sir John Cass’s Foundation is supporting six young musicians for four years

The scholarship programme of the Mayor of London’s Fund for Young Musicians, launched in 2011, gives London primary and early secondary school children access to individual tuition on an instrument and the chance to play it in ensembles and orchestras. Currently 220 children take part. Sir John Cass’s Foundation is supporting six of these children for four years.

Photograghy by Roger Bool

At nine on a beautiful Sunday morning, turning their backs to the sun outside, 80 children from 26 London boroughs turned up at the Royal Festival Hall with their instruments to take part in a co-operative enterprise the type of which they had not experienced before. Ranging in age from seven to twelve, their level of attainment in instrument playing varied from Grade 1 to Grade 5, and they played everything from drum, banjo and piano to double bass, oboe and trumpet. Between the hours of nine and one this disparate group together created a piece of music, broke up into groups (String, percussion, woodwind and brass) to practice the resulting composition, came together for a final rehearsal, and provided a concert for proud parents, other friends of the scheme, and many wanderers along the South Bank. The music they had produced was based loosely on the shape of the River Thames, which we could of course see out of the windows of the hall, and it used as its basis an old London folk song called The Bonny Bows of London.

As a trustee of Sir John Cass’s Foundation I was privileged to be asked to attend this event. It was immensely impressive to see such a diverse group of primary school children who did not know one another until that morning concentrating with such intensity, using their instruments to make new sounds and combinations with such delight, and presenting the results of the day to their audience with such pride. The Royal Festival Hall was full of people on that Sunday because it was a day of encouragement for youth music generally, and the audience was full of enthusiasm and admiration for what the scholars had achieved in such a short space of time. From the perspective of Sir John Cass’s Foundation it was a joy to me to see the difference that our grant was making and to have confirmed by several parents the huge effect that their children’s music education was having on their application to other subjects – as endorsed by research recently undertaken by the Mayor’s Fund itself.

Many congratulations to Ginny Greenwood and her supporting staff for their organisation of a fascinating event, and to the brilliant animateur Sarah Freestone and her helpers for their hugely skilful leadership of the children to such an excellent and enjoyable outcome.

Words by Helen Meixner, Deputy Chair, Grants.

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