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Music For Youth National Festival celebrates 10 years in Birmingham

  • Date: 8 August 2014
  • Area: Midlands
Music For Youth Festival celebrates 10 years in Birmingham

Credit: Photograph by Alick Cotterill

Music For Youth’s (MFY) National Festival celebrated 10 years in Birmingham this year as it opened its doors to nearly 11,000 young people, over 1,000 group leaders and teachers, and thousands of supporters, friends and music fans for a week of music and celebration in Birmingham city centre.

From 8-12 July, around 300 music groups and ensembles took part in the MFY National Festival, ranging from county youth orchestras, folk trios, jazz combos to rock bands, and urban acts, who performed on the festival’s main stages at the Symphony Hall, Town Hall and Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire.

The 10 year celebrations involved a host of specially commissioned performances, compositions and poems, including, a new poem, ‘Misterioso’, written by Dr. Gregory Leadbetter, Director of Institute of Creative and Critical Writing at Birmingham City University; and a Fanfare, ‘From East and West and North and South’, written by Joe Cutler, Professor of Composition at Birmingham Conservatoire, which was performed by their students.

Both the poem and fanfare were commissioned by Birmingham City University and in the coming months MFY will be announcing more initiatives linked to these commissions.

New to the festival line-up this year was the New Music Stage, which was supported by a £60,000 investment from the National Lottery through Arts Council England’s Grants for the arts programme.

“The New Music Stage marks a significant development for MFY,” said Judith Webster, Chief Executive, MFY.

“The initiative puts the spotlight on the performance of new music written by young, emerging or established composers alike and provides a national platform to present that work." 

The New Music Stage launch seminar brought together music educationalists, composers, arts organisations and leading academics to discuss how to encourage and support the performance and composition of new music by and with young musicians.

Hosted by Richard Hawley, Director of Artistic Programming and Projects at Town Hall and Symphony Hall, the event signals MFY’s focus on new music and covered a range of talent development initiatives and case studies from Music Education Hubs, which exemplify good practice and innovative approaches to promoting new music in educational settings.

A panel discussion, with experts such as Martin Faultley, Professor of Education at Birmingham City University; composers Kerry Andrews and Damien Harron; Susanna Eastburn, Chief Executive at Sound and Music; and Judith Webster, Chief Executive at MFY, gave the audience a chance to explore fundamental questions around the topic, such as ‘what is ‘new music’ to young people today?’ and ‘what do genre definitions mean to young people?’

During the afternoon, the audience also heard innovative performances of new works by The Varese Ensemble from Eltham College Senior School, directed by Christopher Petrie; and Penzance Youth String Orchestra, directed by Tim Boulton.

The event also featured the premiere of Cassie Kinoshi’s Susanowu performed by Northamptonshire Youth Percussion Ensemble & Friends.

Cassie took part in the pilot of the MFY Young Artist Development Programme 2013/14, a project that brings together young composers and young performing groups, supported by specialist mentoring from professional composers through a yearlong development programme.

Also new this year, was the first Festival Fringe programme featuring the Festival Tent (sponsored by the National Union of Teachers and Musicians’ Union) and new satellite stages around the city.

Through new festival partners, such as Colmore Business District, the festival reached out further into the city as young musicians treated crowds of festival revellers and passers-by to an eclectic selection of music in places such as Snow Hill station, the Winter Garden and the grounds of Birmingham Cathedral.

Find out more

For more information about Grants for the arts and how to apply, click here.

Visit Music For Youth’s website to find out how they get more young musicians performing.