by Author Music for Good

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Supporting Progression with a Creative Ensemble

Reflections from the Cymaz Music Youth Ensemble Project (YEP!) and how we are supporting the development of young people's musical and creative skills.

Please click here to see a wonderful film of the most recent phase of the YEP! project. It features the piece of music created by the group along with evidence of impact. A really inspiring watch and listen!


“YEP! is an amazing opportunity and experience for O. It has really helped him find something to forward to and strive for in life. He joined YEP! when he was at the worst point in his life. He had very bad school and social anxiety and was no longer able to go. He had become very uncommunicative and was feeling so bad he was talking about ending his life. I believe YEP! gave him a reason to love life again.

He lives only for music so having a fantastic musical skill building experience is invaluable for his growing abilities. I can't think of any other opportunity that would give young people such a high quality level musical experience, they get to compose together with a professional musician leading them and holding their ideas, record their work together and perform in many variety of venues, outside of a music degree. The staff are all professional musicians and are very talented at bringing out the best in this group.

He has never had anxiety about going to any YEP! practices or performances to the degree where it has stopped him from going like he has with school and now college.

When it is a YEP! Saturday it is a relief for us to know he will get up and go to a social activity. He has been given the opportunities to perform in amazing places, including the Hall for Cornwall and Adrian Boult Hall, which means we can also feel proud of him and he can feel proud of himself for achieving so much.” (Parent)



Cornwall is a large county with many challenges such as transport, rural isolation, poor access to provision and low aspirations linked with deprivation low employment levels. However, there is a rich and thriving musical culture in Cornwall and with the emergence of Cornwall Music Education Hub and other organisations working in the county, opportunities for young people to take part in music have increased and improved in visibility. There is still some way to go and through our ongoing consultation, mapping and research we understand the key barriers to access are;

• Access to Information

• Financial

• Physical / logistics

• Workforce (the right people with the right skills, experience and approach)

• The right support and environments for progression

• Gap/barriers between formal and non-formal and gaps in overall attainment (for young people in challenging circumstances)

Cymaz Music has worked for 15 years in some of the most deprived areas of Cornwall, working in partnership and ensuring children and young people can access music provision and progress. The more provision there started to be, the more we noticed that there was little in place to support progression and performance. This led to the start of a Progression and Performance strategy with a focus on setting up a range of opportunities across the county.

The Cymaz Music Progression and Performance Coordinator had his own ideas and ambitions to set up a creative ensemble. A group of young people with a range of diverse instruments coming together to create and compose their own music. On further discussion and investigation, there was nothing in existence like this in Cornwall. Hence, the concept of YEP! (Youth Ensemble Project) was born.


Building YEP!

A Creative Ensemble to us is;

  • A diverse range of instruments (including technology)
  • A diverse range of genres
  • Exploration
  • Co-production
  • Composition
  • Creating a supportive environment where all ideas and contributions are valid
  • Making time for one to ones
  • Providing signposting and professional advice
  • Inclusive and accessible
  • Supported by Youth Work and Pastoral care

The model provides a high quality and supportive environment for young people to progress with their music who may not have found any other musical offer through which to do that. One example is a girl who plays violin in YEP! we know that she doesn’t really enjoy her lessons, doesn’t feel motivated to practice, but turns up to every YEP! session with her violin prepared to learn, contribute and play. Without opportunities like YEP! young people may disengage with music making entirely.


Inclusive and Accessible

Cymaz Music has extensive expertise in developing and delivering inclusive music making opportunities for children and young people in challenging circumstances. We are a core member of the CMEH offering advice, delivering music provision and contributing to strategic goals for the Hub. Our mission is to make sure that all children and young people can access and progress with their Music education, whether in or outside of school or both. YEP! has been designed to meet a need for young musicians who may lack confidence or who haven’t found the right outlet for their creative and musical development. The aspiration for YEP! is that it isn’t genre specific, isn’t only about one type of instrument of type of playing. It is open and welcoming to all genres and instruments, including technology.

Ø  Physical barriers – we provide travel bursaries to those who need it and would not be able to participate without this support. We make sure that activity takes place in an accessible venue which is safe and suitable for the needs.

Ø  Access to information – We use a multi-pronged approach to recruitment and make sure that communications can be accessed in a variety of ways. As YEP! grow in popularity, it is promoted by the participants and their families/friends/teachers

Ø  Cost – YEP! is supported by funding from Youth Music as well as the Hub as one of the Hub Ensembles. In the most recent phase, we have asked for a contribution of £45 per participant for the set of sessions. This has been achievable for all participants so will be the model going forward. Any additional performances or trips will also require contributions from parents/carers. We may use a fundraising website to gain public support for particular projects, which we used last year to raise funds to take the group to Birmingham. It’s important for us to be able to support those who may not be able to afford the provision, so any cost for sessions may be waived for those who really can’t afford it.

Ø  The Workforce –  We provide the highest level of support to the participants, including bringing in professional musicians for masterclasses and talks on progression and the industry. Through the one to ones with each participant, we find out their personal aims and aspirations, which helps us to make sure we have the right skills available to participants.

Ø  Progression – We have reflected on progression and have come up with a list of key ingredients for successful progression. In our next phase of YEP! we hope to run two ensemble, one Junior YEP! and a Senior YEP! for different ages groups/levels of skills. This will provide another level of progression.

Ø  Gaps – in attainment and between formal and non-formal approaches to teaching and learning. We applied to become a Hub Ensemble in the hope that YEP! would be much more connected to other Ensembles and be able to share practice and offer a more complementary provision. By widening the offer to young people (to involve expertise in a range of instruments) we can diversify to a much richer experience. Working with different music practitioners starts to break down barriers between traditional formal and non-formal approaches to pedagogy.


Ingredients for supporting progression

We know from our experience, consultation and research that the following ingredients/approaches are necessary to support progression;

  • Understand and know the context of where each individual is starting from (we have now introduced one to one interviews with each participant)
  • Good effective communication with parents/carers, teachers, other professionals (has continued in current phase)
  • Promoting and supporting young people’s voice and choice (embedded and core to the programme)
  • Broaden horizons and offer new and diverse opportunities, but in a way that complements and doesn’t bombard the young person
  • Hold up a mirror and reflect back their progression and involve them in reflecting about their own progress
  • Use individual learning plans to set goals (where possible)
  • Support the emergence of Young Leaders and Peer Mentors
  • Work towards performance or recording opportunities and capture progress throughout the journey (audio recordings and in this phase a performance at MFY Festival on 5th March)
  • Knowing how and where to signpost – VERY IMPORTANT. It’s all very well being armed with lots of leaflets and information, but it’s knowing the right time and the right way to deliver signposting. Providing hands on experiences is better than a leaflet
  • Supporting transitions and acknowledging ‘endings’: “I had T for part of the day, we were working on variations on a song he wrote and how to use bridges effectively between sections of music. We also talked about his imminent transition to full time mainstream education with his final session being next week with us, so I will do something nice for him to leave with like a cake and list of achievements he's done and can take away with him.”

YEP! is equally about group development and individual development within that. The beauty of focussing on composition is that all participants can take their own decisions about their contribution and learning, with support and guidance from the leaders and Young Leaders.

Cymaz Music staff and Music Leaders are committed to providing signposting information and advice. To end this phase we are holding a signposting, masterclass and skills sharing session. During the sessions, we have factored in elements of information sharing in direct response to any issues arising (eg Giles did a presentation on creativity and the potential link with alcohol and drug misuse which also led to a Youth Worker talking about services on offer for Young People in Cornwall and handing out resources).


YEP! – Recent Achievement

“It was fantastic to see the first performance of YEP!’s original piece - “Reality, Transcendence, Awakening”. The group has spent 9 weeks exploring, composing and rehearsing the piece. Never before have I worked with such a variety of instruments within one act. We had rappers, violinists, a drum machine, a scratch Dj, bass, guitars, piano, drum kit and singers. It was lovely to see one of our Young Leaders in a conductor role. Well done to all those who performed. A great success!

Thanks to Music For Youth for hosting their first ever Rock, Pop and Urban event in Cornwall. YEP! played amongst a host of other young performers. A great view of wealth of young talented musicians in Cornwall.” Giles Woolley – Music Programme Manager and lead for YEP! Cymaz Music.