It’s been a busy twelve months for us at Youth Music – effecting change in the music education sector, and working towards achieving our ambition of a musically inclusive England.
Award-winning saxophonist and presenter YolanDa Brown came on board as our Chair, and Arts Council England’s National Council confirmed our funding at the current level until March 2022 (big thanks to players of the National Lottery who make this possible). We launched our Alliance for a Musically Inclusive England – a collective formed of the 13 organisations we support through our Fund C grants, working together to promote equity in music education. Partnerships at local and national levels are central to the work of the Alliance – with the aim of giving all children and young people the opportunity for a musical life, defined by their interests and identities.
We invested a total of £8,983,637 this year, and 82% of our funding went to projects outside London. Projects generated an additional £6,159,941 in match-funding from local sources (69p leveraged for each £1 we invested). The second annual Give a Gig Week saw more than 100 music-making and fundraising events taking place across the country and beyond (including Newton Faulkner’s collaboration with a London project and a live gig from Craig David in LA). We were the charity partners for both the AIM and NME awards, and we launched the new and improved Youth Music Network, our online community for everyone working in music education.
We’re working to nurture a sustainable sector, helping to ensure that young people don’t miss out on music-making opportunities because of who they are, where they live, or what they’re going through. As local authority arts cuts continue, we’ll be building upon our work in areas that need opportunities the
most, supporting musical, personal and social outcomes for young people, as well as workforce and organisational outcomes for those we invest in. We’ll carry on supporting Music Education Hubs and their partners to identify and respond to need, provide inclusive opportunities and develop their practice. And we’ll be opening up progression routes for 18-25 year olds. We’ll be creating more opportunities for young people to contribute directly and meaningfully to our work, and are looking to appoint two young Trustees in the near future as part of our organisational commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. Fair pay is essential to an inclusive and equitable sector, and we support grant applicants to pay their staff the real Living Wage. We were proud to be nominated as a Friendly Funder at this year’s Living Wage Champion Awards.
It’s Youth Music’s 20th Anniversary in 2019. As we look ahead, we and the wider music education sector need to be open to change, exploring how we can enrich and develop young people’s involvement in music, rather than preserving the ways it’s always been done. Yes, there are challenges. But I firmly believe they can only be overcome if music education refreshes its purpose, narrative and business model and, of course, the music curriculum in school is backed and supported by school leaders and government. I’d like to see the curriculum in schools delivered through new partnerships between school teachers and music education organisations making best use of each other’s expertise – a new ‘sweet spot’ as I’ve called it.
And what of the music industry? We know from our work that there’s a whole range of young people making music in a variety of genres, creating new styles and scenes - but they face barriers to entering the music industry. Concerted action needs to be taken to diversify and expand this talent pool. And at Youth Music, we’re ready to take a lead on this with industry players.
But we know there’s more to do. Right now, we can only invest in about 40% of the projects applying to us for funding. We’re very grateful to Arts Council England and the National Lottery, People’s Postcode Lottery and the other trusts, foundations, companies and individuals who donate and fundraise to help us provide even more music-making opportunities.
Matt Griffiths, CEO of Youth Music