Youth ensemble day in Birmingham: the takeaways for all groups

Barbara Eifler writes about our recent Youth Ensemble Partnerships event, a collaboration with partners Music Mark and Association of British Orchestras, which brought useful insights on potential partnerships between amateur music groups and music education bodies or schools

Monday 20 March saw 36 delegates representing music education hubs, schools, music services, professional orchestras, and independent youth ensembles come together for a day in Birmingham.

Bear with me if you’re not from a young people’s group because the discussions, I think, were relevant to all Making Music members.

It became clear through the day that there are many issues which cross over the respective memberships of Music Mark, the membership organisation for music education hubs and music services, the ABO (representing professional ensembles) and Making Music – not least Orchestra Tax Relief and Child Licensing requirements. So working together more closely is beneficial for us all: avoiding duplication and adding value to what we already do.

Takeaway one: collaborate! The result is greater than the sum of its parts.

During the morning, a range of speakers presented inspirational moments illustrating very different successful partnerships. Clearly necessity is often the mother of invention – whether schools, hubs or youth ensembles, funding is an issue for everyone, but partnerships can lead to aims being fulfilled for both sides, at no extra cost.

Takeaway two: think laterally! Partnerships aren’t always to be found in the obvious places.

We were also able to have useful one-to-one conversations during the day, and from these we gleaned once again the truth we cannot flinch from… that most partnerships come about because people talk to and listen to each other. And that, we know, is a major obstacle for you: the time investment needed to have such conversations. Making Music will continue to do what it can to broker relationships for you with local educational and music organisations. But ultimately you will need to pick up the baton, so we suggest focussing your volunteer time on making those connections you feel are most urgently needed by your group.

Takeaway three: talk to each other! It needs a lot of leg work, but personal connections are at the root of most successful partnerships

Three thoughts from the day to inspire:

Stockport Music Service hosts Stockport Symphony Orchestra on its premises for rehearsals; and has just placed a young percussionist with them who they think will benefit from becoming part of the orchestra.

In Cheshire East, the music education hub only sets up its own (mostly niche: guitar, percussion) ensembles to plug gaps where there isn’t already a local youth group, rather than potentially competing with existing local provision, partnering, e.g. with Congleton Youth Orchestra.

All the professional orchestras have outreach programmes of an astonishing variety; many working with community and amateur groups.

The day gave food for thought and enabled us to blow your trumpet to a group of professional orchestras and music educationalists. Hopefully another small piece of groundwork will have been done for you – why not have a(nother) go at those local conversations now?