Norman Lebrecht on shifting sound worlds
About 20 years or so ago, when the rot of not supporting music in schools began to set in, there was a survey among professional musicians asking how many of them were playing professionally because of free lessons at school and experience in youth orchestras. The percentage was staggeringly high (I think it was around 75%). What can we expect for the future if we keep removing, one by one, all the stepping stones that young musicians can take towards a professional career? Richard Hart should be deeply ashamed of his conduct -especially for wiping Bedfordshire County Youth Orchestra from the records (what’s the matter, Mr Hart – too uncomfortable for you to have any reminders of the orchestra’s existence?). He should resign immediately as I find it difficult to imagine what sort of ‘Music Service’ can be left now this fine youth orchestra has been demolished. Shame on everyone involved!
I’ve been directly involved over the last decade with the dissolution of two independent (non-Local Authority-funded) Youth Orchestras; both excellent groups with long and inspiring histories, both with comfy bank-balances. The issue was falling rolls and the practical difficulty of keepng volunteer-run bodies functioning on a weekly basis. From this experience, I sense the independent YO model doesn’t seem to have much of a future; financial and administrative backing from a larger body with a real commitment to the cultural values that drive (and derive from) classical music – seems to be essential.
Happily, one of these two YOs was restructured and taken on by a major symphony orchestra, with spectacular results. Indeed, several major symphony orchestras run Youth Orchestras, and where that’s possible, it seems an ideal model, with benefits that operate both ways. The YO gets access to incredible musical expertise and has the backing of an organisation that is genuinely committed to what orchestras represent, along with all those marketing and fundraising resources. And the “parent” orchestra gets a wonderful focus for that all-important (and funding-generating) education work.
My early experiences in the RLPO-run Merseyside Youth Orchestra shaped my whole career; so I know that it doesn’t only have to be done through LEA support. But equally, it’s hard to see who can take the LEA’s place in areas without access to professional orchestras (ie most shire counties!). I hope Bedfordshire finds an answer; it’s a cruel act of vandalism.
Shocking, shocking decision. We must all fight to maintain the youth music provision in the U.K.
Shocking! Really saddening to see something so important to the future of the whole country, as well as these individual youngsters, disappear just like that! I hope that this current government reconsiders!!
Here I find myself commenting on your blog again – in entirely different circumstances! I too grew up in Bedfordshire and learnt so many vital things from Michael Rose and the tutors in the Youth Orchestra. I seem to remember joining the orchestra on James Dickenson’s last course. I share his disbelief and mourning. Something which takes so long to build can be cut down in one blow. How long will it take to rebuild something like this? I know I wouldn’t be where I am now without that education. How very very awful.
Are we living a TSUNAMI in the orchestral world? When will people realize how music helps in every part of life, including encouranging PEACE?
In Rio, the BRAZILIAN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA announces it has lots of money! What do they do with it??? The administration backs the music director’s decision, ROBERTO MINCZUK, to sack 37 musicians who refused to re-audition for their own positions in the orchestra!
Although the musicians have asked on several occasions for Mr. Minczuk’s dismissal, the board of directors continues to impose him. None of them is a musician…
The worst in the OSB’s tragic story is that all these musicians were fired with no right to receive a pension after all the years of dedication.
Cllr David Sawyer Lib Dem, portfolio holder, children’s services, Bedford borough council has responded ‘robustly’ to the news about Bedfordshire youth music.
This government has bizarre concepts of how to spend/save taxpayers’ money. In the last four weeks we must have spent close to a billion pounds sponsoring violent regime change in Libya, following the same misguided barbaric model as previously in Iraq and Afghanistan. To pay for these war games in the Middle East and especially to pay for bankers’ failures (more than a trillion pounds’ worth) in their investment arms the UK public is expected to lie back and accept butchery of public services and jobs.
Bonkers. Truly bonkers. The insane truly are running the lunatic asylum.
It is a huge problem in the Youth Music Sector in the UK that many incredible ensembles and activities have to rely on local government funding which can be awarded or withdrawn at very short notice. In Scotland, the 1996 local government reorganisation left some previously successful youth orchestras and choirs stranded without the resources and support to continue, and they either folded or took many years to re-establish themselves.
Bedfordshire Youth Orchestra should be encouraged to set itself up independently. The listed Alumni who have gone on to make professional careers are the visible success stories, but alongside that there will be 1000s of Alumni for whom the musical and social experiences have created memories and friendships for life.
I met Michael many years ago when the NFMS was running a conducting competition and the Beds Orchestra was the “interview”. Having set up the National Youth Choir of Scotland 15 year ago, and seeing just how life changing these activities can be, I can totally relate to the sense of frustration and despair of the staff and musicians associated with the Orchestra at the loss of this support. So go it alone. Contact your alumni, set up a board, start fundraising. You have already suggested that Beds could be in a comfortable position to source funding. Make Michael Rose an Honorary President, Patron, seek a new generation of staff.
The most alarming thing about this would be the loss of records for the orchestra over its lifetime – that loses you the names and possible ways of contacting supporters. Its also the loss of a piece of social history. That action is worrying….. Why is it necessary?
Use this as a springboard to the next chapter in the life of the Orchestra. Don’t let a good thing die……
Artistic Director, National Youth Choir of Scotland
Author, novelist, broadcaster, cultural commentator.
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