Thank you for the (youth) music!

Haven’t written a blog post for a while because I’ve had a really busy week. Last Thursday I graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Media Communications. Apart from the ridiculous traffic to/from graduation due to roads being closed because of the strike, I had a really lovely day with the ceremony in the morning, a lush family meal and then mingling with my course and lecturers at our media comms reception in the afternoon.

Then Saturday until Monday I went on my last ever youth orchestra course. We had a day off on Tuesday (which I spent job hunting – oh the fun life of a graduate!) and then more rehearsals yesterday before the concert last night. So a busy, tiring and emotional week!

I’d been a member of this particular youth orchestra for 9 years and was a member of my county orchestra for 10/11 years as well. I have grown up with youth music. Through playing in this orchestra I have had opportunities to play with other ensembles which is brilliant for me because I really need a place to keep up my orchestral playing now that I’ve finished playing at a youth level. My university didn’t have an orchestra so the youth orchestra I have just finished with was my only ensemble until this year.

Not only has being involved given me the chance to play with other orchestras and to keep up my playing but there is a social aspect to youth music as well. I have made countless friendships over the years – one of my best friends is a violinist I met in the county orchestra when we were about 9 or 10. You get to meet a variety of people as new members start and old members leave. I was looking back over all the orchestra course photos from the last 9 years with my friend and remembering all the people that we have met and what they’re doing now. Most people keep in touch – the youth orchestra is like a network, a big family.

Even though I didn’t choose to do music at university, I have benefitted from youth music and learnt skills that are transferrable to anything. You learn how to be disciplined such as being punctual to rehearshals and how to listen whether its to the conductor, your tutor or other players. You’re more likely to spot mistakes and correct them thanks to paying attention to intonation (especially if you’re a string player). Youth music has also given me confidence. I have never been the most confident person but I have now reached the level where I can play solo passages in orchestral pieces without my nerves messing them up – as I did in last night’s concert. Orchestral playing has always been the best thing for me. I love playing in groups rather than solos and youth music helps you experience ensemble playing.

However, this year I have also been involved behind the scenes of youth music and been made more aware of the difficulties that it faces. I have been the student representative for the youth orchestra this year. I have attended meetings where the running of courses has been discussed but the biggest threat is funding. Councils across Wales are having to make cuts in all departments and because music is not statutory, there is no legal obligation to put money into these ensembles. Unfortunately, my old county have done this. This means that the county orchestra risks higher fees or losing the ensemble altogether and not funding the larger youth orchestra. This is not localised though. Arts organisations across Wales have been hit like the concert venue I do front of house for in Cardiff. Youth music and the arts need to be protected and funded so that everyone can access them and experience cultural opportunities. Every child should have access to youth music to stop the arts from becoming elitist and only for those who can afford it because that could deny the talent of so many young people.

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