wed 08/12/2021

Music for Youth's Judith Webster: '91% of the young people we work with are from state schools' | reviews, news & interviews

Music for Youth's Judith Webster: '91% of the young people we work with are from state schools'

Music for Youth's Judith Webster: '91% of the young people we work with are from state schools'

As their big Albert Hall Proms approach, MFY's CEO explains the essentials

At last year's Music for Youth PromsMFY

Music resonates with everyone. It plays a powerful and evocative role in people’s lives; it punctuates our memories and changes our mood. We can all remember our first album and the songs our parents and grandparents listened to. One of the first ways that we teach very young children is through singing and nursery rhymes. From that point onwards music continues to soundtrack our lives.

A recent survey by the IFPI shows that 54% of young people around the world describe themselves as music fanatics. Not only that – the increasing use of streaming sites means music is more accessible than it’s ever been, it’s more democratic, and more people are listening to it than ever before. Despite this pervasive love of music, we continue to see music learning being marginalised in schools. It is being overlooked by the government, funding and educational access has plunged and as a result the number of young people studying music at A-level has dropped by a massive 44% over the last 10 years. It is increasingly becoming a privilege reserved for those attending a fee-paying school, or whose parents can pay.

Judith Webster of MFYFor nearly 50 years Music for Youth has been providing life-changing music experiences for young people, everywhere across the UK. We believe that music should be available to everyone – regardless of their postcode or socioeconomic upbringing. That’s because the impact of playing an instrument or singing goes way beyond the rehearsal or performance. (Judith Webster pictured right).

There’s a range of benefits we can all get from music making – either socially or professionally. Aside from following a passion, young people get many advantages from being actively involved in music – whether that’s singing, DJ-ing, rapping, composing, playing an instrument, the list goes on.

In an "always on" digital world, giving young people the chance to escape and "switch off," while doing something creative that they love, has tremendous value.  Music brings happiness, optimism and compassion - feelings we all need more of in today’s society.

You can lose yourself in music and go to a different place. This has enormous benefits to your mental health and can be an important stress relief. There’s empirical evidence that music has neurological benefits on the brain and its ongoing development. We regularly get feedback from children as young as seven saying music helps to make them feel calmer and less stressed.

We are proud that Music for Youth has supported more than two million young people since it was established and we have big ambitions for the future. What’s more – 91% of the young people we work with are from state schools.

Our free workshops and performance opportunities support young people’s musical journey and are flexible to accommodate every genre of music: violin-playing, beatboxing, drumming. (Pictured below: a group performing at the annual Frequencies event).Music for Youth eventWe support young people facing barriers to accessing music because we passionately believe that music and participating in high-quality musical activities should be open to everyone.

MFY hosts more than 50 free regional events every year in towns and cities across the UK. These allow young people to demonstrate their talent and get feedback from highly experienced professional musicians. After months of rehearsing and practising they can take to a world-class stage and feel proud of their performance.

We bring people together for our National Festival and Primary Proms - giving primary school pupils access to free professional standard performances from their peers. The pinnacle of our year is the Music for Youth Proms every November. These are a showcase of the best and brightest young musicians from across the country. The performances are always diverse, inspiring and heart-warming. Our next event is at the Royal Albert Hall this coming week on 12 and 13 November. I encourage you to support our young people and come along. You'll be blown away by what you see.

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