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Music hub goes from strength to strength

Carolyn Baxendale says there's a buzz about the Greater Manchester music education hub as schools start to access partners' expertise

Carolyn Baxendale says there's a buzz about the Greater Manchester music education hub as schools start to access partners' expertise

Six months on from the launch of the GM Music Hub more and more musical opportunities are emerging for young people, teachers and other music practitioners.

One of the big advantages of being part of a large Hub is the access to a vast range of specialist expertise. Fantastic relationships between our partners are allowing this expertise to be used for the common good, creating a real buzz within our Hub and a rich tapestry of music making.

The new GM Hub Brass Band is a good example of this. After a workshop day at BBC MediaCity UK last October, involving children of all abilities and from all nine local authorities in the Hub, a regional brass band for advanced players has now been set up.

This new band will be launched with two performance week-ends in April and June at Salford University, followed by a concert in the university's Peel Hall on 23 June. Tutors for the band will be drawn from the expertise which already exists within the Hub workforce and the young musicians will also get the chance to work under the batons of nationally renowned conductors, Mark Peacock and Richard Evans.

This brilliant musical experience is being offered to local young people at minimal cost due to the `gifting' of services and venues from Hub partners. This model has proved so successful that we are planning to develop a regional string orchestra along the same lines, starting in this autumn.

GM Hub Brass Day, MediaCityUK, 14 October 2012

We're also on the starting blocks for our new singing programme - the GM `Sing First' project. This is another good example of where Hub expertise will be pooled to create a dynamic singing programme across the region.

Following our success with Youth Music, we will set up nine choirs across the region in areas where young people (aged 11 to 16) don't normally get the chance to develop their singing in a regular vocal group. Our recently formed Hub `Vocal Vision Group' will be driving this programme forward, providing vocal leaders for the new choirs.

The fabulous venues of the RNCM, Chetham's School of Music and the Halle will open their doors to the new choirs for their early performances and the young singers will have the chance to audition for other regional choirs at the end of the project.

Since the Hub was launched we have been eager to get started on a regional singing project as we all know that singing in choirs and other vocal groups can really inspire young people who haven't had the chance to engage with making music before. We are also hoping that this project will inspire a real motivation for singing in the early years of high school and tackle some of the disaffection with school and learning which has already been identified in some areas.

We have seen this happen before in our local youth choirs and want to make sure that the young people in the `Sing First' project have a similar experience.

Whilst these new regional initiatives are exciting and are certainly creating opportunities which didn't exist before, we must remember that the local music making scene in each of the partner local authorities remains strong, and is actually a key feature of how the GM Music Hub works.

All nine Music Services are linked into a regional strategy but they also continue to grow their work in schools, develop local progression routes and stage regular local performances. The recent five night showcases in Oldham (Queen Elizabeth Hall, 11 to 15 March) and the Bolton `Music Centre Presents' (Albert Halls, Bolton 17 to 21 March)are just two examples of the rich local scene. These two events alone involved more than 2,000 children.

Bolton `Music Centre Presents' 17 March 2013

Oldham Music Service Concerts, 11 March 2013

Our challenge now as a Hub is to enable all those involved to feel that they are connected to the overall mission - staff, pupils, schools, parents and wider community. This also means engaging a wider public through performances, promotions and fundraising projects.

The more we can do this the more musical opportunities we will be able to provide. We want to give our young people not just a start in music but long- term goals and ambitions which can be realised.

Carolyn Baxendale is head of Bolton Music Service, the lead partner in the Greater Manchester Music Hub

Read previous blog post: A hub of music

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