The Young Musicians Fund was begun by the Tyne and Wear Foundation to fill the gap left by schools which are no longer able to provide extra-curricular help for music, and to assist those who could not otherwise afford tuition or instrument hire.
The fund was the idea of the Northumbrian pipe-player Kathryn Tickell. It has now raised nearly Pounds 50,000 and hopes to reach its target of Pounds 100,000 by December.
The first grants have been made to Stacey Murray, a 10-year-old from Goathland primary school in North Tyneside, for clarinet lessons, and to harpist Sean Barry, 16, to attend master classes in Edinburgh.
Kathryn Tickell said: "Free music lessons and use of musical instruments are no longer readily available to young people today and there are excellent young musicians out there who could be lost. I learned the violin at school and was very glad to get the opportunity. I wanted to help give something back. "
Sheelagh Curd, the headteacher at Goathland, said that the pools of music teachers and instruments once maintained by local education authorities had been disbanded after schools were given their own budgets to manage.
She said that her school would like to spend more on music, but books had to take priority over instruments. "There are so many talented children in this country who just can't afford to realise their talent. We have a lot of children on free school meals here."
Margaret Curry, the assistant director of the Tyne and Wear Foundation, said: "Music is a vital part of a child's upbringing which can benefit all-round education and development. Performance can give young people a sense of achievement and build their self-confidence and the fund aims to ensure that young people do not miss out on such opportunities through lack of income or social disadvantage."
Donations to the fund so far have ranged from Pounds 5 to Pounds 10,000. Corporate support has come from the Newcastle Building Society and Northumbrian Water. "We are delighted with the response. We have obviously touched a nerve with a lot of people," said Margaret Curry. She said Sting's donation was "a big surprise". The pop star - a former teacher - had heard about the fund from Kathryn Tickell.
Donations can be made to the Young Musicians' Fund, Tyne and Wear Foundation, Cale Cross House, 156 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle NE1 6SU, telephone 0191 222 0945, fax 0191 230 0689.