10th March 2000 at 00:00
Esther Sheridan is a third-year student at the Royal College of Music. She and 13 of her contemporaries have recently found themselves in schools doing some unexpected things.

Esther, a clarinettist, and her friend Ellie, who plays the horn, are working on a piece called Hurricane with some seven to nine-year-olds at St Anthony's Catholic school in Peckham, south London, and add to the effect by "blowing down the mouth-piece and rattling our keys". Most of the other sounds are made by voice and percussion - and it is all rather different from playing at college.

The students are taking part in a scheme run by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal College of Music. This includes school and family concerts, workshops and visits to schools in the boroughs nearest to its South Bank base and further afield - the LPO is well-known for its education work.

But this year there has been a significant development. Simon Channing, until a couple of years ago the LPO's second flautist, is now head of performance management at the Royal College of Music, and he has collaborated with Maria Smith, education and youth orchestra administrator for the LPO, and Chris Sharratt, orchestral co-ordinator of the RCM, to initiate a new kind of training for third-year music students at the college.

Playerlink is a scheme to enable teachers and pupils who have taken part in an LPO school concert to maintain a relationship with the orchestra. Instrumentalists go into schools, work on new pieces with the children related to a theme, and then come together with other schools for a "sharing" concert. Now students are taking a part which may soon lead to a recognised qualification.

Esther and her fellow-students realise that orchestras will need members keen to do more than play supremely well - and, besides they have all found it rewarding, although improvising, "without any dots" to rely on was, to begin with, "a bit scary". Information about LPO school concerts and outreach work: 020 7840 4202.

The biggest live music festival ever is due to be staged by the BBC in May. At its climax thousands of young people will sing Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" at precisely the same time, all over the country, on Bank Holiday Monday, May 29. The Singing Challenge is intended to encourage children and young people to take part in music and, to this end, groups can apply to the organisers, the National Foundation for Youth Music, for support. Sums between pound;500 and pound;15,000 are available. For information, contact Rebecca Meithis: rebecca.meithis@youth or Hopal Romans on 020 7841 0816.

Another important May event is the award ceremony for Artworks at Tate Modern in London. There is just time to enter this compettion, which is open to pupils in all UK schools. More than 45,000 children from 1,500 schools have registered so far. Participants are invited to submit work in any medium inspired by their own experience of works of art. Prizes worth pound;45,000 will include gallery visits and materials. See; e-mail:

The first few months of this year have seen many millennium-funded projects transformed from building sites to architectural beauty. We still await Tate Modern on Bankside and the Lowry in Manchester, but the Royal Court opened its doors last month and showed off an interior at once familiar and in a new class altogether.

At the beginning of Conor McPherson's Dublin Carol the sound of rain is heard outside. Time was we would have expected a bucket to appear on stage to catch the drips; now all is calm, dry elegance beyond the proscenium arch and leather-seated comfort for the audience.

The Court's Young Writers' Programme is still a source of new playwrights, and a major festival of new writing takes place later this year, of which more news in weeks to come. Educational activities will soon be housed in a building next to the theatre, with plenty of opportunities for interchange. Information: 020 7565 5050. Ask for Aioffe Mannix.

The Soho Theatre and Writers' Centre in Dean Street, London, has also recently re-opened. Educational workshop spaces and quiet rooms for writers are an integral part of this coolly beautiful building.

The under-11 playwriting competition is already under way, workshops having taken place in 10 Westminster schools. The resulting show-case will be performed in the theatre in July. Meanwhile writing courses for a slightly older age group are also in place - and a full programme of new adult plays begins next week. Tel: 020 7287 5060.

The Millennium Mysteries, a version of the medieval mystery plays, is being presented in an ambitious production at Maidstone grammar school for girls. The first part of the story, leading to the birth of Jesus, was performed before Christmas; part two, dealing with his ministry and death, will be added at the end of the Easter term. Proceeds will go to a fund for Kosovo. Tickets: 01622 752103.

Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin was born in 1699. An exhibition to celebrate his tercentenary opens tomorrow at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. His still lifes, which feature household and natural objects simply painted were among paintings described by Diderot as "sufficiently magical to drive one to despair". There will be an extensive education programme, including workshops for primary schools and early tours. A colour-illustrated teacher's pack is available. Information: 020 7300 8000.

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