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Young musicians strike right note

Signs of hope at the National Music Council awards after years of funding cuts, reports Craig Kenny

SCHOOL music has had a tough time recently, after years of funding cuts and being dropped as a compulsory subject. But this year's National Music Council's LEA awards indicate that things are looking up.

Among dozens of innovative projects from 26 councils were examples of young musicians composing and performing with professionals from folk and world music traditions and from large symphony orchestras.

At the other end of the educational ladder was a scheme in Cambridgeshire to offer a national vocational qualification in DJ-ing to pupils who had been excluded.

Ivor Widdison, chairman of the music council's awards sub-committee, said that school music was only just recovering from the "awful year of 1998", when the Government took it out of the compulsory curriculum and Ofsted stopped inspecting music lessons at key stages 1 and 2.

Thanks in part to campaigns by the conductor Simon Rattle and The TES, the policy was reversed, he said.

"The damage was done, but we are recovering," he said. "There were signs this year that give me confidence and it can only get better."

Mr Widdison was pleased that collaborations with large orchestras were becoming more common. "It gives young people a tremendous kick to be working alongside professionals, although it must be difficult for the professionals to adjust their sights."

Mr Widdison said that secondary schools faced a battle in keeping teenagers involved in school music. "Certain factors convince young people that school music is no longer cool, unless it's music they own."

Roger Wright, controller of the BBC's Radio 3, is due to present the awards at the Royal Academy of Music's concert room on July 9.

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