Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, part of Birmingham City University, has been announced as a key partner in a national Arts Council England project aimed at unlocking musical talent in communities across England.
The Fair and Inclusive Classical Music project will see the acclaimed centre of music work alongside professional and community-based orchestras, partners in music education, broadcasters, record labels and schools to help widen access and develop pathways into classical music over the next decade.
The project was launched in response to new research within the Creating a More Inclusive Classical Music report, which reveals that children and young people not exposed to Western classical music as part of daily life, or whose families did not have the means or opportunity to support commitment through lessons or study, are unlikely to join the classical music workforce.
The report highlights that location and availability of opportunities have an important influence on an individual’s ability to progress within education and industry.
It also found people from lower socio-economic backgrounds struggle to get fair access to a full range of learning and employment opportunities. The cost of lessons, of the instruments themselves, accessories such as sheet music, even the cost of travel to lessons and to other related activities and events can all be significant barriers from an early age.
As part of the Fair and Inclusive Classical Music project, Arts Council England has developed an action plan for the next three years which includes:
- Commissioning a major new research programme to understand the relationship between children’s experience of classical music and their decision to learn a musical instrument
- Working with orchestras, venues and promoters to ensure that there is fair and inclusive treatment for everyone working in classical music
- Launching a long-term action research project, starting in the Midlands, to test initiatives aimed at supporting young people from all backgrounds looking to make a career in classical music and the wider music industry.
Richard Shrewsbury, Head of Learning and Participation at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, welcomed the news, saying, “Royal Birmingham Conservatoire is delighted to be a key partner in this initiative. Our own track record of engaging and enabling young people who would not otherwise get the chance to progress on their musical journeys reflects our existing commitment to widening access and inclusion.
Darren Henley, Arts Council England Chief Executive, said: “We believe passionately in classical music and that it can and should appeal to more people. Where you are from and your background shouldn’t be a barrier to your chances of developing your talents. That belief is at the heart of our ten-year strategy Let’s Create. We are already supporting projects that are delivering some fantastic work to improve access for all but there is a need for much more collaboration to make sure that no one misses out.
“Classical music is already a big part of the soundtrack to our lives – let’s make sure everyone is given a fair chance to carve out a career in this important part of our creative and cultural sector.”
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s Learning and Participation programme works regularly with over 2000 young people and their families across the UK, with many of the programmes focusing on equity and inclusivity in classical music.
The RBC LEAP Youth ensemble actively encourages young musicians from BAME, LGBTQ+ and low socio-economic backgrounds, representing the diversity of the communities the centre serves.
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire continues to diversify its student population through a series of targeted interventions and recruitment strategies, including free access to auditions for those that need it, bursaries for young people from diverse backgrounds, and long term strategic partnerships with music education and charitable organisations such as Awards for Young Musicians and Orchestras for All.
The Creating a More Inclusive Classical Music report is available to download from the Arts Council England website here