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Music is way young people can achieve

PUBLISHED: 00:55 04 October 2008 | UPDATED: 21:26 05 July 2010

A FANTASTIC opportunity has arisen for young people in the Waveney area to learn to play classical music through a project spearheaded by Julian Lloyd Webber … but it needs the support of the community.

A FANTASTIC opportunity has arisen for young people in the Waveney area to learn to play classical music through a project spearheaded by Julian Lloyd Webber … but it needs the support of the community. ANDREW KITCHEN, Arts and heritage service manager at Waveney District Council, reports

RECENTLY I wrote about dreams - dreams of ideas and possibilities for Waveney's arts and heritage development -but oddly one or two people have since implied that dreaming is time wasted.

Boy, do I disagree - dreaming is the first, important stage in planning: as the song from South Pacific goes: “If you don't have a dream, how you goin' to have a dream come true?”

And dreams do come true - not least a phenomenal music project providing opportunities for children and young people to learn to play classical music - now acclaimed worldwide - and gets them up and away from the many negative influences on young lives.

This project - El Sistema - was the dream of one Venezuelan man over 30 years ago.

Since then the scheme has been copied and developed in 22 other countries - including in New York.

Staggeringly, over 220 youth symphony orchestras have since been created in Venezuela, involving some of their poorest kids, including an international orchestra that now tours the world playing top events and venues including, famously, the Proms in London in 2007, and constantly making recordings.

And now, if we can get instant public support and input locally there is an outside chance we can get a scheme rolling in part of Lowestoft - bringing fabulous musical opportunities to local children FOR FREE!

Following that stunning Proms performance by the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, which staggered both the UK music fraternity, national media and, amazingly, politicians, an investigation into the scheme followed. Promises of action finally led just last month to details of a pilot scheme across England - now towns have to bid for the money to operate the scheme.

Led by Julian Lloyd Webber - Andrew's classical musician brother - and backed by the Department of Children, Schools and Families, the “In Harmony” Community Development pilot programme starts in January 2009 - and location selection happens before that. Three places in England will be chosen to run pilot schemes over three years this November. But there's no time to waste and little time provided to make a bid - the closing date for applications is two weeks today, October 17.

On seeing the Venezuelan orchestra, Julian Lloyd Webber said: “At a stroke they shattered the myth that classical music is white, middle class and elitist: three adjectives used over recent years to beat it over the head.

“Here on our doorstep, were kids from the barrios - much poorer than ours -playing Shostakovich as we had never heard him before. Suddenly, far from being elitist, playing an orchestral instrument seemed sexy again and the idea of music being a catalyst for social change began to take root,” he added.

The revolutionary aspect of Venezuela's “El Sistema” is that it doesn't set out to produce great musicians. Instead it gives children an opportunity to transform their lives by developing skills, teamwork and interpersonal relationships within the context of something - in this case a symphony orchestra - that can become great only when they work together at it.

Government bids for serious amounts of money are always, rightly, complicated and substantial. And we're working on that now - leading local music organisations working in Lowestoft (Aldeburgh, Marina Theatre, Suffolk Art Link, Waveney Amplifier and Suffolk Art Link) and childcare and community specialists have already backed the bid and are contributing ideas.

But, vitally, this bid requires public support - from schools, parents, children, local music teachers, music enthusiasts. And they need to support it now: in writing, by email, on disc, in pictures - by whatever means that gets your message across.

Please send them as soon as possible to Andrew Kitchen - arts&heritage@waveney.gov.uk _ Arts and Heritage Service, Waveney District Council, Town Hall, Lowestoft, NR32 1HS.

More details of the Venezuelan scheme can be found on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Sistema or www.fesnojiv.gov.ve/ or http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=S6q7RCAcaBk

Help make this dream project come true!

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