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Orchestras For All Charity recognised for its impact on people’s lives

The Royal Philharmonic Society Awards shortlists have been announced and the charity Orchestras for All has been nominated for its work in bringing orchestral music to young people who might not have experienced it before.

The Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) Awards shortlists have been announced and the charity Orchestras for All (OFA) has been nominated for its work in bringing orchestral music to young people who might not have experienced it before.

Throughout the pandemic, OFA has used technology to continue to engage people in music-making activities through its National Orchestra For All (NOFA) and through helping under-resourced schools and teachers to participate in its Modulo and Music Leadership Training programmes.

NOFA is the only non-auditioned, fully-inclusive national youth orchestra in the world. Its 100 members are nominated by teachers, community music leaders, social workers and charity partners for showing commitment to music despite facing significant barriers. Its annual season of performances includes partnerships with other bodies such as the BBC Philharmonic, National Youth Jazz Collective and One Dance UK.

Even during the pandemic, NOFA managed to keep its members busy with online rehearsals and performances, and with support from its tutors and conductors. Through this, 47 schools and 700 young people have continued to enjoy group music-making during lockdown.

The Modulo Programme is designed to help secondary school music teachers establish and develop small ensembles of 11-18-year-olds of any musical skill level. The programme includes rehearsal plans, activity ideas, backing tracks and bespoke scores to suit different instruments and skill levels. Means-tested bursaries are available as well as training and support for the teachers.

Masterclasses are available for schools with visits by OFA’s regional artistic partners, including the CBSO and City of London Sinfonia. Twice a year, the Modulos collaborate regionally and then nationally to rehearse and perform as a full orchestra, working with professional musicians across the UK.

OFA also offers a Music Leadership Training programme for teachers, equipping them with tools, strategies and techniques needed to establish and build instrumental ensembles in their schools or local community.

OFA is the brainchild of Marianna Hay MBE, a musician and teacher who recognised that many people were deterred from engaging in classical music because of the barriers of auditions, expected skill levels and cost. She wanted to prioritise enthusiasm, dedication and commitment to music over technical ability and drew a team of like-minded people around her to create OFA, including the charity’s artistic patron, Sian Edwards, the current Head of Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music, London.

The result is an orchestra in which 55 per cent would previously have been unable to play in an orchestra due to autism, physical disability, learning difference or social, emotional or behavioural difficulties. 37 per cent of its members come from underrepresented groups and 54 per cent from deprived circumstances. 

On hearing of the shortlisting, OFA’s Executive Director Nick Thorne said, ‘At a time when the arts and music sectors were immobilised, Orchestras for All’s team, trustees, funders, partners and the young people we work with made a pact that the Covid-19 pandemic would not become yet another barrier to music-making.

‘I’m so proud that RPS has recognised the impact Orchestras for All has had on hundreds of young people over the past year, who already face significant barriers to participation. Thank you to each and every person who has played a part in our journey. We couldn’t have done it without you.’

OFA is shortlisted with ENO Breathe and Including Me – Live Music Now for the Royal Philharmonic Society Impact Award. The winner will be announced at the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) Awards 2021 ceremony at Wigmore Hall in London on 1 November 2021.

Photo: Young people gather for a Modulo performance led by Orchestras for All conductor Emma