5 Minute Read Reimagining the Youth Orchestra

Young Musicians Reshaping Musical Traditions

Back in March of this year, Agrigento published my first blog post in a series exploring the topic of change and the youth orchestra. Over the months since, I have been learning about inspiring programs, and having conversations with people who are acting for change.

After a break, this current blog post looks at East London’s Grand Union Youth Orchestra. I am grateful to Tony Haynes (Co-Founder and Creative Director of Grand Union Orchestra) for taking the time to talk with me and contribute to this blog post. I also acknowledge the young people whose words are included in this blog post. (A list of the video sources is included at the end of this post.)

Grand Union Youth Orchestra

Established in 2007, the Grand Union Youth Orchestra (GUYO) is, according to its website, a ‘world music and jazz youth ensemble that brings together young musicians aged 12-26 who wish to explore the world’s major musical cultures.’ GUYO offers young musicians the chance to explore musical styles from all around the world through regular masterclasses and workshops led by the professional jazz and world musicians from the Grand Union Orchestra.

It’s not the standard orchestra … It’s pretty much almost like jamming with a lot of other musicians from different backgrounds. So that’s what I really liked. (Andre, GUYO participant, 2018)

Grand Union Youth Orchestra at Rich Mix (Shoreditch, London, 2019)
Grantee Report

La Migración a Entornos Virtuales de Enseñanza Como Respuesta a la Pandemia

Informe sobre el proyecto de Chispas Musicales ‘Resiliencia en tiempos de distanciamiento social: Descubriendo nuevos paradigmas de educación musical’
Por Douglas Flores Mondragón and Luis Ramsés Gómez

Chispas Musicales Academia es una organización sin fines de lucro, cuyo objetivo principal es facilitar el acceso de la educación musical a niños, jóvenes y adultos, preferentemente escasos recursos económicos de la ciudad de Managua.

Actualmente, 6 docentes voluntarios atienden en Chispas Musicales a 45 niños, niñas y adolescentes. Chispas Musicales ofrece clases de música por un costo simbólico (US$ 15 por mes) y exoneraciones de pagos totales, parciales y préstamos de instrumentos a aquellos estudiantes que no pueden costearlos.

En marzo de 2020, Chispas Musicales suspendió las clases presenciales de música como respuesta a los contagios de Coronavirus presentes en Nicaragua.

4 Minute Read Reimagining the Youth Orchestra

Creating The Young Person’s Orchestra for the 21st Century

In our first blog post (May 2020) we wrote about our search for hope in the face of what appeared to be a significant threat to music education. In that moment, we saw the possibility that uncertain times might offer opportunities to dream up different structures, pedagogies and approaches to the music ensemble. To imagine what this might look like, we took inspiration from Shieh and Allsup’s (2016) reframing of the large ensemble as a flexible, hybrid collective, in which ‘multiple projects exist simultaneously and are loosely connected in a community of support’ (p. 33).

Animate Orchestra is a program delivered by Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. The program brings together school-aged musicians from different cultural backgrounds and with diverse musical interests, and it supports them to create and play their own music in what is described as a ‘Young Person’s Orchestra for the 21st Century’.

8 Minute Read Interview People

Fostering young voices for change

Musician and choral conductor/director Nicky Manlove on how to build positive and affirming relationships through ensemble music making.

As told to Louise Godwin, 8 minute read = 1,750 words

About Nicky

Nicky Manlove (they/she) is the founding artistic director of THEM Youth Ensemble, an LGBTQ+ and allied youth chorus, and is the director of music at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Tucson, AZ. In their work with THEM Youth Ensemble, Nicky organized the inaugural THEMposium, an annual performing arts festival for LGBTQ+ youth, and co-produced “ROSES: The Past, Present, and Future of Trans Resilience,” a collaborative virtual concert in observance of Trans Day of Resilience 2020. 

Nicky is a committed advocate of equity-centered and liberatory choral practice, and supports a number of justice-focused choral initiatives nationally. She is on the leadership team of The Choral Commons, a media platform that provides a space for singing communities to realize the liberatory potential of the ensemble as a site of radical imagining. They also serve on ACDA Western Division’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Taskforce and are the Chair of Student Repertoire and Resources for the Arizona ACDA chapter. 

Nicky holds a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts, emphasis in Music from Seattle University, and a Master of Music in Choral Conducting degree from the University of Arizona, where they studied with Alyssa Cossey and Elizabeth Schauer and served as Assistant Conductor for the University Community Chorus.

4 Minute Read

Why the US election has made us hopeful about music as social action

2020 has felt, at times, like a challenging hike across rocky terrain. No sooner does a patch of sunlight illuminate the pathway ahead than it is obscured by a cloud of grim world news, and we descend, once again, into frustration and despair.

It is easy to mistrust our memories of this sunlight and the clarity we experienced. So, catching hold of one such moment, this post reflects on the recent US election and what it has shown us about the positive ways that music can support social movements.

4 Minute Read The Gap What We Have Learnt

Baking sourdough bread: A metaphor for understanding how music as social action works (and doesn’t always work)

As we were finalising this post, we heard that Dr Kim Dunphy had passed away. Agrigento wishes to recognise Dr Dunphy’s international contribution to dance therapy and cultural development and the profound loss that will be felt by her community in Australia and more widely. This article is indebted to her work.

In Agrigento’s office in Naarm (Melbourne), Australia, Louise’s daughter has been baking sourdough. She has nurtured the starter, asking: Does it respond best to strong white, wholemeal or rye flour? She has watched it develop and fail to develop. She has cared for the dough, experimenting with water content ratios, different rise conditions, and cold or hot ovens.

Sourdough has taught this young woman a lot. It has taught her patience, diligence and humility, and encouraged her to be curious and learn through experimentation. Perhaps most importantly, she has learnt to acknowledge equally what works and what doesn’t.

4 Minute Read Our Work

Creating spaces for co-producing knowledge about music as social action

In early September, Geoff and I both attended the first of York St John University’s International Centre for Community Music (ICCM) Conversations. This session featured a presentation by Stephen Clift titled, The need for robust critique of arts and health research – with reference to music and health. Our attention had been grabbed by the titles of both this presentation and a blog post by Stephen, shared with attendees, that suggested a strong resonance with our work with Agrigento.

5 Minute Read

Some thoughts on cultural humility

I have been struggling to write a blog post for Agrigento in response to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests around the world. This has felt like an impossible task. As I sit at my desk, in my office in the backyard of our bungalow in the leafy suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, I wonder what I can possibly add to this conversation?