In BBC Director General Tony Hall's speech unveiling his vision for the BBC, Hall spoke of encouraging young people in the arts and the BBC's central role in providing the stimulus for that. Something which strongly came across from Hall's speech was the word 'inspire'; he said; "I believe that the arts can move and inspire people like little else' and the BBC will 'launch a nationwide initiative to inspire school children with classical music, using our orchestras to bring the music to life'.
For me, inspiration is key in catching children at a young age. We have to inspire children to take up an instrument; inspire children through the achievements of their peers; and, once involved in music, inspire them through offering experiences of the highest quality so that they keep music at the centre of their lives.
It therefore feels very fitting for Tony Hall to be continuing this theme of engaging our children in the arts when he speaks at the National Children's Orchestras of Great Britain's concert on Sunday 8th December at the Royal Festival Hall.
We all know that simply engaging children at an early age is really not enough; we have to nurture their engagement and turn it into a love of music and a life-long commitment to the arts. Central to this is ensuring the right teaching is provided once they have been engaged. High-quality instrumental tuition needs to be far more accessible for children who show musical potential. We need to raise our own aspirations for musical children and set our sights high: our experience at the NCO is that children will rise to meet the challenge, provided they are supported and encouraged appropriately, with plenty of fun and social stimulus along the way.
The BBC can also lead the way in developing new digital platforms for music education; engaging children and young people through technology which is both exciting and relevant to their everyday experience. These things can only be achieved through collaborative work between Music Services, music organisations such as the NCO, and Music Hubs. It is only with partnerships that we can begin to realise our common goals.
Music Hubs have been under fire recently for not providing enough support for youth orchestras and children throughout the country, but I strongly believe that it is only with collaboration between organisations, Hubs and with schools themselves that this kind of regular input can take place and bear fruit.
Each year at the NCO we are trying to broaden the demographic of the children auditioning. We recently auditioned over 1,100 young children for the NCO's 2014 orchestras. In the past we have analysed the demographic of the applicants - my colleague Roger Clarkson, the artistic director of the NCO, wrote in Gramophone how instrumental tuition is a postcode lottery. Analysis of the auditions this year will give us more information on how well we're progressing with this issue, and whether our efforts, and those of our fellow organisations are beginning to have an impact.
So with the final concert of the NCO's 35th anniversary year, we hope not only to be celebrating the achievements of the orchestras, but also to inspire our children by music, and inspire ourselves to do all we possibly can to help make our vision of the arts and music education in the UK, a reality.