City orchestra under threat
COVENTRY and Warwickshire Youth Orchestra is under threat after its funding was scrapped by Coventry Music Hub.
The Music Hub, which runs on grants from the Arts Council, told the symphony orchestra’s committee that its funding would be withdrawn at the end of this academic year, in May 2019.
The Coventry Youth Orchestra was set up in 1962 and over the years its members have played in concerts around the world including Austria, the former Yugoslavia, Poland, Russia and the USA.
The orchestra is due to celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2021, when Coventry becomes City of Culture.
It will not make this anniversary unless it finds further funding.
Brian Chappell, orchestral director, told CoventryLive: “We’re very glad that the music hub has supported us up to now, and they have every right to withdraw the funding. But we have worked in partnership the Music Hub do not own us.
“Their decision was presented as a fait accompli, and it had a sense of ‘we’re in charge.’
“There is a funding crisis in music education. Not just financially but there are less children learning.
“The document essentially said ‘that is the end of the Coventry and Warwickshire Youth Orchestra.’ I will say they have no right to make that decision - it is our charity in our own right.
“It is our hope at the moment that we will continue to serve young people who have talent across Warwickshire.
“No child is precluded membership of the orchestra due to financial hardship. The orchestra embodies high standards, and it has been proved over the years that taking part in an occasional holiday course cannot engender the high standards in skills, compared to weekly practice, not just in music but in life.
“For over 25 years we have gradually seen diminution of the money available for the music services. But the young people have skills at a high level, and they too should be included with the remit of opportunity. There has been less money for teaching instruments in schools.
“It’s become all about numbers with the Arts Council. If you can provide big numbers to them you can get your money, but as well as the money, the demand of schoolwork has taken over. Playing an instrument is not a quick fix - it takes a special type of child and parental support.
“We are endeavouring not to finish at the end of May provided we have sufficient players. We want to go on, and Coventry has a need for us.”
The orchestra rehearse at the Blue Coat Church of England School on Terry Road, and they have an extensive schedule of concerts, including an upcoming recital at the Henry VIII School on October 21st, featuring Beethoven and Mendelssohn pieces.
The Arts Council provided the funding schedule for Coventry Music Hub, granting £514,416 for 2017/2018, and £511,742 for 2018/19. Of that, £12,000 was granted to the orchestra last year.
It’s believed the orchestra, which is a charity, will now be looking to find other funding streams.
Katie McClean, a trustee and parent of a CYSO percussionist, said: “The Music Hub had a meeting with the conductor and a secretary and presented us with a statement, saying they would be withdrawing funding from the orchestra.
“They have given some reasons which are debatable, but that was not up for negotiation.
“The hub said they would fund the coming season, which has started now, so we had already agreed to finish the season early in May 2019, instead of having a July concert.
“There was literally nothing said about the future. It is beyond ironic to be the next City of Culture and to be disbanding the Youth Orchestra.”
Coventry Music Hub were contacted for comment but declined to answer any questions.
A spokesperson for Coventry City Council said: “In January 2019, a new regional orchestral pilot will start which will replace the current format of the Coventry and Warwickshire Youth Orchestra for the 2019 academic year. “The new regional offer will include more local tutors instead of external tutors and start with a weekly regional strings orchestra. In Coventry music groups for all instruments will continue to develop. We hope this will provide opportunities for young people to enjoy wider musical experiences and we will offer full orchestra groups in the holidays.”