City or­ches­tra un­der threat

Coventry Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By JOHN CARLON News Re­porter john.carlon@reach­

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.”

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