March school takes over running a top orchestra

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Year 10 students from March Neale-Wade Academy have been given permission to run London-based professional orchestra, City of London Sinfonia for the next two months.

They have been given the opportunity to produce two concerts on March 5 designed especially for people their own age. Some of the young people will be presenting the concert while others will be providing the technical backup including lighting, vision and sound mixing. Another team will be managing front of house and stage management.

The group has even taken over the new piece of music John K Miles has written for them by adding their own section to it. John and the orchestra are really enjoying the experience: “It’s very rare that any audience get the chance to choose the music that is played, let alone a group of young people. We’re really enjoying being led by them.”

Ahead of the concerts, three workshops are taking place in March, with the City of London Sinfonia and music leader John K Miles, at which the students are getting to know the musicians, selecting the music to be performed, creating video projections, writing press releases and then tacking stage management, presenting and even conducting at the concerts.

Key to the success of First Time Live – Youth is putting young people at the centre of the project and giving them responsibility for creating a major orchestral concert for their peers.

This includes selecting concert repertoire, scriptwriting, sound and lighting design, video projection, stage management, writing press releases, blogging, photography, concert presentation and even conducting. Through empowering Young Producers, the events generate high levels of engagement and enthusiasm amongst participants, both in the audience and on stage, including the professional musicians.

Another important element of the project is a partnership with Makewaves – the social media platform for schools, enabling the young people to create and safely share videos, podcasts and blogs with the other First Time Live – Youth locations and beyond.

Led by national music charity Orchestras Live, ‘First Time Live – Youth’ is a unique and innovative orchestral touring initiative that brings orchestral music into the lives of young people aged 10 to 14 across England. It is targeted at young people who have had little or no access to a live orchestral concert experience and who live in local authority areas in the bottom 20% for levels of arts engagement. Working with local partners, Orchestras Live will present a series of concerts and workshops during Spring 2014 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and City of London Sinfonia in March, Peterborough, Thurrock, Doncaster, Grimsby and Mansfield.

First Time Live – Youth began in 2013 in Hull, Scunthorpe, Harlow and Luton. As the project enters its second phase, it has already generated some impressive statistics in bringing new audiences to orchestral music. An average of 85% of post-concert survey respondents across the four locations said that they had never attended an orchestra concert before. In Harlow that figure was 100%. One of the Young Producers in March said ”It’s a fantastic opportunity to get to work with a professional orchestra and to create our own concert. We get choose what we want to hear at the concert.”

First Time Live – Youth is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, as well as a grant by the D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust. Find out more about First Time Live at