Music for Youth is a national youth arts charity working to provide young people across the UK aged 21 and under with free, life-changing performance and progression opportunities, regardless of musical style. They recently hosted more than 10,000 young people over four days at the National Festival in Birmingham. 

We caught up with Judith Webster, CEO of Music for Youth, to find out a little more about the charity and its plans for the future:

What was the inspiration behind starting Music for Youth?

The inspiration behind Music for Youth was, and will always be, supporting and celebrating the next generation of musicians. We provide life-changing experiences, development opportunities and platforms for young people’s music, everywhere across the UK.

We curate a programme of workshops, panels and live events to encourage young music makers to feed their passion and further engage in their musical development.  We see this as a key investment in their long-term growth, providing them with skills they can use in life and future employment.

Every year we work with more than 60,000 diverse, grassroots musicians – creating a community to share and enjoy absolutely every type of music.  I think that it’s this community that makes Music for Youth so important and special.

What kind of music making and performing opportunities are involved?

We offer young people a host of music-making and performing opportunities across every genre– be they a violinist; a beatboxer; a bass guitarist or a young person who has never experienced live music. We aim to support the schools and Music Education Hubs who are helping children facing barriers to accessing music, either as a direct result of where they live or their financial means. We also hold panels and workshops for people who aspire to a career in music as part of our Frequencies series. We passionately believe that music and participating in high-quality musical activities should be open to every young person, so our programme reflects that.

MFY hosts more than 50 free regional events every year in towns and cities across the UK that are open to everyone. These allow young people to demonstrate their talent and get feedback from highly experience professional musicians.

There’s our massive annual National Festival – like the one we’ve just hosted in Birmingham, that sees scores of young people heading to world-class stages in and around the city.

We also hold Primary Proms every year that give young performers the opportunity to inspire primary school pupils through free concerts and professional standard performances from their peers.

The pinnacle of our year is the Music for Youth Proms in November. These are a showcase of the best and brightest young musicians from across the country. The performances are always inspiring. We have some incredible young talent in this country and our proms is a perfect event to go and see them in action.

How do the music experiences offered by MFY support young people?

2020 is our 50th anniversary and over the years we’ve supported more than 2 million young musicians. Not only that, we’re happy that 91% of the people who take part in our events are from state schools.

The free music experiences offered by Music for Youth help in a number of ways.

The obvious one is they give the young people the chance to show their musical progress and get advice from leading musicians. Their time on stage builds confidence and teaches the importance of team work while helping to develop a range of soft skills.

I think one of the critical things music does is support young people’s mental health. It’s well documented how important music is and lots of the feedback we got back recently from the young people attending the National Festival was how music helps them to feel calm. We should never underestimate this. Seeing the young people leaving all our events is great – there are lots of big smiles and they’re buzzing, in fact when we speak to adults who experienced it many years ago they still smile when they tell us how great their memories were of performing on big stages.

Not only do the experiences we provide help develop real world skills and outlets for stress, they can also support future careers in music- we have helped numerous careers and have some very famous alumni like Gary Barlow and Laura Mvula.

What’s been your favourite event to date and why?

This is very hard to answer, I’ve headed up Music for Youth for seven years now and I’ve seen some brilliant performances and events. If I must choose one, that would last year’s Prom.

Specifically, the Massed Ensemble performance by Oxfordshire County Music Service who invited secondary school choirs and orchestras to buddy up with young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

They performed an incredible version of This is Me from the Greatest Showman, with the lyrics deeply resonating a message of inclusion there wasn’t a dry eye in the Royal Albert Hall.

At the end of the show there was an instantaneous standing ovation and an incredible feeling of warmth and support from the audience. That was a very special moment for me and my team.

Where can people find out more about MFY and upcoming events?

The big up and coming event for us is our 50th anniversary and it’s going to be very exciting. We have announced a new programme at the Barbican and soon we’ll be giving details on how we’ll be unlocking new opportunities for a bold new generation of influential musicians.

We’ll be kicking off celebrations at our Prom on 12th and 13th November – you can get tickets to attend here.

We’d also love to hear more from our alumni network – so if you have been part of the Music for Youth over the last 50 years we’d love to hear from you – please share your memories here.

To keep up to date with MFY activities you can visit the website: mfy.org.uk

The inspiration behind Music for Youth was, and will always be, supporting and celebrating the next generation of musicians.
I think one of the critical things music does is support young people’s mental health. We should never underestimate this.
We passionately believe that music and participating in high-quality musical activities should be open to every young person, so our programme reflects that.