SFE’s Magical Music Moments of 2023

The festive season has once again arrived and we’re reaching that wonderful time of year where we can review, reflect and celebrate our successes.

At Services For Education, we’ve had another pretty busy one!

Every year, we bring music to 31,000 children a week, working with over 380 schools and loaning instruments to 27,000 young children in the Midlands. We do this in a variety of ways, including our teaching in schools, the SFE ensemble system, music school and charitable projects. But we also improve music teaching across the region, through our Music CPD and consultancy work for schools.

This month, to round off a fabulous year, we asked some of the SFE team to share their most memorable music moments from 2023.

Here’s what we asked:

What has been your musical highlight of the year?

This could be an event you have organised or attended, a success story about staff or pupils, individuals or groups, really anything that stands out to you.

We’ve had some fantastic responses that we’re so happy to share with you today.

Magical Musical Moments – Changing Lives Through the Power of Music and Learning

Music For Youth Proms at the Royal Albert Hall

On 15th November, approximately 163 young musicians and staff from Birmingham Schools Symphony Orchestra (plus a few alumni from the 22/23 orchestra) and Azaad Dhol Group (including our members from Bishop Vesey, Ark Boulton, Moseley and Plantsbrook schools) enjoyed a fantastic day of performing at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the Music for Youth Proms. A day that will stay with them for life! Even the journey down was eventful, with students being interviewed on BBC Radio WM (worth a listen from about 2hr 15mins in!).

“The musical highlight of my year was being able to attend the Music Youth Project at the Royal Albert Hall. This extraordinary initiative gave an amazing platform for young people to perform and to showcase their musical talents in a world-renowned venue. Witnessing the passion and skill displayed by all those who performed has not only been awe-inspiring but also a testament to the power of music education and support.

The project stands as a shining example of the positive impact that musical opportunities can have on the lives of our youth. It was a celebration of the diverse and transformative musical experiences we provide; it is always so uplifting to see the range of talent and high standards that our students achieve. I am delighted that we continue to see more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds taking part, and that our ethnic diversity in the groups and orchestras’ continues to develop.

Here’s to the continued success and impact of such initiatives, fostering a love for music and empowering the next generation of musicians.”

Sarah Smith – Chair of Trustees

Foyer Events at our Youth Proms

For children in care, the opportunity to engage in music can be limited for many reasons. In 2018, Services For Education, in partnership with Birmingham Virtual School (the umbrella body that oversees the education of children in care in Birmingham), launched ‘Music Cares’, a project providing music opportunities and instrument loans for Year 4 and Year 7 children in care across the city. You can find out more about this fantastic project here.

“As part of our SFE Youth proms 2023, we held pre-concert workshops/performances in the Jenny Blackwell Performance Space outside symphony Hall across all 4 evenings in Symphony Hall. This year, we featured pathways into industry and each evening we were supported with industry links that came to talk about their establishments to the children, parents and carers.

One evening stood out for me and that was the day we invited children who are part of our Children in Care programme – Music Cares. We had soloists perform and then get the opportunity to hear from leading experts from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and Chethams School of Music. They brought with them students to perform too and to see the children’s faces was magical.”

Stuart Birnie – Head of Music Service

The Kings Coronation Bandstand Project

On Monday 8th May, over 500 young performers took to the stage at Midlands Arts Centre, Cannon Hill Park, as part of the King’s Coronation celebrations. We’re incredibly proud of each and every young performer that took part. Read more about this fantastic event here.

“It was a marvellous occasion that saw young musicians take to the stage from our Central Ensembles alongside guest groups from Ark Boulton Academy, Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School and Queensbridge School. Despite the unpredictable bank holiday weather, the festival was a huge success, and it attracted a large audience of nearly 1200 parents, carers, and supporters who came to enjoy one or more of the four back-to-back concerts. The festival planning team worked tirelessly to ensure that everything ran smoothly, and the event was well-organised and executed.

Overall, it was a resounding success, and has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees.”

Charlotte Buxton – Deputy Head of Music Service, Head of Ensembles

Music CPD for Secondary Schools

At Services For Education we organise termly CPD for colleagues and specific ones for music subject leads to meet virtually to share ideas, current thinking and present action research around a particular topic or area of focus. Many of these CPD sessions are free to Birmingham schools as they are funded by ACE (Arts Council England). Find out more about our Music CPD and upcoming Music Education Conference, here.

“In November 2023 we held a FREE Secondary Music Teacher CPD event in partnership with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO). The twilight included music subject specific CPD led by Maria Lowndes-Ford, Director of Music at Lordswood Boys’ School and focussed on KS3 Curriculum Design.

The CPD session also included a dedicated networking event designed to bring colleagues together to discuss their current experiences. The evening then culminated with FREE tickets to attendees to the evening CBSO concert at Symphony Hall.

Often many secondary music teachers are the only music teacher in their school which can lead to professional isolation. The networking events are designed to counteract this and promote collaboration between colleagues and between schools.”

Adam Hickman – Deputy Head of Music Service

World Music Lessons

Twenty-five years ago, the opportunity for Birmingham school children to learn how to play African, Asian or Caribbean instruments was slim. Today, thousands of the city’s children from all ethnicities are enjoying playing non-Western instruments and, in doing so, learning of other cultures. You can read the full Music Teacher article here.

“So much choice but after much thought I’ve selected attending world music lessons and rehearsals in Handsworth one chilly January evening. It might have been cold outside but inside the former Victorian Methodist church, the atmosphere was hot!

I was accompanied by a photographer before writing a piece for Music Teacher and the array of instruments was remarkable. As I wrote in the article, there were ‘djembes from west Africa, samba drums from Africa and south America, sitars, tabla twin-hand drums and dhol double-headed drums from the Indian sub-continent, harmoniums from West Bengal, and steel pans from Trinidad and Tobago’.

But it was also the vitality and enthusiasm of the young musicians that was so impressive. They clearly loved every moment – with formal teaching punctuated by impromptu jamming sessions.

And, as I learned, this is a Services For Education success story. Each week, 3,500 Birmingham children attend small group and one-to-one lessons in African djembe drumming, North Indian tabla, sitar, steel pan and dhol folk drumming from Punjab.

Definitely a musical highlight.”

David Clarke – PR Consultant

Generation Ladywood Showcase

On June 19th 2023, we celebrated the Generation Ladywood Showcase (GLS). This annual collaboration, between Services For Education, and The Talent Development Programme Team at B: Music, saw over 100 KS2 pupils, from St Patrick’s and St Edmund’s Catholic Primary, Chad Vale Primary, Nelson Primary and St Catherine of Sienna Catholic Primary School, all within the Ladywood area of Birmingham, join composer Dr Sid Peacock, in performing a specially commissioned piece of music called ‘Open The Door’ at Symphony Hall. They were joined by students from Nishkam Secondary School, Kings Solomon International Business School, and Aston Manor Academy.

“The GLS project was born out of a desire to create stronger links with the Ladywood community through work with young musicians in local schools. 

Each year a composer is commissioned to write for the Key Stage 2 ensemble, as well as a musician or team of musicians to work with KS3 and 4 students in selected local secondary schools. Pupils attend two rehearsals held in Symphony Hall, experiencing the authentic sound of a world-class concert hall and taking part in the final extravaganza. At the heart of the GLS programme lies the hope that the pupils and students will continue to grow in their love of music. Inspiration and aspiration are also vital components of GLS, and this year the pupils were able to enjoy performances from Xhosa Cole, and duet Layla Tutt and James Lovell.

This year the performance and music carried a strong message of the importance of connection, community, and the power of music. What a wonderful way to celebrate our young people.”

Helen Brookes – Head of Whole Class Instrumental Teaching

Fundraising Projects

Services For Education is a charity. We use the power of learning and music to create and build confidence amongst children, young people, adults and communities across the city of Birmingham. Our mission is to bring music and learning to life. Find out more about our projects here.

“I joined SFE at the start of the July, just before the Summer Youth Proms, and was lucky enough to attend one of the evenings. I was blown away by the talent on stage and pride in the audience, it felt great knowing that I was going to be part of helping that happen going forward.

Meeting the Inclusive and Community Choir groups has also been fantastic, seeing the joy and special moments music creates for those taking part.”

Sarah Caldwell – Fundraising Manager

Cheers to 2023

What a year it has been for everyone at Services For Education.

We want to thank all of our hard-working staff for their efforts, we really couldn’t do it without their passion and determination.

Look out in the new year to hear about some of our School Support successes!

As this is our last blog of the year, we wish you a very happy festive season and look forward to working with you in the new year.

Support Services For Education

Services For Education is a registered charity (Charity no. 1148848). We use the power of learning and music to create and build confidence amongst children, young people, adults and communities across the city of Birmingham. Our mission is to bring music and learning to life.

We have ambitious plans to increase the number of young people and adults we reach, including the introduction of work with disabled students, children under 5, looked after children and taking music further into the special needs environment – to name just a few.

However, to sustain our essential work and to realise these ambitions we need your help.

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