It is free to take part in our Central Ensembles, but you/ your child will be required to audition.

Our ensemble members are nurtured and supported by skilled professional tutors and conductors, developing their confidence and musical abilities.

Members will also take part in memorable performances on the stages of Birmingham’s most prestigious venues, celebrating their musical achievements to packed audiences. These groups also regularly represent Services for Education on the Regional and National Stage.

All our ensembles serve as an extension to weekly instrumental/vocal lessons and school music making. By joining one of our groups your young musicians will be representing your school at city level.

Before you apply, please see our Central Ensemble Bios for a full list of the musical opportunities available. 

Our Central Ensembles offer progression for intermediate to advanced young musicians.

Auditions for Services For Education (Birmingham Schools’) Central Ensembles are open to young musicians in full time education who attend a Birmingham School or live within the city of Birmingham.

Central ensembles are designed for intermediate (approximately Grade 3 standard upwards) through to advanced performers. Ensembles rehearse weekly during term time with members benefiting from over 100 hours of specialist ensemble tuition.

As a general rule, we expect ensemble members to be with each group for two academic years to be in a position to access the next level ensemble both in terms of instrumental capability and ensemble craft, although there are sometimes exceptional cases where membership of a group may be more or less than this. 

In all cases we expect our ensemble members to audition every two years.  

If you are offered and accept a place in one of our SFE Ensembles musicians are expected to maintain regular instrumental or vocal tuition to enable continued personal improvement.

We are now inviting you to apply for Central Ensembles starting in September 2020.

Please note the following: 

Everyone who wishes to take part in a Central Ensemble next year will need to create an account on our new portal and apply for their ensemble including those:

  • Who are still in their first year of membership of an ensemble. You will need to apply to rejoin for September 2020, but you will not need to audition.
  • Those looking to join an SFE Central Ensemble for the first time in September 2020.
  • Those who have been in your current SFE Central Ensemble for two years. You will need to audition to rejoin your current ensemble, or join a new one.

Requests for auditions from members in their first year of current Central Ensemble membership will be considered in exceptional circumstances.

When you are ready, head over to the new ensembles portal using the link below:

SFE Ensembles Portal

Here you will be able to set up an account and apply for Central Ensembles. If you need some help doing this, check out this video:

SFE Ensembles Portal Instructional Video

Please do make sure that your child is eligible before applying for a Central Ensemble, using the Central Ensemble Bios tab on this page.

For all ensemble related queries please email ensembles@servicesforeducation.co.uk

Hover over and click the images to see what Central Ensembles are available.

Auditions for 2020 to 2021 were planned to take place from 29th June to 9th July 2020.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we are currently looking at the format for auditions this year and will update you as soon as we know what activity is possible (if any) during the summer term.  We appreciate your patience with this matter.

Auditions are for all the opportunities associated with your instrument or voice, rather than for a specific ensemble or group.

Each instrumental department has audition requirements which outline the standards expected and pieces to prepare. All auditions are heard without an accompaniment.

Auditions Update: 11th June 2020

  • All workshop audition sessions will be moved to rehearsal one in the autumn term-dates to be confirmed.
  • All other ‘individual’ auditions (current Central Ensemble members) will take place in September. These will be scheduled online auditions adhering to the published audition criteria.
STRING REQUIREMENTS

Young musicians applying for a place in Birmingham Schools’ Junior String Orchestra will be invited to an audition workshop session in September (date TBC). Musicians applying for Birmingham Schools’ String Sinfonia, Concert Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra will be invited to individual auditions.

Please prepare one contrasting piece appropriate to the entry level of the ensemble you are applying for. Repertoire should be prepared in conjunction with your instrumental teacher and preferably from the ABRSM or Trinity Syllabus.

You are also required to play an ensemble-specific piece, as detailed in the sections below. Click on the relevant link below to download the music.

Symphony Orchestra:

String Sinfonia:

Junior String Orchestra:

Concert Orchestra:

BRASS REQUIREMENTS

Young musicians applying for a place in Birmingham Schools’ Training Wind Orchestra, Training Jazz and Brass Attack will be invited to an audition workshop session in September (date TBC). Musicians applying for Birmingham Schools’ Concert Band,Wind Orchestra, Concert Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra, Brass Band and Jazz Ensemble will be invited to individual auditions.

Please prepare one contrasting piece appropriate to the entry level of the ensemble you are applying for. Repertoire should be prepared in conjunction with your instrumental teacher and preferably from the ABRSM or Trinity Syllabus.

You are also required to play an ensemble-specific piece, as detailed in the sections below. Click on the relevant link below to download the music.

GUITAR REQUIREMENTS

Young musicians applying for a place in Birmingham Schools’ Training Guitar Ensemble will be invited to an audition workshop session in September (date TBC). Musicians applying for Birmingham Schools’ Guitar Sinfonia and Ensemble will be invited to individual auditions.

Training Guitar Ensemble:
Please prepare one piece of approximately grade 2 standard and prepare Carnavalito.

Candidates should pay close attention clear tone production, projection, technical details and expressive details.

Guitar Sinfonia:
Please prepare two contrasting pieces of approximately grade 4 standard.

Where appropriate, candidates should demonstrate effective use of rest strokes and free strokes within the pieces. As well as demonstrating an understanding of form and phrasing, candidates should pay close attention clear tone production, projection, technical details and expressive details.

Candidates may be asked to demonstrate a selection of the following: basic techniques such as free strokes and rest strokes and a two octave C major scale including a position shift.

Guitar Ensemble:
Please prepare two contrasting pieces of approximately grade 6 standard.

Where appropriate, candidates should demonstrate effective use of rest strokes and free strokes within the pieces. As well as demonstrating an understanding of form and phrasing, candidates should pay close attention to clear tone production, projection, technical details and expressive details.

Candidates may be asked to demonstrate a selection of the following: basic techniques such as free strokes and rest strokes; a one octave scale (candidates choice) played legato, staccato and pizzicato; played with natural, ponticello and tasto tone; played in artificial harmonics.

PERCUSSION AND DRUM KIT REQUIREMENTS

Young musicians applying for a place in Birmingham Schools’ Training Wind Orchestra, Training Percussion and Brass Attack will be invited to an audition workshop session in September (date TBC). Musicians applying for Birmingham Schools’ Concert Band, Wind Orchestra, Concert Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra, Brass Band and Percussion Ensemble will be invited to individual auditions.  

All students attending a Central Ensemble audition should present 2 prepared pieces on any combination of percussion instruments (including drum kit).

This can be 2 pieces on the same instrument.

If auditioning for Symphony Orchestra, students must include a timpani piece. Pieces with backing track should be performed with the tracks in the audition.

A CD player/sound system will be provided.

Students will also be asked to play a duet with a member of the audition panel.

Download our duet pieces here.

VOCAL REQUIREMENTS

Young musicians applying for a place in Birmingham Schools’ Singers will be invited to an audition workshop session in September (date TBC). 

The audition starts with an introduction and information talk for parents and singers led by conductor Ruth Roberts.

This is followed by a short choral workshop for auditioning singers.

The singers will confirm their contact details before singing to one of the two audition panels in another room. This is less than 5 minutes long and consists of range & pitch tests plus their own choice of song, which has been prepared with their singing teacher.

We always strive to make it a friendly and inclusive experience.

Singers will need to bring music and/or backing tracks with them. Their choice of song can be either Pop/Contemporary/Music Theatre/Folk/Jazz and be well prepared so the panel can hear your vocal range and quality.

WOODWIND REQUIREMENTS

Young musicians applying for a place in Birmingham Schools’ Training Wind Orchestra and Training Jazz  will be invited to an audition workshop session in September (date TBC). Musicians applying for Birmingham Schools’ Concert Band,Wind Orchestra, Concert Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble will be invited to individual auditions.

Concert Band:

Two contrasting pieces, appropriate to the entry level of the ensemble you are applying for, and a short sight reading piece given on the day.

Concert Orchestra:

Two contrasting pieces, appropriate to the entry level of the ensemble you are applying for, and a short sight reading piece given on the day.

Training Wind Orchestra:

One Grade 3 piece and attendance at the open rehearsal morning.

Wind Orchestra:

Two contrasting pieces, appropriate to the entry level of the ensemble you are applying for, and a short sight reading piece given on the day.

Symphony Orchestra:

Two contrasting pieces, appropriate to the entry level of the ensemble you are applying for, and a short sight reading piece given on the day.

Recorder Sinfonia:

Two contrasting pieces appropriate to the entry level of the ensemble.

Recorder Ensemble:

Two contrasting pieces appropriate to the entry level of the ensemble.

Training Jazz Ensemble:

Please prepare one group of scales from the BSTJE scales sheet, the set piece Cantaloupe Island (to include at least one 16 bar improvisation section around the relevant blues scale as shown at the bottom of the piece) plus one additional contrasting piece appropriate to the entry level of the ensemble.

  • Audition scales sheet
  • Cantaloupe Island – Bb Soprano or Tenor Saxophone
  • Cantaloupe Island – Eb Alto or Baritone Saxophone
  • Cantaloupe Island

Jazz Ensemble:

Two contrasting pieces, appropriate to the entry level of the ensemble, to include some improvisation.

WORLD MUSIC REQUIREMENTS

Young musicians applying for a place in Birmingham Schools’ Azaad Dhol and Raga & Tala will be invited to an audition workshop session in September (date TBC).

Did you know that Services For Education is a charity?

Every year, we bring together 2,000 young people from across Birmingham and form over 70 ensembles, specialising in a variety of instruments.

We do not charge for our ensembles because imposing a charge would create an immediate barrier for many families who would struggle to afford these costs but this is only sustainable with support from our donors.

We need your help to keep our ensembles going. 

Become a Friend of Services For Education for as little as £3 per month to support our ensembles. Or, if you’d prefer make a one-off donation.

Find out more on our Charity Website.