“Our Musical Stars scheme is not about finding great musical talent,” Ian Naylor insists.
As head of music education at Sheffield Music Hub, it’s is a point he is keen to drive home.
“We see children come alive when they play instruments,” he explains.
“Their eyes sparkle, their faces light up, they start talking very very quickly, they fly. The world seems to suddenly make a little bit more sense to them. They find connection. Belonging. It is actual magic.
“At Sheffield Music Hub, we have the pleasure of creating and witnessing these moments every single day. And we desperately want to keep children flying, soaring with the music above their heads, keep them excited, inspired, to nurture them, encourage them, teach them and equally be inspired by them and learn from them ourselves. THAT is the very essence of what Musical Stars is really about.
“We are looking to support children and young people in the city for whom making music is the main focus of their world, their ‘life and soul’ so to speak, and without the extra support we give, they may not be able to reach their musical potential.”
The scheme launches in Sheffield this week, along with a campaign to raise £20,000 to fund the first 50 or 60 musical ‘stars’ the hub hopes to uncover. These funds will help ensure that children are offered regular one-to-one music lessons, free instrument hire, and an appropriate local practice room.
Ian says: “Some of the most powerful experiences and memories we have are forged in our childhood. We never seem to forget or forgive ourselves for things we did or did not do during our youth. It is such an important and critical time to experiment - to grow, to try, to fail, to learn, to overcome obstacles. As professional music educators, we at Sheffield Music Hub have the glorious job of witnessing, teaching and guiding 10,000 children in the city every week as they discover their own unique musical journey.
“I’ve seen kids pick up violins and guitars and, their face says ‘I don’t know exactly what I just experiences - but it was flippin’ ace!’
“Our dream is to ensure that every child in Sheffield, for whom music is their salvation, has access to a musical education. We are continually working to make this happen but, for certain children, there are barriers that get in the way. It can be the smallest thing that prevents them from spreading their wings - social background, culture, expectation, support, encouragement, or finances.
“The Musical Stars Scheme will offer those young musicians the time, skill and money they need to support them on their musical quests.
“We will work with the musician, their parents and their schools to create an environment where anything is possible, where they do not need to be limited by external factors.”
Sheffield Music Hub works with tens of thousands of young people in the city each year, and already works with 89 per cent of the city’s schools. We have link Music Leaders working in each of these schools - highly qualified musicians who teach specialist lessons and act as ambassadors for the hub. The hub currently receives three quarters of a million pounds of arts council funding each year, and is governed by an advisory board made up of representatives from schools, music organisations, parents and carers, young people and the voluntary sector.
“We’re really proud of the fact that, in principle, we’ve got an instruments into the hands of every child in the city, completely for free,” says Ian, aged 36, who is himself a conductor.
“These children are being taught in classroom settings by the masters of teaching instruments.
“We already have a bursary in place which supports children in the city with financial barriers, paying for instruments and lessons. The Musical Stars scheme is different because it’s about breaking down different kinds of barriers, as well as the financial obstacles.
“One great example is, recently, one of our musical leaders was working with a Musical Star whose dad was uncertain how to get him to the weekly class he needed to be at, so this teacher went to their home to meet them, walked with them to their local bus stop, showed them which bus to get on, travelled with them and paid their fares. Took them to the venue where the class was being held, got them signed in and settled, and now that father and son know just what they need to do week in and week out. As parents, new experiences with our children can be daunting and leave us completely out of our comfort zone, so this scheme is about going above and beyond to break down those barriers.
“It costs around £750 a year, on average, per Musical Star. This fund allows a more intense interaction, meaning we can identify those children, work intensively with their school, parents or carers, get them over initial barriers, give them lessons and ensure that we go above and beyond to ensure they get the opportunity to get deeply embedded in their music. The travelator is already running in Sheffield - there is already a very strong existence of orchestras, bands, choirs and rock groups out there in the city; this scheme is about getting children on that travelator.”
Visit Sheffield Music Hub to donate.