Diocesan press releases

Music project hits the high notes

Six people from an orchestral music project that is transforming the lives of children on a city estate have achieved top grades in their music exams.

All six passed with distinction with two youngsters achieving 98 per cent (87 out of 100 is distinction) and two candidates learning a new instrument from scratch as part of a sponsored Grade 1 challenge to raise funds for the project.MMCL exam 1

Making Music Changing Lives was set up seven years ago by the Revd Jan Gould to give local children hope and ambition for the future through the opportunity of being able to learn a musical instrument. It runs at the Church of Resurrection in Ely.

“I just can’t believe it – to get one distinction would have been fantastic but for all six candidates to get distinction is staggering – plus all the marks were so high – 89, 90, 94, 95 and two 98’s!” said Revd Gould.

“Four of the candidates are local youngsters from Ely and the other two are members of our Board of Trustees who raised £1,377 for us in their Grade 1 challenge. It’s absolutely wonderful what they have all achieved and it has given everyone a boost as it has shown what can be achieved with practice.”Rhian and James

The results were: Caitlin Cox, aged 16, initial viola, 98 per cent; Ethan Cox, aged 10,  grade 3 violin, 94 per cent; Emily James, aged 10, grade 1 cornet, 90 per; Nohwr Hubert von Staufer, aged 11, grade 1 cornet, 98 per cent. Rhian Hutchings, chair of the Board of Trustees, grade 1 violin, 89 per cent and project administrator James Brookmyre, grade 1 bassoon, 95 per cent.

“Everyone did amazingly – one of the young people – Caitlin only came along to make the squash for her Duke of Edinburgh volunteering section but decided to learn to play an instrument and within a few months achieved 98 per cent in her first exam!

“It’s not easy to get distinction in a grade music exam and to get these sort of distinction marks is really something special – we have some great teachers volunteering at the project who are doing some fantastic work.”MMCL exam 8

Jan, a professional viola player before she trained for the priesthood, was inspired to start ‘Making Music Changing Lives’ after seeing a similar programme in Venezuela first-hand. The El Sistema scheme began by giving violin lessons to street children. Jan felt that if it could work in Venezuela, then it could work in Ely too.

Volunteers from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and professional musicians teach music to around 40 local children in the church hall each week.

“The children who come along to the project gain so much from it – as well as getting a really nice hobby – it builds their self confidence and self esteem. The discipline they get from learning an instrument can also have a positive knock-on effect on their behaviour and learning in school,” she  added.MMCL exam 7

Despite its success the future of Making Music Changing Lives depends on its own fundraising and grants, with children paying just £2 a session.

“The challenge is to keep grants coming in – we are funded entirely by grants or by our own fundraising such as the latest grade 1 sponsored challenge. It costs £350 a week to run this project and we would love to get one really big grant so we could focus all our energy on the work we are doing rather than worrying where the next batch of money is coming from.”

Both Rhian and James were sponsored by Paul Woods, the local representative for Trinity College, to take their exam so that all the money raised could go to Making Music Changing Lives.

Note to editor

The Revd Jan Gould, won a Point of Light award from the Prime Minister, David Cameron, last year for her work with the project. The previous year she had appeared on the BBC’s Songs of Praise, along with some of the children.

Pictures show:

(left to right) Emily James, Ethan Cox, Nohwr Hubert von Staufer and Caitlin Cox.

Rhian Hutchings and James Brookmyre