The National Youth Choir is more than just a choir. Since the organisation was founded 40 years ago it has grown from a single choir of 100 young singers to become a nationwide community aiming to lead the way in youth singing and to provide exciting, inclusive opportunities for all young people. As well as running programmes for our four national choirs for young people aged 9 to 25, in recent years we have been embracing our role and responsibility as a champion for new and accessible creative and learning approaches and an advocate for change in the choral music industry.
Our Emerging Professional Artists programme is an important part of our role to support the development of young musicians at the start of their careers. Through it, we provide routes into sustainable careers in the music industry, particularly for those young people who are under-represented in choral music. Longer-term we are seeking truly to live up to our ambition that National Youth Choir is an inclusive community where all young musicians can develop to their fullest potential.
In 2024, thanks to a two-year Lottery Project Grant from Arts Council England, we are able to pilot a new strand of the EPA programme – our Young Conductors scheme. Sitting alongside the established Fellowship for choral performers and leaders, and our Young Composers programme, the Conductors scheme will offer two young musicians aged 20 to 29 each year the opportunity to take part in a free year-long training programme, gaining skills in conducting young singers.
We see real gaps in the choral music workforce, and so the Young Conductors scheme specifically aims to address these inequalities. In 2024 we are particularly looking to work with young people from Black, Asian and other global majority backgrounds and as we develop the scheme we aim to address other forms of under-representation including working with disabled and neurodiverse young musicians.
To do this, we have had to think very carefully about the design of the scheme and the potential barriers to access for young people who may not be coming through a ‘traditional’ conducting training route. We are casting the net widely, looking for potential applicants who are passionate about singing, interested in working with vocal groups and who have experience of a range of musical styles – not just classical choral music! Importantly, we will build the programme around individual skills, needs and interests and no specific conducting experience is needed.
We hope that this approach will create a flexible, exciting creative environment where participants can gain and develop music leadership skills, be mentored by top conductors, work alongside their peers in the National Youth Choirs, and develop industry knowledge and networks.
Finally, it’s worth saying that we know that there is a lot of work for us to do to achieve equity and create a real culture of belonging, but we’re excited for the potential change the Young Conductors scheme will kick start. We’re sure that we’ll learn a lot from the pilot that will help change the way we do things in the National Youth Choir and we’re looking forward to sharing some of our learning with you later in the year!
More details about the National Youth Choir’s Young Conductors scheme and how to apply can be found here: Become a Young Conductor | National Youth Choir (nycgb.org.uk)
The deadline for applications for the 2024 scheme is 12 noon on Monday 22nd January 2024.