Our History

The company has a unique place in the history of young people’s music-making

We used to fund trips to concerts......and then we started making our own music with young people

Yorkshire Youth & Music has been working in young people’s music making for more than 40 years. In recent times the company has developed the skills, knowledge and understanding which enable it to work with some of the most vulnerable, challenged and challenging young people in Yorkshire.

The company has a long history. Originally established in the 1970s as a national organisation, Youth & Music provided young people across the nation with access to free or very low-cost tickets to classical music; orchestral, chamber and recital. Regional centres developed differently, with Yorkshire first offering activities specifically designed for young people, followed by taking performances out of the concert hall and into community venues, and then onwards to young people participating in and creating their own music. In 1989, YY&M was established as an independent charity, as the national organisation closed.

In the 1990s, YY&M devised and managed on average 4 – 6 youth music projects and 50 Family Fundays a year across Yorkshire, including projects working with diverse communities, working in partnership with Education Action Zones, Festivals, local authorities and arts venues. In 1995 Yorkshire Youth and Music was a music prize-winner in the prestigious Prudential Awards for the Arts.

In 2000, YY&M received the region’s largest award from the New Opportunities Fund for an out of hours school learning project, Sounding Out, which ran for three years in 21 schools, launched in September 2000 by Secretary of State David Blunkett and Baroness Pitkeathley. It was the UK’s first £1M community music project, leading the way nationally for musically varied, inclusive and creative music-making, training more than 30 community musicians to work in sustained, long-term, musically developmental projects, and led by Bill Vince. In 2005, this was followed by Elastic Band, a two year out of school project in Sowerby Bridge; a musically democratic and inclusive project in a diverse school which welcomed players of all instruments and none, and whose members collectively devised most of what was played.

Our current Director, Gail Dudson, attended Halle Orchestra concerts in Sheffield City Hall during the 1970s, with tickets provided by YY&M.

In 2002, David Price worked with YY&M to organise Music Leaders in Creative Renewal, a long term creative development and training programme for community musicians. In early 2004 Youth Music developed a nationwide initiative to develop and train community musicians – MusicLeader – and YY&M led the Yorkshire programme from its inception until the initiative closed in 2012, with hundreds of music leaders taking up training opportunities every year, and establishing networks of practitioners in Early Years, SEND, and other specialist disciplines. At the same time, the company started working extensively in Early Years settings, with long-term residencies in 20 nurseries and Sure Start centres, including centres with special provision for very young children with SEND.

In 2008, the government funded initiative Sing Up was launched, to re-invigorate collective singing in primary schools; YY&M led the programme across Yorkshire, and in 2010-11 the company assumed responsibility for the Sing Up Training programme across England. YY&M staff reached 96% of primary schools in Yorkshire and were particularly focused on ensuring that schools outside the mainstream were included in activities (for example, special schools and pupil referral units), and that activities were offered which reflected the diversity of Yorkshire’s population.

In 2012, YY&M became the grant holder for West and South Yorkshire for the National Foundation for Youth Music’s Musical Inclusion nationwide scheme, reaching children in challenging circumstances and developing skills, knowledge and understanding in how to engage hard to reach young people. Projects included music making with Deaf and Hearing Impaired young people, soundscapes creation with children with challenging behaviour, breakfast samba club in a primary pupil referral unit, and many more, until late 2014. Since 2014, the company has held Fund B grants from the National Foundation for Youth Music, and been awarded grants from the Arts Council and other sources.

The company has a unique place in the history of young people’s music-making because of its history and enduring commitments to diversity, inclusivity, influencing change in the mainstream and supporting young people’s own musical choices whilst widening their horizons and experiences of music in all its forms.