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The Glasshouse


Posted on 2 December 2019


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One hundred young musicians from the region took centre stage at this year’s prestigious Brass in Concert Festival at Sage Gateshead.

Pupils aged between eight and 16 from schools in Bedlington and Ashington took part in workshops with professional brass musicians in the months leading up to the event, which took place at Sage Gateshead in November and celebrated its 43rd year.

As part of Brass in Concert’s Youth Education Programme, run in association with Music Partnership North (Northumberland), pupils from Bedlington West End First, Bedlington Whitley Memorial First, Stead Lane Primary, Mowbray Primary, Ringway Primary and Ellington Primary took part in a workshop led by Laura Jackson (conductor at Elementary Players Band) and tutors from Reg Vardy and NASUWT Riverside Bands and Music Partnership North. These pupils were introduced to brass instruments as part of a ‘whole class ensemble project’ which took place at their schools provided by Music Partnership North.  They then progressed to school mini bands initially funded by Youth Music to enable young players to continue their new-found passion playing cornets, baritones, trombones and tenor horns.

The players, which included pupils from Meadowdale Academy and St Benet Biscop Catholic Academy in Bedlington, performed at St Cuthbert’s Church ahead of their appearance in Sage Gateshead’s main concert hall – Sage One – on the first day of the festival, before the Youth Brass Band Competition.

Ben Watson, a 15-year-old pupil, was born with a heart murmur, hypermobility in his fingers, asthma and ADHD.

He began his musical journey through the ‘whole class’ cornet lessons at Stakeford First School before moving onto Meadowdale Academy and joining the mini brass band. Ben has since moved onto St Benet Biscop High School and is supporting the creation of a school brass band. He also plays in the Music Partnership North Youth Ensemble and is working towards his grade five on cornet.

Learning an instrument has helped his concentration, strengthened his fingers and has drastically reduced the impact of the hypermobility. His mum also believe it has eradicated his asthma.

He said: “I feel as if my self-belief has gained a lot throughout the project and being in the band because I have met new people who had faith in me to play my part and also help me when I need it.”

Tia Masters, a pupil at Bedlington Academy, progressed through the youth education programme, playing with Bedlington Community Brass Band and Jayess Newbiggin Brass Band and now Music Partnership North’s Youth Ensemble.

She said: “I get the chance to compete in a brass band and there are some excellent players there who share their experience with me. I love playing a brass instrument.”

As well as the free performance by young brass players, the Festival also included a Youth Brass in Concert Championship, the senior Brass in Concert Championship and an evening gala concert. Wardle Academy and Lee Rigg retained the Youth Brass in Concert title and Cory retained the senior Brass in Concert title.

David Bennett, from Brass in Concert, said: “Brass in Concert has a proud history of encouraging young brass musicians and we were delighted to welcome young players to perform at Sage Gateshead, which will have been an incredible experience for them.

Jacqueline Craig, of Music Partnership North, said: “Our youth programme, in partnership with Brass in Concert, delivers support and opportunities for young people to play and learn a brass instrument regardless of background.

“It’s hugely satisfying to see the difference it can make to young people’s lives.”




Photograph by Steve Jack