During the very early stages of the són project, we were thinking a great deal about the BBC’s Ten Pieces initiative – not least because it’s created such a buzz amongst music educators and schools. It’s been getting people interested in both the musical repertoire AND in the idea of classical music in general. These are great things, of course – they’re amongst the noblest things we musicians and educators can be doing! At són we’re working closely with schools and hubs regarding their own approach to the Ten Pieces sets – to the content, the repertoire and to the scope it brings for primary (and now secondary) schools to develop their inspiration.

Following the sad passing of Katy Jones (the original leader of the Ten Pieces project) earlier in the year, we did wonder how people in the BBC’s Ten Pieces department would respond and work towards the newer set of musical items – the long-awaited “Ten Pieces Secondary”. Well, they’re finally out there now, having been released only a matter of days ago. Already són have been in discussion with educational leaders, publishers and others about the possibilities, liaising about future plans. It’s a good set of pieces, eclectic and varied, but does need a charismatic and innovative approach to get youngsters of Key Stage 3 age really inspired by it.

And, because it’s a BBC venture, it has clout, kudos, and real substance – ie enough solid, core support materials so as teachers, animateurs, presenters, conductors and arrangers can follow it through. Workshop leaders have loads of scope to bring latent talent to the surface via Mars from the Planets or even, now, Shostakovich 10.

Quite a few naysayers let rip as soon as the new set of Ten Pieces were announced. Even at són HQ, we admit we were a bit puzzled by some of the choices and wondered what could, and what wouldn’t, work. Now that a little time has passed we realise, in truth, it doesn’t really matter. Because the only limiting factor is people’s imaginations. Yes, resources go an awful long way, too – if the budget is tight, then mounting a performance of Bernstein’s Mambo with a pro band may prove tricky. But, nothing is really unsurmountable. What’s crucial is that people aren’t limited by the choices of pieces, but instead choose to use them as a springboard, connecting more and more youngsters with incredible music.

So, why stop at the scherzo from Shostakovich 10? Why stop at the Mambo from West Side Story, and not seize the chance to entrance youngsters with probing assessment of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in music? Why only the Verdi Requiem – when one can get teenagers hooked via Mozart, and even Duruflé?

We all complain about the youth of today, or the state of education, or (especially, lately) of music education. But this isn’t a political manifesto – we’re an orchestra, after all, not a forum for deep debate! Yet one thing which will never change is the tangible thirst youngsters have for something inspiring, ANYTHING INSPIRING. Whether it’s football, X factor or some weird stuff called Shostakovich, if it’s delivered in a passionate way then it’ll strike a chord with even the most hard-hearted of teens. If it’s presented, played and performed with plenty of skill, integrity and understanding, and – above all – by people who love it and would do anything to show others how incredible it is, then it’ll reach its goal.

Children, teenagers, youngsters – they haven’t changed at all really. At team són we’ve collectively been working with young people for around 35 years between us. Yes, plenty of change in the system in that time, and the manner of delivery, but the kids still love amazing things just as much as ever. Of course they do – it hasn’t stopped being any less amazing! It’s simply a matter of getting it TO them – and the BBC Ten Pieces, both Primary and now Secondary, deserve our applause and support for making that a tiny bit easier.

són believe firmly, passionately that if – through any one of our concerts, or education events – we make only one youngster return to their trombone studies, pick up a recorder for the first time, or start singing – ANYTHING – then we’re doing it right. Surely, as musicians and music-educators, this is what we’re looking for?

We’d love to hear your thoughts – please leave us a message on the disqus comments form below, or you can email us direct here.

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