11 May 2023

Could a bursary set the tone for more musical education investment?

By Lark Music
London Schools Symphony Orchestra performing at the Barbican

While nobody in the music world, whether musician or fan, is unaware of the funding crisis facing all strands of musical education, it’s always cheering to acknowledge when there’s a sponsorship move that will ease the financial pressure for one aspiring musician.

At Lark Music, we’re delighted to confirm that we’re providing a year’s bursary support for one student, which includes a year’s full curriculum tuition at Guildhall Young Artists Centre for Young Musicians (CYM) plus annual membership of the London Schools Symphony Orchestra (LSS0).

About the bursary winner

The recipient of the bursary is Masudi Juma, a student at CYM since 2017, and also a member of the LSSO. Masudi epitomises both the talent and values we were looking for. With many strings to his bow, he not only excels on the violin playing in string ensembles, chamber groups, orchestras, and folk ensembles, but also studies piano and music technology.

Described by Khac-Uyen Nguyen, CYM Head of Strings, as “bright, talented, and driven” with “a strong ability to sight read and use instinctive musical judgement”, Masumi has also been recognised for having shown tremendous resilience throughout a difficult lockdown “quietly continuing, always fighting on”.

And it’s this indomitable “fighting spirit” that truly reflects why this bursary is so necessary right now.

From purse strings to violin strings

In his opening speech at the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards in March, the chair John Gilhooly made an impassioned and inspiring “crie de coeur”, articulating how the lack of government funding for musical art and education was impacting a whole generation of promising musicians.  From the after-effects of the pandemic to the current cost-of-living crisis, the only thing Gilhooly needed to make this any more of a rallying cry was a full orchestra accompanying his words.

Musical education no longer a priority

The crescendo of his delivery centred on this: We need to put our hearts and souls into England’s refreshed National Plan for Music Education and similar plans in Scotland and Wales. Although many schools, music education hubs and national youth music organisations do fantastic work (among them, Awards for Young Musicians, nominated tonight as a new NPO), the days of free music education for all children throughout their schooling are largely gone, and investment in the whole system in real terms is at an all-time low.”

Read John Gilhooly’s entire speech here.

And there’s more. In a recent report Music Education: State of the Nation, published by an all-party parliamentary committee in collaboration with the University of Sussex and the Incorporated Society of Musicians, it was made abundantly clear that there has been a sharp decline in musical access and opportunities in state schools. And while much of it makes for grim reading, there is a beacon of light to be found buried among the solutions and recommendations that could be implemented at little or no cost. While there is a major concern that continuing or taking up a musical instrument is the preserve of the middle-class child, John Gilhooly’s words reminded us – in a rare moment of optimism ­– that £100m of government money has been ringfenced for musical education, with around a quarter of that specifically being set aside for instruments.

Read the full report here.

An overture of support

Sadly, the continuing lack of financial support for musicians already “out there” is really beginning to take its toll, making it even harder to recruit talented individuals into making music – especially classical – a fulltime career.

This is one of the primary drivers behind the Lark Music bursary award. We want to show that our dedication to the music world is not just about insuring instruments – it’s ensuring a musician’s future prospects.

Our winner, Masudi Juma, is already demonstrating the ambition and tenacity to make music their future. His progression over the next year will be followed with interest, with regular progress and performance updates across Lark Music and CYM’s social media channels, as well as websites. And of course, there will be opportunities to see him perform.

While a single bursary may only be a drop in the ocean, we’re confident that the interest and investment shown in the recipient will generate more awareness of the wider financial crisis facing musical education.

And for music lovers this strikes a chord with…well, that’s music to our ears.

“At Lark Music, we’re committed to supporting music. We’ve invested more than £25,000 into musicians this year alone; through bursaries, charity donations, and sponsorships with organisations that directly support musicians and that figure is set to grow further. We encourage our colleagues and peers to consider backing musicians in any way they can, or risk losing what we’ve all worked so hard to build.”

Fay Watts, Manager – Commercial Schemes