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Music for Youth’s National Festival 2023: Where Everyone’s a Headliner

On 7th and 8th July 2023, over 6,000 talented young musicians performed at the Music for Youth National Festival, hosted in 6 venues across Birmingham. 

The annual Music for Youth National Festival was held at six locations: Symphony Hall, including The Jennifer Blackwell Performance Space and the Justham Family Room; Town Hall, the CBSO Centre and a pop-up stage in Centenary Square.  

This year, we returned the programming to genre-specific sessions on all three main stages, where approximately seven groups performed in each session. This meant that across the main stages, we hosted almost 130 groups! The festival saw performances from the next generation of young musicians across a variety of genres, including pop, rock, jazz, brass, classical, folk, choral, and everything in between. 

A King’s Coronation Legacy stage was set up in Centenary Square for the duration of the festival. Groups were invited to perform on this stage as an extension of their performances at other venues, and we were excited for this to be the first year that the fringe stage had fully mentored performances as standard. A special thanks goes out to Arts Council England for funding this part of the festival.  

There were a variety of free workshops and panel sessions that groups could attend, such as composition workshops, jazz masterclasses and massed vocal workshops. These were all hosted by leading industry experts and organisations, including critically acclaimed jazz pianist, Nikki Yeoh, and the National Youth Choirs. 

The CBSO Centre hosted a closed-rehearsal day on Friday 7th July for our Frequencies New Music Residency Artists. A collection of seven artists collaborated with three supporting groups and two music mentors to curate new music and improve their skills ahead of a Saturday evening performance in Town Hall. These groups will continue to work together throughout the summer and Autumn, before performing at the Music for Youth Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in November. 

We also hosted a Citizens’ Assembly where young people were given the opportunity to discuss and have their say in shaping the future of the music industry and music policy. The Assembly was free to attend, and panellists included industry representatives from Arts Council England, the Musicians’ Union, as well as producers and musicians.  

Kate Gardner, Director of Programmes said "It has been such an inspirational weekend, seeing so many young people participate and perform from across the UK. Music for Youth are so proud to be able to provide these opportunities on and offstage.” 

A special mention goes to our Frequencies Creative Careers programme, which hosted two professional presenters, Jack Pepper and Martha Shrimpton, as well as 21 young creatives who worked in non-performance roles (presenters, backstage staff, reception co-ordinators, social media assistants) across the festival. 

The MFY team will now start planning for the Proms in November 2023. More information will be released here in the coming weeks.

About the author

Abbie Strowbridge-Knight

Abbie works as part of the MFY communications team, managing content for the website and for MFY's social media. She has a background in performing arts and many years' experience in marketing and communications. She also recently completed her CIM Level 4 qualification.

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