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Musical youth

London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama is internationally renowned. But did you know there's a Somerset outpost on your doorstep?

The famous Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London is one of the top 10 performing arts institutions in the world according to the prestigious QS University World Rankings 2016 and the top music conservatoire (specialist music college) in the UK in the Guardian University Guide 2017.  Very impressive but what’s that got to do with Somerset? Well, it turns out that they’ve got a branch here in Taunton for children and young people aged from 5 to 18. It’s called the Centre for Young Musicians Taunton – and it’s not just for mini Mozarts, as Rachael Parvin, the Centre’s director explained.

What exactly is the Centre for Young Musicians ?

We’re a Saturday music school and one of six regional divisions of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. The Centre for Young Musicians (CYM) was set up in London in 1970, became part of the Guildhall in 2009 and we’ve been in Somerset as a regional centre since 2014. Now based at Richard Huish College in Taunton, the Centre for Young Musicians Taunton (CYMT) offers any musically minded children in the South West the chance to learn and play music individually and with others, get a broad musical education – and have fun.

kids children playing brass instruments trumpets

Photo:© Craig Stone Photography

So how does it work?

We run workshops and lessons on Saturdays from 8.30am to 2.00pm. Sessions last from 30 mins up to an hour and include everything from 1:1 instrument tuition, group work (different instruments and genres) and the CYMT orchestra (open to all) as well as the more academic side of musicianship.  Each student has their own tailor-made timetable based on their needs and interests. Our calendar follows the academic year but students can join at any time.  Our tutors are highly skilled and experienced and many are renowned professional musicians.

What instruments do you cover?

Guitar, bass guitar, ukulele, piano, flute, clarinet, ocarina, oboe, bassoon, saxophone, recorder, violin, viola, cello, double bass, harp, cornet, trumpet, French horn, trombone and drums – and the human voice.

kids with musical notes

Photo:© Craig Stone Photography

You mentioned workshops …

As well as playing music we offer a broad selection of other activities to provide context and a musical foundation, including aural training, general musicianship, history of music, composition and theory of music.

Is it just classical music?

No – we cover a range of genres, including pop, jazz, folk and musical theatre. This September we’re also launching a new programme of creative music technology for secondary-school aged students who want to work with music and computers.

Does a child have to be a musical prodigy to come to CYMT?

Definitely not!  We’re open to players of all levels of ability, even complete beginners.

So why come here rather than a private tutor?

CYMT gives children the chance to meet, play and have musical fun with other like-minded kids. We give a well-rounded musical education with many different aspects of music, rather than just tuition in a particular instrument and there’s the opportunity to build up performance confidence at our termly concerts.

Girl with violin

Photo:© Craig Stone Photography

But all this must come at a cost – surely it’s expensive?

It works out to as little as £6.75 an hour, a lot less than you’d pay for a private music teacher. How much you pay depends on how many workshops and individual sessions you take. For example, the ‘core curriculum’ with six-4 hour workshops costs £27 per Saturday; the ‘Prelude programme’ for beginners aged 5–7 with three half-hour workshops, costs £14 per Saturday. You have to pay termly up front and there are full and part time burseries available.

WORD ON THE GROUND

My neighbour’s 10-year-old twins Igor and Ernest have been trotting off to Taunton with their cornets for the past year and a half. ‘We’ve found nowhere else like the CYMT’ says Wojtek Zalewski, ‘It’s given the boys the confidence and opportunity to perform in front of others and a good foundation to further their musical development, if that’s what they decide they want to do in the future’. And Ernest and Igor?  Apparently, the teachers are ‘really inspirational’ and ‘only a bit strict’ but they do ‘entertain us as well as teach us’. They’ve made lots of friends ‘we’re all in a band together and we like talking to each other during the breaks’. So seems to be a thumbs up there.

See for yourself

Check out the CYMT Open Day on Saturday 9 September, from 9am–12pm. Kids can join in free music workshops and there’s a free concert by the Ensemble Askew, award-winning professional young musicians. Booking’s essential for the workshops (07754 217993 or email [email protected]). Can’t make this date? There’s another Open Day on Sat 14 October.

Centre for Young Musicians Taunton, Richard Huish College, South Road, Taunton, Somerset TA1 3DZ. Tel 01823 410 110. cym.taunton.org.uk

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