CMST was delighted to attend the Fast Forward 2017 event "Breaking the Glass Ceiling" in Bristol on Friday. It brought music and education organisations together for a day's conference on how to make sure musicians with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEN/D) have the opportunities to fulfil their potential.

SW Open Youth Orchestra-1.jpg

It was also the launch event for the National Open Youth Orchestra, which will be starting in 2018. In Cornwall we've been running Open School Orchestras at Pencalenick and Richard Lander schools, with three new schools due to join them in January. As Cornwall's young musicians with SEN/D increase in confidence, and develop their musical skills, they will have the opportunity to join the South West Open Youth Orchestra (seen in the photo performing at Fast Forward 2017 with Bristol Youth Choir). Cornwall Music Service Trust is proud to be a partner of OpenUp Music in building this national infrastructure across the country (with 25 music services running Open School Orchestras this year):


The conference had an "artists panel" of professional musicians with disabilities, discussing how they worked through the difficulties they found (from finding an instrument suited to their needs, to finding teachers and training, to performing venues not being accessible). Amongst them was James Rose, who studied at Falmouth University. His cerebral palsy meant he couldn't play an instrument, but with determination he found a way to conduct using a specially developed head baton. He's now been appointed by Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra to create and conduct the first disabled-led BSO ensemble.


Alongside these inspirational stories, there was much discussion about how to overcome the barriers that young musicians with SEN/D face (and the reason why so few become professional musicians, regardless of the high quality of their work and musicianship). It was very encouraging to hear the "industry panel" discuss ways of breaking this glass ceiling - with representatives from higher education (Guildhall), orchestras (BSO), the BBC, music hubs, and the Musicians Union. It was clear that momentum is building to tackle the issues - as the event was attended by many major national organisations and funders (and the Department for Education!), as well as those like Cornwall Music Service Trust who are doing local SEN/D music work on the ground.

CMST is looking forward to building on this momentum in our aim to ensure that all young people in Cornwall (regardless of disability) will have the opportunity to develop as musicians. And who knows, some of them may find their way to the National Open Youth Orchestra soon!