First Time Live – Youth review

Opening young eyes and ears to the hidden world of orchestral music

“I have nothing but admiration for the young people who presented and organised the concert. The First Time Live Youth concept is a highly imaginative way of introducing young people of all ages to classical music. Let us hope that there are lots more to come.” Robert Hugill/ Planet Hugill blog

First Time Live 2014 in Purfleet - photo by Paul CoghlinFirst Time Live – Youth, the innovative participatory music project devised and led by national music charity Orchestras Live, has now delivered 20 concerts and 30 workshops in 10 locations across England that fall in the bottom 20% for arts engagement, reaching almost 12,000 young people & teachers from more than 100 schools.First Time Live 2014 in Doncaster - photo by Paul Coghlin

The concerts were performed by City of London Sinfonia and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The repertoire – chosen by young people in each location – ranged from Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto to the Angry Birds theme; from John Adams’ Shaker Loops and Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question to the Doctor Who and Star Wars themes. In addition, a new piece was devised in each location through workshops with musicians from the orchestras, Music Leaders (Tim Steiner and John K Miles) and the young people.

“I love how this once in a lifetime opportunity has come to us, to make a difference and have our chance in the spotlight!” Young Producer in Harlow, 2013

First Time Live 2014 in Doncaster - photo by Paul CoghlinFirst Time Live – Youth put young people right at its centre, giving them responsibility for creating a major orchestral concert for their peers. This included selecting concert repertoire, scriptwriting, sound and lighting design, video projection, stage management, writing press releases, blogging, photography, performing, concert presentation and even conducting.  Through these ‘Young Producers’, the events generated high levels of engagement and enthusiasm amongst participants, both in the audience and on stage, including the professional musicians.

First Time Live 2014 in Purfleet - photo by Paul Coghlin

Participation was extended via Makewaves, the safe online community for young people, where many of the Young Producers undertook and shared activities, as well as through a #firsttimelive campaign on Twitter.

“I think they expected it to be very formal and quite boring. But it was really well received – the kids thought it was exciting” Teacher in March, Cambridgeshire

Orchestras Live is looking at the possibilities of extending First Time Live – Youth into new locations from 2015/16 onwards, subject to funding.

First Time Live 2014 in Doncaster - photo by Paul Coghlin

Meanwhile, the work in 2013 and 2014 is already inspiring a range of legacy projects. Additional work for young people, directly inspired by First Time Live – Youth, is planned in Harlow, Peterborough, Fenland and Thurrock. In Luton, John K Miles is leading a series of workshops with groups of young musicians at 19 Primary schools, creating a song and an instrumental piece based on the theme of Carnival. In July up to 500 of the young participants will perform the new music in concerts with City of London Sinfonia, and many more young people will take part through live streaming of the concerts to their schools. 

First Time Live 2014 in Purfleet - photo by Paul Coghlin

Speaking about the impact of the project, Henry Little (Chief Executive of Orchestras Live) said: I’m delighted that these concerts have given young people across England an inspirational experience of hearing a professional orchestra for the first time.  The model of First Time Live – Youth is a first for the British orchestral sector and we want to build on its success by developing more opportunities for young people to take the lead in presenting thrilling and exciting orchestral music to their peers.” 

Further details of the project:

First Time Live – Youth Year One (2013)

  • 8 concerts in 4 locations
  • Hull & Scunthorpe with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Luton & Harlow with City of London Sinfonia
  • 80 Young Producers involved in every aspect of creating the concerts across 12 advance workshops with music leaders Tim Steiner and John K Miles
  • Over 4,800 young people from 74 schools attended 8 concerts
  • 85% had never attended an orchestral concert before
  • 60% were drawn from C2DE households

“I think it opens your eyes to the hidden world of classical music” Young Producer in Hull

The independent evaluation report stated that “the work it has delivered has been truly ground-breaking… it has delivered positive results in relation to all its original aims and objectives”.

Year One of the project received funding from Arts Council England and the Garfield Weston Foundation.

 First Time Live – Youth Year Two (2014)

  • 12 concerts in 6 locations
  • Doncaster & Grimsby with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
  • March, Peterborough, Thurrock & Mansfield with City of London Sinfonia
  • 120 Young Producers involved in every aspect of creating the concerts across 18 advance workshops with music leaders Tim Steiner and John K Miles
  • Over 7,000 young people from 104 schools attended 12 concerts
  • Twitter activity (direct and indirect) reached over 400,000 people during the period of the concerts
  • Feedback from schools typically that less than 25% of their students had ever been to an orchestral concert before, but afterwards more than 75% would go to another orchestral concert in the future.

“It just felt like it wasn’t something we were ‘allowed’ to experience but we were the ones creating the experience” Young Producer in March

“I have a very excited Year 8 bursting at seams after the ‘epic’ concert this afternoon” Teacher in Doncaster

“Wow!… They loved it!” Teachers in Mansfield

“They loved it… an excellent experience” Teacher in Doncaster

“There was a wonderful buzz and positive atmosphere about the experience, wonderful to see the partnership of the Neale Wade students, the composers, conductor and orchestral members in a creatively and skilfully designed programme of activities.” Teacher in Wisbech 

“I was particularly pleased the students were also involved, enabling them to display their musical ability” Deputy Mayor (March)

Year Two of the project received funding from Arts Council England and the D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust. In addition, the Grimsby concerts were supported by ABP Grimsby & Immingham and the David Ross Foundation, and the Doncaster concerts were supported by the Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation.

Find out more on the First Time Live website