England's Sistema youth orchestra programme expands

In Harmony Lambeth In Harmony Lambeth children have performed at London's Southbank Centre

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Four new youth orchestras are being launched across England as part of the In Harmony programme, inspired by Venezuela's world-famous El Sistema.

New projects in Gateshead, Leeds, Nottingham and Telford and Wrekin will all receive funding until 2015.

The music education programme aims to use classical music to change the lives of children in disadvantaged areas, and benefit their community.

Existing orchestras in Liverpool and Lambeth, London will also benefit.

Founded by Julian Lloyd Webber, the In Harmony programme will be funded jointly by the Department for Education and Arts Council England until 2015.

Webber said the project was moving "onwards, upwards and outwards".

He added: "I am confident that the organisations that we have selected will embrace the spirit of El Sistema and will work tirelessly to bring positive change to the children and their communities."

The new projects will be delivered by The Sage Gateshead, Opera North in Leeds, Nottingham City Council and Telford & Wrekin Music Service.

Children do not need to master their instruments before joining the orchestra, as the focus is on making music together with everyone helping each other.

The aim is to develop community cohesion, social awareness, teamwork and fun.

Existing projects are already being delivered by Lambeth Council, and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

A statement from Arts Council England said it hoped the new projects would follow "shared core principles" while also responding to local circumstances and needs.

It added that all six projects would be encouraged to be "entrepreneurial" to help secure their long-term future.

The In Harmony projects will also be evaluated nationally to ensure there is evidence of how the approach can "transform the lives of children and their families in areas of deprivation".

The concept originated in Venezuela in the 1970s, where Maestro Jose Antonio Abreu founded the El Sistema programme, calling it Social Action for Music.

He has recognised the English Sistema project for preserving the values and methodology of the Venezuelan programme.

DfE has announced it will invest a total of £1.5 million between 2012 and 2015, which will be matched by the Arts Council, in a central co-ordinating and development role.

A similar Scottish Sistema project was involved in last month's launch of the London 2012 Festival.

Children from Stirling's Raploch estate performed as the Big Noise Orchestra, alongside world-famous conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela.

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