New orchestra for children is launched in West Sussex with free music lessons for beginners

Free orchestra lessons are being offered by West Sussex Music as the charity looks to rebuild activities for children after the disruption caused by the pandemic.

West Sussex Music (WSM) has been there for children, their families, teachers, and schools for more than 60 years, but has faced significant challenges due to the impact of Covid-19 which had a huge effect on opportunities for young people to access making music together. Children of all ages experienced disruption to their education, their friendships, and leisure activities with significant effects on their mental health and wellbeing.

During the national lockdowns WSM worked hard to adapt what it could offer and was able to deliver lessons and group activities online.

David Bennet, Head of Music Centres for WSM, said. "Whilst this was a different experience, young people were able to continue some semblance of continuity. What they missed out on though was the social interaction of being part of a group, playing with their friends and the buzz that comes from creating and performing live music together. For us, at West Sussex Music, we’re on our own journey of recovery but there is light at the end of the tunnel! Having, last year, made a number of difficult organisational changes and with support from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund, we are rebuilding music education."

Group opportunities for young musicians have been limited during the pandemic

CEO James Underwood said: "For everyone across the country the last two years have been a really difficult time, especially for children and young people. We understand just how much young people value making music together. Whilst we’re not out of the woods yet we’re feeling optimistic about the future and we can’t wait to encourage the next generation of musicians and get back to making music once again!"

The vision of WSM is for West Sussex to be a place where every child and young person can explore the life-changing benefits of music: on their education, their wellbeing, and their future.

"In December, we had our first live concerts in two years, and it was wonderful to welcome back families, see the progress made by students and celebrate their resilience through the magic of making music together," David added.

"In recent years there has been a decline nationally in the number of children starting to learn to play orchestral instruments like flute, clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, trumpet, percussion, violin and cello. Research has shown the positive impact making music with others has on our mental health. With so many young people experiencing challenges magnified by the pandemic, now is the ideal time to introduce a programme that fast-tracks learners into an orchestral situation and makes instrumental lessons accessible!

West Sussex Music is rebuilding after the challenges of the pandemic by launching a new orchestra

"Music is one of the few activities that stimulates both sides of the brain at the same time – it’s like a cerebral workout! Playing in an orchestra brings a new circle of friends bonded by their common interest and performing music together is as inspiring as it is satisfying - building confidence and lifelong friendships."

To encourage new musicians for the future, WSM has announced a brand new opportunity for children to start learning orchestral instruments - the Tomorrow’s Orchestra Programme - with the first term being offered free.

If your child or the child you care for has a keen interest in music, and is aged between 7 – 12 years old, this is a great opportunity to nurture that curiosity and help them develop skills which last a lifetime.

Tomorrow’s Orchestra Programme lasts for three terms, starting in February with sessions at Chichester, Horsham, or Worthing music centres.

Free lessons are being offered for orchestral instruments like flute, clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, trumpet, percussion, violin and cello

- The five-week spring term is free, including group instrument lessons, instrument hire and weekly sessions of 45 minutes.

- The ten-week summer and autumn terms cost £60 each, including group instrument lessons, instrument hire, orchestra rehearsal and weekly sessions on 1.5 hours.

At the end of the programme children will be signposted to individual or small group lessons, and their orchestra membership will continue at the Music Centre.

"This programme is for complete beginners so there’s no need to feel nervous," David explained. "Starting with the basics, they will nurture skills and knowledge in the TOPs Youth Orchestra. TOP has been designed to take students on a journey from absolute beginner to a confident level on their chosen instrument and introduce them to playing in an orchestra.

Music lessons were offered online during lockdown, but group interaction was limited for young musicians

"There are so many benefits to learning a musical instrument. Tomorrow’s Orchestra Programme combines an instrumental lesson and orchestra rehearsal and has been created to give a fast-track route to children who are keen to make music with others.

"To find out more about this fantastic opportunity, visit our website and apply today: