Pioneering educational projects bring the arts to all

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Glyndebourne celebrates 30 years of its pioneering education department in 2016, culminating in a celebratory event this autumn.

Formed in 1986 to complement the opera company’s touring activities, the department expanded to deliver a year-round programme. It is also responsible for a large percentage of Glyndebourne’s new commissions, many performed on its main stage. Current projects include Performances for Schools; Glyndebourne Youth Opera (GYO), providing workshops and performance opportunities for local young people; the community-based music and dementia project Raise Your Voice; pre-performance events and a Young Composer in Residence post, currently held by Lewis Murphy.

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Over the past 30 years of education work, Glyndebourne has commissioned 32 composers including Julian Phillips, Lynne Plowman, Orlando Gough and Jonathan Dove, whose first opera Hastings Spring was commissioned in 1990. It has also given 3,000 amateur singers and instrumentalists the chance to take part in performance projects.

Organisers enabled 30,000 pupils to experience the exhilaration of watching fully-staged opera through its Performances for Schools programme set up in 2006. And schemes won four prestigious educational awards including two Royal Philharmonic Society awards and been shortlisted for a further four accolades.

Arts Council England’s chief executive Darren Henley said: “The education department has been a pivotal part of the organisation’s success and reputation, not just in England, but internationally. Over 30 years the team has had an important role introducing opera to new audiences across all ages and backgrounds. I look forward to seeing this work flourish in the future.”

Stephen Langridge, artistic director at Gothenburg Opera, worked on education projects at Glyndebourne during the 1990s and 2000s, when he directed two youth operas commissioned by Glyndebourne for the main stage. He said: “The great thing about working with the education team at was that we always felt close to the centre of the company. Work was supported as a crucial part of the company’s mission. My contribution started in the old house in 1987 and continued via creative projects in schools, universities and prisons to Misper and Zoë, in the new one. These were all valuable in themselves, but also helped to shape my view of the way an opera company can create with its community.”

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To mark the anniversary, Glyndebourne has launched the Glyndebourne Education Alumni scheme to reconnect with as many people as possible who have taken part in its projects.

Freya Wynn-Jones successfully auditioned to be part of the youth opera Zoë in 2000 and was a soloist in Glyndebourne Youth Opera for several years. Today she remains closely involved with Glyndebourne as a director of GYO and the dementia project, Raise Your Voice. She said: “I remember the first moment I became aware that I could audition for an opera, that opera could be for someone like me. There was a poster on the board in my school’s drama room for Zoë, a Glyndebourne Youth Opera. I wasn’t sure I’d like opera, I’d certainly never heard any, but my drama and music teachers encouraged me to audition - I don’t think any of us realised the world it would unlock for me. I now work as a director with Glyndebourne Youth Opera and Raise Your Voice. The work we do makes a difference - I am acutely aware of this because I know the difference it made to me, a young 13 year old from a low-income family, desperately trying to make sense of her place in the world and finding it at an opera-house.”

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