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Once selected, a young singer will get training in the basics of musical literacy, sight reading etc. There is also vocal tuition with at least one individual lesson per course. The singers' year is organised round two vacation courses (one at Easter, one in the Summer), with the courses getting longer the more senior the singers are. When on the courses, the young singers have musical training and musicianship classes every morning.
All this is, of course, very admirable, but the skills learned by the singers go well beyond simple musicianship. Brewer and NYC Vice-President, John Rutter, are both very keen on the idea that music education can provide transferrable skills which train the young singers for life. Attendance of the NYC courses can provide social skills, responsibility, leadership, co-operation with peers, concentration, literacy, numeracy and focus on a distant goal. In today's instant gratification culture, it is important to remember that coming together to learn difficult music over the course of five days is an important and satisfying lesson. The NYC, with Youth and Music, has also instituted musical initiatives and collaborations which aim to bring singing to areas which, thirty years ago, had musical structures which have now vanished.
The list of benefits in the previous paragraph could seem like an exercise in mere box ticking. But the NYC has developed a system of leadership training which helps to put these aims into practice. All the assistant musical staff in the junior choirs are senior members or past members of the choir, the work of these assistants covers more than just the teaching of musicianship -- these young people are involved in providing pastoral care, administration and work as social secretaries.
Copyright © 18 March 2008
Robert Hugill, London UK