The philanthropic charity, the Wolfson Foundation, is celebrating 30 years of its music education programme which has awarded £5.6 million to young musicians at the UK’s conservatoires to help individuals from all backgrounds to access high quality music education. The funding comes at a time when music education in schools is under significant pressure.

The Wolfson Music Awards, set up in 1989, has two elements, both designed to support talented students from less affluent backgrounds: scholarships for secondary school-age musicians in junior departments of conservatoires, and grants to help outstanding undergraduates purchase their own instruments.

Nine conservatoires across the UK – seven in England, one in Scotland and one in Wales – have each just been awarded £90,000 over 3 years, totalling £810,000 to continue the programme.

Conservatoires select recipients on the basis of their exceptional musical ability and financial need, and those who receive awards have demonstrated an aptitude for performing at the highest level. Individuals supported by the Foundation include Jess Gillam from the Northern College of Music in Manchester who made history as the first ever saxophonist to reach the Final of BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2016, and who became the youngest female soloist ever to close the Last Night of the Proms in 2018. Also supported through the Instrument Fund is clarinettist Sarah Jenkins (Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama), a BBC Proms Inspire ambassador whose latest composition ‘And the Sun Stood Still’ was premiered by the BBC Concert Orchestra, and broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation said, “The Wolfson Foundation is a charity that funds across education. Although perhaps best known as a science funder, we place great emphasis on research and education across a broadly based curriculum. We very much value our longstanding relationship with music conservatoires and share their concern that access to high quality music education should be available to all. It would be a tragedy if this education was simply the preserve of the privileged in our society.”

Pianist, Ieuan Davies (17) from Llantrisant who has trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama for a number of years said, “I am preparing for audition at conservatoires later this year and there is no way I would have got to this point without the support of a Wolfson Scholarship to afford the costs of training at the College”.

Rebecca Wilson, of the Royal Conservatoire Scotland, who received support from the Instrument Fund in 2017/8 said, “’Receiving this funding has opened more doors for me in my career. I am now able to take on more choral/chamber work thanks to my supported trumpet and its versatility enhances my ability to take on freelance work with the nearby professional orchestras.”

The nine conservatoires participating in the programme are: