Following last year’s successful event, UK charity Music for All has announced the return of their flagship event ‘Learn to Play’ which is being held in venues across the UK on the 7th and 8th October 2023.
The ‘Learn to Play’ weekend events provide opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to take up a free music lesson on their chosen instrument – whether it be an acoustic guitar, trumpet or a tabla! The event is open to all comers, regardless of age, experience and background – it aims to inspire, encourage and enable both new and lapsed musicians to enjoy the benefits of playing a musical instrument and start or reignite their musical journey.
During the pandemic, reports illustrated what a lifeline music provided for people’s health and wellbeing; many turned to music to help them cope with enforced isolation and a staggering one million people took up an instrument during the lockdown period. Sadly, the knock-on effect of the Covid-19 pandemic is still being felt with conflicting pressures on school senior managers, and consequently delivery of school music provision still suffering.
A survey carried out by the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) revealed that more than two-thirds (68%) of primary school teachers and more than a third (39%) of secondary school teachers reported a reduction in music provision including singing, instrument lessons and extracurricular activities as a direct result of the pandemic.
Sonali Banerjee, Music for All’s General Manager said: “The past few years have been challenging for many and the effects of the pandemic are still being felt with the music industry being hit in so many ways. Our ‘Learn to Play’ weekend is needed now more than ever – It extends opportunities to individuals wanting to try an instrumental lesson for free at their local participating venue.”
According to new research published by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, data shows people’s appetite for new and different music, and willingness to try new things, has never been stronger and continues to grow. When it came to learning about new music, their research found that eight in 10 (79%) of people surveyed had interests in new or unfamiliar genres that they intended to explore in the coming year. The research also considered how, beyond merely listening to more music, people were engaging with the art form by actively pursuing their interest in their own time.
During 2022, three in five people (60%) said they were looking for ways to positively fulfil their interest in the performing arts. The research noted how different generations were doing this. Among younger people, more than three quarters (77%) were doing something to further their interest in performing arts – and four times more likely to teach themselves an instrument.
Furthermore, University of Edinburgh researchers recently reported a link between learning a musical instrument in childhood and improved cognitive skills in older age. Those participants with experience of playing a musical instrument earlier in life showed greater lifetime improvement on a test of cognitive ability than those with less or no experience, regardless of their socio-economic status, years of education, childhood cognitive ability and their health in older age.
Sonali Banerjee continues: “Through the ‘Learn to Play’ events we aim to inspire and support as many people as possible in experiencing the unique joys and benefits of learning to play an instrument which could turn into a lifetime of enjoyment. We welcome all age-groups and particularly encourage youngsters who may not have the opportunity to experience music lessons at school, to come along and try out an instrument of their choice.
Music-making is a form of self-expression, a therapeutic tool and provides a channel for creative energy; in children, numerous benefits have been identified – enhancing intellectual, social, language and literacy skills as well as building cultural knowledge. At Music for All we make it our mission to support disadvantaged music makers with limited financial resources to access music making, and the ‘Learn to Play’ events are a fundamental part of this work.”
Sought-after drummer, composer, music director and Ambassador for Music for All, Emanuel J Burton explains why he supports the events: ‘Creatively expressing myself means so much to me and I couldn’t imagine a life without the ability to do so. Experiencing opportunities to make music are a blessing and that is why Learn to Play experiences offered by Music for All in venues across the weekend are so impactful. Music is a big part of experiencing bliss and is a big way to bring us all together as one.’
Rob Rolfe, drummer in rock band Enter Shikari and supporter of Music for All adds: ‘There’s nothing quite like the sheer joy of playing music together and the experiences offered over Learn to Play weekend are testament to just how music really can change lives. As a young musician, I was so inspired by playing in my local Samba band for the St Albans Parade – it was such a unifying experience and a game changer for me’.
The Music for All YouTube channel will also launch a series of online tutorials by professional musicians, including some big names! In previous years these have included Music for All charity supporters and Ambassadors such as Jools Holland, Alison Balsolm, Anne Denholm, Rob Rolfe and Dave Tench – these tutorial lessons can be accessed by anyone at any time; subscribe for free here: Music for All UK charity – YouTube.
Those interested in getting involved in Learn to Play ‘23 events and accessing their free music lesson should simply visit the Learn to Play website, select their closest venue using the interactive map and register their interest directly with the venue.
Forsyth Brothers Limited in Manchester participated in the 2022 event said: ‘The Learn to Play event was such a great weekend and everyone enjoyed their time with us. There were lots of smiling faces! It was wonderful to get twelve new sign-ups for lessons (20% of all lessons!) and we’re sure to get more in the next few weeks. We encourage anyone who is interested in music to come along and try out an instrument for free!’.
For more information on Music for All visit: www.musicforall.org.uk
The Learn to Play ’23 event is generously supported by the NAMM Foundation. Other partners include Music Industries Association, Black Lives in Music, Make Music Day UK, Music, Music and Take it Away.