Stand By Me – covers competition

For Make Music Day 2021, in partnership with Hal Leonard Europe, we ran a competition for the best cover version of Ben E. King’s 1961 classic, ‘Stand By Me‘, co-written with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

Thank you to all who entered the competition by sharing your rendition on social media on 21 June using the #MMDStandByMe. The shortlisting and overall winner were chosen by a selection of judges from the Make Music Day steering group.


Judging the competition, Tom Farncombe of Hal Leonard Europe said Reel Youth Media, demonstrated a spirit of collaboration and inclusion, with a highly successful arrangement. They made the most of instrumental variety to bring shape and interest to the form (loved the accordion and fiddle for the instrumental theme, which is a rich element […] The challenge with ‘Stand by Me’ is on how to keep the repeating chords interesting. I thought RYM did this very well via their instrumentation, coupled with some very honest, unaffected vocal performances, and the sincere, (and vital) eco messaging to create an imaginative and impactful result. Well done to all involved.

A Little Bit About Reel Youth Media…

Reel Youth Media is a creative digital music project for young people aged 12 – 19 years old which aims to develop technical and creative production skills whilst supporting young musicians, performers and youth music service providers to create innovative digital media content and live events. The project was established in 2015 and has supported hundreds of young musicians and music technologists across Edinburgh and beyond ever since.  The project is funded by Creative Scotland’s Youth Arts Access fund and delivered by City of Edinburgh Council.

Stephen Tierney, Project Coordinator, RYM gives us a little bit of background to ‘Stand By Me’…

The young people we work with were very keen to explore issues around climate change in the run up to the COP26 summit being held in Glasgow in November.  Upon approaching our cover version we realised that there were strong lyrical elements within the song that we could relate to these issues eg. ‘if the sky that we look upon should tumble and fall’ etc.  We then embarked on a workshop process with young people across digital platforms to write a spoken word piece and construct our intro to the song.

Several young people were involved in this process, including a group of young women refugees who used this as a platform to develop language skills, cultural engagement and their content contributed to the final piece.  
We arranged our cover version in partnership with Totally Sound Youth Music Project who delivered virtual instrument tuition sessions to participants and supported people to get involved.  For many, this was the first time they had performed their instrument in any sort of public setting.

We are thrilled to have won the competition for Make Music Day Anthem best cover version again this year and to have successfully defended our title from 2020.  We are very proud of all the young people who took part in this and of our staff team who worked so hard to support the delivery of the project.

Once again we have been able to use Make Music Day as an end of term focal point for our activities and provide our young participants with a wonderful platform to share their music and performances.  I am sure this award will only add to their sense of pride and achievement towards what they have accomplished this term.



James Harrison gets an honourable mention for his highly accomplished piano improvisation; I’m sure he’ll go far.” – Tom Farncombe, Hal Leonard Europe




Many congratulations to all the runner ups and thank you to all who submitted performances.

Special thanks go to Hal Leonard Europe for providing the prize of £150 of MusicRoom vouchers. Also to Sony Music Publishing and Hal Leonard Europe Limited who gave permission for the creation of arrangements, performances, recording/filming performances, and downloading/copying supplied sheet music and audio assets of the work ‘Stand by Me’ solely in relation to Make Music Day 2021.

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