Advanced musical training – Precious or too much treble? Lara Kerr, Wimbledon High School

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Hosted by some of the most prestigious music universities and conservatories, junior music academies can provide an invaluable experience for young musicians. However, in the busy schedules of bright kids and teens, are they worth the work?

Music programs, such as Junior Royal Academy of Music (RAM) and Junior Trinity, take place every Saturday to provide music education for school-aged children. Equipped with the resources and assets of the university/conservatory itself, the programs offer world-class teaching and facilities to capable students.

Darcey Fryer-Bovill has been a member of Junior Guildhall since the age of 8 and recently achieved incredible honors in her piano diploma. A pianist, singer and percussionist, she finds the ensemble aspect “really fun! There are different ensembles for each orchestral section as well as a full orchestra, choir and other ensembles.” Ensemble and solo gig opportunities are also available: “There are platforms for every instrument to play, as well as regular reviews and general gigs. In addition, ensembles have the opportunity to play in gigs more important.” Especially since school orchestras can be undemanding or simply non-existent, access to such high-level ensembles and concerts can greatly enhance students’ musicality and ability.

Additionally, with collaborative ensembles and selective admission, the programs foster an environment of passion for music. With students devoting a full day each week (- often including early mornings on public transport!), music is clearly a shared interest. Many members, like Darcey, enjoy the social aspect that comes with it. She says: “I have some really good friends at Junior Guildhall. We’re in a lot of sets and classes together – it makes it really fun!”.

Also, for aspiring professional musicians, the learning experience in a university/conservatory setting can be truly essential. Aiming to prepare all students for a potential career in music, the programs offer opportunities such as audition practices, lectures, masterclasses and more. For example, Junior RAM offers “General Music” classes that focus on various aspects of music and music theory, enriching the music education often missing from school curricula.

But what about those who don’t aim to make music professionally? While a music education is valuable regardless of career path, programs are usually full day long and require energy and enthusiastic participation. At Junior RAM, there are a few rest areas available for review and work, but such a time commitment is certainly not for everyone. I asked Darcey how she manages her Guildhall commitments with her school work: “I do my homework and sort of separate it from Guildhall – that way I have a good balance.”

Overall, the music programs provide an exceptional education for gifted young students like Darcey. Prestigious and comprehensive, they can be invaluable for budding musicians, but the workload may prove unmanageable for some.

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