2019 Playing Days Update

Last year we announced that in 2019 we would be holding our most ambitious series of Playing Days to date and we are delighted to report back on how they have been going so far.

In February internationally renowned violinist Nicola Benedetti CBE led a day of string workshops at the Royal Academy of Music for almost 60 of our string instrument current and graduate Scholars. During the day the Scholars worked on a new piece of music, entitled 'Above Earth', composed by Dr Deborah Pritchard especially for the London Music Fund. Guided by Lincoln Abbotts, Executive Director at ABRSM, and Deborah the Scholars contributed their own ideas to the piece and worked together to make it their own. One of our current Scholars gave the following feedback regarding the workshop working on 'Above Earth':

“I learned to be extraordinarily creative in pieces and I could share that with others”

After getting the day off to a flying start with her ‘Benedetti Basics’ workshop which helped Scholars with key string techniques Nicola Benedetti then went on to lead a CPD session for string teachers from London Music Services. We are incredibly grateful to Nicola for sharing her wealth of experience with the teachers who attended and leading such a fun and insightful session.


At the same time as the teachers’ workshop the Scholars were working on ‘Above Earth’ with Deborah and Lincoln to incorporate a wide range of dynamics and techniques to bring the piece alive. After a well-earned break they returned in the afternoon to work with Nicola Benedetti on the ‘Moon’ movement where they also implemented some of their newly learned techniques from the morning’s ‘Benedetti Basics’ session. The Scholars also had the chance to compose their own pieces in response to Deborah's written work, on the theme of 'Shooting Stars' and 'Meteors'. The workshops with Nicola were highly inspiring for our Scholars and the teachers (many of whom stayed to play in with the Scholars in the afternoon!). We are pleased to have received some really wonderful feedback from the Scholars with one of them telling us:

“I enjoyed that Nicola made me smile and laugh and allowed me to enjoy my time being there”

The final performance of the ‘Moon’ movement was met with rapturous applause and was the perfect end to a rather perfect day! We are so thankful to Nicola Benedetti for her ongoing support as a London Music Fund Ambassador and to the Royal Academy of Music for giving us the beautiful Duke’s Hall for our Playing Day.

 “I am delighted to be an Ambassador for the London Music Fund, and hugely excited about working with the Scholars. Access to high quality music education is scarce. I support wholeheartedly the work of the London Music Fund. We grow and experience new dimensions of thought and emotion through music. I am greatly looking forward to working with these young musicians and their teachers at the Royal Academy of Music in February."

Nicola Benedetti CBE

After the high of February’s Playing Day we were even more excited about the second in our series, led by our incredibly supportive Ambassador, Julian Bliss. On 10 March over 60 Scholars arrived bright and early at Milton Court Concert Hall for a day of workshops where they would also be working on Deborah Pritchard’s piece, ‘Above Earth’. The Scholars attending played instruments from either the percussion, woodwind or brass instrument family, and we also had some guitarists too. During the morning the Scholars worked with Lincoln and Deborah on the ‘Meteor’ movement of her piece. This was sounding fabulous after only an hour’s work so we were all very excited to hear how it would develop throughout the day!

It was important to us that our Graduate Scholars were able to come back and experience this exciting series of 2019 Playing Days with us. On both the February and March Playing Days the Graduates acted as ‘Graduate Leaders’ and guided the current Scholars through the trickier aspects of the piece they were learning. The Graduate Leaders set a brilliant example to our younger Scholars and gave them something to aspire to in a few years’ time. One of the Graudate Leaders who attended on 10 March very much enjoyed this leadership role and said:

“I have learnt to help and guide others if they feel unsure”

The excellent leadership of our Graduates and collaborative working with Deborah and Lincoln produced a wonderful sounding interpretation of the ‘Meteor’ movement ready for the afternoon’s workshop. Julian Bliss led the afternoon session, helping the Scholars to refine and polish their performance, inspiring them along the way through his demonstrations on the clarinet.  One of our new 2018 Scholars said:

“I have learnt how you can help with your breathing while playing the flute”

Once the workshops drew to a close the Scholars’ friends and family were welcomed to Milton Court to see what their children had been up to during the day. Their performance of ‘Meteor’ was outstanding and made for a very happy audience! We are very thankful to Julian Bliss for leading such an exciting day of workshops and to Milton Court Concert Hall for looking after us for the day. As ever, we are also incredibly thankful to ABRSM for supporting our Playing Days, with a special mention to Lincoln Abbotts for his excellent leadership of the workshops.

“The London Music Fund Playing days are a fantastic opportunity for talented young musicians to get together, play their instruments and make new friends all whilst being coached by some amazing players and teachers. It’s exciting that there will be a brand new piece of music commissioned for the workshops which will culminate in a performance. I'm delighted to be a part of this great initiative and can’t wait to get started.” 

Julian Bliss

What next?

We are pleased to announce that on Sunday 7 July we will be returning to the Royal Academy of Music for a special Gala performance of ‘Above Earth’. Scholars from all instrument families will come together and celebrate their hard work during the Playing Days through a spectacular showcase of Deborah Pritchard’s exciting new work. The Gala performance will also include the graduation ceremony of our 2015-19 cohort of Scholars. We will be announcing additional details about the Gala in the coming months so keep an eye on our website or sign up to our newsletter to be the first to know.

We hope you have enjoyed reading about our exciting year of Playing Days and look forward to welcoming you to the Gala in July!