Driven by the belief that every young person should have the chance to hear and play live music, London Mozart Players (LMP) have launched a brand-new education programme called Equal Play. Building on their 30-year history of delivering education work in Croydon, the orchestra is working with a number of Education Ambassadors to help tackle the issue of young people not having ongoing access to arts education. At the forefront of the scheme are LMP Education Ambassadors Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Jess Gillam, Matilda Lloyd and LMP Young-Artist-in-Residence, Leia Zhu.

The Education Ambassadors will serve as advocates for LMP’s community work to help engage children and young people. The young ambassadors, all aged between 16 and 27, will take part in a variety of education activities including workshops, masterclasses and careers insights days with students and serve as peer inspiration for young people. As part of the wider scheme, LMP will also offer free and discounted tickets to children and young people for their flagship Fairfield Halls season, access to free musical instruments through their Instrument Amnesty Scheme and side-by-side performance mentoring with LMP musicians.

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello:

“I’ve long been a big admirer of the LMP and its education work and so it’s a great feeling to join them in a more official role as Education Ambassador. I’m looking forward to working more closely with them, and in the community.”

Matilda Lloyd, trumpet:

“I’m absolutely delighted to be an Education Ambassador for LMP and am very proud to be representing the trumpet and brass instruments! The importance of music and the arts in the lives of young people is often underestimated. From my own personal experience, music allows young people to express themselves creatively, it unifies and creates a sense of community and belonging, it increases confidence levels, it teaches important skills such as collaboration, communication, resilience, and determination, and most importantly, it is great fun.”

Leia Zhu, violin:

“I am extremely honoured to have been appointed Education Ambassador by LMP. Classical music, and the arts as a whole, is facing many challenges at the moment and it is harder than ever for young people to access high-quality music education. And yet, classical music has so much to offer. It can inspire creativity, promote teamwork, and instil a love of learning. I believe that every child deserves the opportunity to experience the joy of making music, and I am committed to working with LMP to make this a reality.”

Jess Gillam, saxophone:

“LMP are so passionate about giving young people access to high quality music education and exposing young people to the wonders of the orchestra.  I care deeply about this too and so I am very excited to join LMP as one of their Education Ambassadors! I am looking forward to working together to reach as many young people as possible through LMP’s Equal Play programme.”

Identified by Arts Council England as the 5th highest for need and the 4th highest for opportunity out of the London boroughs, the borough of Croydon (where LMP is based) is currently lacking in its access to the arts. Moreover, Croydon has also suffered from a significant cut in pupil premium in the 2021-22 academic year: £581,040 for primary schools and £210,940 for secondary schools, meaning a significantly tighter budget to spend on extra-curricular activities. LMP’s scheme will first focus on schools who have the highest percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals, in consultation with Croydon Music and Arts, and then expand to other schools in the borough. Aligned with their mission in the year of Croydon being London’s Borough of Culture for 2023/24, LMP aim to reach all school children in the borough throughout the year.

Ceri Sunu, LMP’s Business Development Manager, commented on the need for scheme, particularly at this moment in time:

“There are still far too many children and young people who do not have access to ongoing music education. While we’ve been committed to our education work across the community in Croydon for the past 30 years, we recognise that it is now more urgent than ever to continue expanding our work to fight against the significant barriers to arts education. Barriers include the rising cost of living meaning less disposable incomes for families, a decrease in funding for the arts and high education institutions, and a continued hangover from covid which has disrupted learning in schools.”