Despite punishing financial cuts, thank goodness all schoolkids in the borough continue to have an amazing resource available to them in the Camden Music Service.
And now more than ever – particularly in the light of this week’s shocking and appalling stabbings in NW5 and NW1 – this is of paramount importance.
Its ongoing work is funded by donations to a trust, which also supports a biennial all-schools jamboree at the Royal Albert Hall, which returns this March.
As thousands of current and former students will attest, these big events – let alone the weekly orchestra, band and choir practices – are life affirming, and often life-changing, too.
The trust has some heavyweight patrons and ambassadors, from newsreader Jon Snow to TV-star-turned-children’s-author David Walliams, plus successful alumni such as Mark Crown, who learned the trumpet with Camden Music, and now tours the world with the award-winning group Rudimental.
“There’s no way I’d be doing what I do now without the Service,” he tell us. Mark learned music at Rhyl primary, then played at Camden School for Girls every Saturday, and cites the encouragement he received from his teachers with sustaining his interest.
“It’s so important to have music available as an extracurricular activity,” he says, “and having an opportunity to meet other people who share the same interest as you. Going along each week and practicing every day really gives you discipline at an early age. You have to really want to achieve to get to the next stage, or it simply won’t happen.”
Mark subsequently won a place a Trinity College of Music, and says the standard of the musicians coming through from the borough remains high today, despite current financial challenges. He also played at the very first Albert Hall event 19 years ago, and while these days he’s busy doing things like flying off with the Rudimental crew to play at the Australian Open just for the weekend (“We’ll be in the air for more time that we spend over there”), he never forgets his roots.
“Camden Music made learning fun, never a chore,” he says. “Appearing at that Albert Hall event was a really important moment for me.”