Last Wednesday, the world watched as giant Tunnocks teacakes danced, John Barrowman publicly kissed another man, and Scottie dogs were proudly marched around Celtic Park to mark the opening of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
The entire spectacle was hugely entertaining, fun and was served up with a large slice of Scottish patriotism (hence “Nessie” the musical).
I, however, was too busy bouncing off the walls about the involvement of the National Youth Choir of Scotland, alongside Eric Whitacre and his Virtual Youth Choir, to notice anything else.
Having been a member of several of these ‘National Youth Fill-The-Gap’ as a child and teenager, I was painfully aware of the fact that many of these organisations go undiscovered by the vast majority of young people, many of whom have the talent and mindset to become an outstanding member. Many of these groups, whether it be the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, choir, or Youth Music Theatre UK, provide young people across the United Kingdom with the opportunity to access a career that may otherwise be forgotten or abandoned, labelled as the stuff of childhood dreams.
Nevertheless, here they were! My compatriots! On the stage in front of the Queen, and Rod Stewart, and 100,000,000 viewers! I knew that this was their chance to prove that these organisations are worthwhile and provide a solid foundation for future prospective careers in the performing arts. For these teenagers to actually perform in such a prestigious setting, being conducted by Eric Whitacre, alongside the world-famous Virtual Youth Choir... they must have felt as high as the crane upon which John Barrowman was now dancing.
These organisations should be broadcast simply because they allow young people to be pushed beyond the boundaries of their day-to-day lives, to interact with professionals and ask questions, to learn more about the possibilities their future holds, and most importantly, to make friends. Without this sounding like a sob story, I didn’t have the greatest time at school, and music was my place to go where I felt safe and special. When I became part of the National Youth Choir and London Youth Choir, these courses became the highlight of my year because I had found a place where we were all united under the “Music Geek” banner that we soon became immensely proud of, just like the members of National Youth Choir of Scotland on that stage last Wednesday.
That, and the fact that we were performing with people like Sting’s guitarist in venues like the Royal Albert Hall. Every. Single. Course. It really was a teenage girl’s dream come true.
Unfortunately, chances are if a parent has heard of these organisations and feels that their child would be suited to attending one of its courses, they’ve probably written the entire experience off as too expensive, as an activity for the lucky children at £30,000-a-year schools to indulge in during their time off from horse-riding and lacrosse summer camps.
I can confidently say that this is not the case. Many of these groups are registered charities, and create bursaries through fundraising and sponsors. The National Youth Choir of Great Britain, for example, offers funding not only for the course itself, but also for any fees incurred when prospective applicants attend auditions.
These programmes allow for young people to access performance education like they’ve never seen before, while at the same time making life-long friends. The National Youth Choir of Scotland did us all a favour at the Commonwealth Opening Ceremony, by putting their name, and what they represent, to the general public. Now, all that we have to do is make what happened on that stage happen across the country, for every willing young individual.
Even the Queen smiled! If that’s not a blessing, I don’t know what is.