RNCM partners with Olympias Music Foundation to open up access to music education

The RNCM has announced a long-term partnership with the Olympias Music Foundation (OMF) to open up access to music education for diverse young people in Manchester. 

The partnership cements a long-running relationship between the RNCM and the award-winning music charity that has already led to more than 30 children and young people gaining free access to music education and created over 20 professional opportunities for students to work in the charitable sector.  

A boy holding a cello

Credit: Tom Arber

OMF was created by RNCM alumna and now Associate Dr Jo Yee Cheung in 2015 and funded its first project with a £1,000 grant from RNCM’s Creative Innovators scheme. It was recently presented with the King’s Award for Voluntary Service and remains the only organisation in Manchester dedicated to providing free formal one-to-one music lessons to hard-to-reach groups who have typically been excluded due to income, race, age, or disability. 

The collaboration also offers major benefits for RNCM students, who gain real-world experience of education work and the possibility of long-term professional futures with the charity. Currently, 60 percent of OMF staff and seven out of 10 of its teachers are alumni. Additionally, the RNCM hopes the initiative will help to build lifelong relationships with new audiences that reflect the cultural richness of modern Manchester. 

Speaking about the news, Jo says: ‘I am delighted that OMF is formalising its partnership with the RNCM after nine years of collaborative working. It is a joy to see so many OMF children and families visiting and enjoying the college for music lessons and performances, and it is a huge strength to our programme to be able to offer such high-quality opportunities to our young people. As an alumnus of the RNCM, it gives me great personal pleasure to introduce our OMF communities to the college, as well as welcoming RNCM students and staff to be a part of our work at OMF. We are excited for the future!’ 

One mother, Iqra, who has two children (aged 10 and 13) studying music with OMF praised the scheme for making music lessons accessible, adding: ‘I always wanted my children to have a chance to learn music, but it always felt out of reach because of the extortionate prices of lessons. This has made a dream come true for us as a family.’ Pinar, whose family came to Manchester as refugees from Turkey, describes the project as ‘a valuable gift that [my children] will remember for the rest of their lives’ 

Deputy Principal (Performance and Programmes) of the RNCM, Manus Carey, adds: ‘The Olympias Music Foundation began life as a start-up idea from Jo and it is fantastic to see how the charity has grown, developed, and strengthened over the past few years, and the really incredible work being delivered in supporting the musical development of young people and their families in our local community. After working closely together over a number of years, we are delighted to be formalising our partnership with OMF. It is an absolute joy to welcome the OMF young people and their families to experience performances at the RNCM, and we look forward to forging closer ties with our students, staff, and alumni over the coming years.’ 

9 March 2024