Learning and participation

SBS rehearsal
Coaching young musicians at the 2014 festival


The aim of our learning and participation programme is to make use of over 100 top-class performers that come to North Essex every year to play at the festival.

We work with the ROH Bridge, Essex Music Education Hub, Colne Valley Youth Orchestra, Pimlott Foundation and the Cultural Learning Network in Colchester to create situations where young people can, through meeting and working with festival performers, have a regular experience of live music, theatre and dance, the opportunity to compose their own music, develop their skill if they already play or sing, or perform alongside some of the top professional musicians who come to the festival.

I felt as if I had achieved ambitions in music years earlier than I thought I would achieve them.

Charlie Price, aged 14, who participated in our side-by-side ensemble

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We put on projects involving primary schoolssecondary schools, academies and colleges.

After having had such an amazing time with the Soldiers Tale project last year, I was wondering if it would be possible to get involved with this autumn’s Festival? The children got a huge amount out of the experience and we would be very keen to participate again.
Katie Usher, St Peter’s Primary School Coggeshall

Each academic year we actively involve over 1,000 young people aged 8-18 from over 25 schools; playing, singing, composing, listening and reacting to music.

I just want to say how much we appreciated the opportunity to have Morgan and Amaia performing last week. The feedback in GCSE Music lessons was very positive. If only we could get world class musicians in every week….! Richard Harrison, music teacher, Stanway School

According to ‘The Importance of Music’, a 2011 DCMS publication by Ed Vaizey and Michael Gove, ‘music can make a powerful contribution to the education and development of children, having benefits which range from those that are largely academic to the growth of social skills and contribution to overall development. It is a unique form of communication that can change the way pupils feel, think and act. Ofsted say that children’s involvement in music engages and re-engages pupils, increasing their self esteem, and maximising their progress in education and not just in music.’

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Young musicians’ viewpoints

Participating in the Roman River Side-by-Side ensemble was not only a fantastic opportunity, improving my orchestral skills, but was also really great fun. Coached by friendly professional musicians, I learnt new repertoire and skills that helped my playing to grow and develop. Apart from the coaching sessions, which were always great to be at, the concert at the end was wonderful. Playing alongside professional musicians in the amazing setting of St Mary’s Church (Stoke by Nayland) was a delightful experience, since I not only benefitted from their help, but also had fun playing high level pieces. I recommend this to any willing musicians, because it will be one of those experiences in your life that you will never forget!

Lottie Anstee, aged 14

Roman River Music’s youth outreach programme really helped me develop as a musician by granting me opportunities that would not have otherwise have been available to me. I first got involved with the Roman River Music Festival when I heard that they were putting together a youth orchestra interspersed with seasoned professionals that would be under the leadership of a professional conductor and would be staging a performance at the Mercury Theatre. 

The other events at the Festival were of an incredibly high standard with internationally renowned musicians taking part. I was granted free tickets in exchange for working FOH and so I attended five performances in total. 

Roman River Music benefits local musicians, youths and general public alike by putting on concerts of a unbelievably high standard in an eclectic range of venues.”
– Malachi Siner-Cheverst, aged 18

Project details

Huge thanks to the Band Trust, Essex Community Foundation,  Fowler Smith and Jones Charitable Trust and the Friends of Roman River Festival for their ongoing support.

Singing and composition project for 3 primary schools

Our animateurs work with groups from three primary schools, encouraging the pupils to compose their own songs. The songs are then orchestrated and the pupils perform the songs accompanied by full orchestra, at the Festival Finale at Stoke by Nayland’s magnificent church.

One parent commented that her daughter came home every day singing her heart out. The fruit of their hard work was singing at the concert, giving a professional, focused performance. This experience has undoubtedly raised the children’s appreciation, understanding and sheer enjoyment of music; afterwards I overheard one young singer ask the animateur; “can we sing it again”? You couldn’t ask more of a project. Audience member at the Festival Finale

Gwyneth Herbert multidisciplinary project at the Colchester Academy

July 2015 A new project for Roman River Music. A collaborative, creative project that celebrated Colchester through a fusion of storytelling, soundscape and song. The project involved 120 young people across the school, participating in five days of intensive, high energy workshops that explore their own responses to their local area through the writing of dialogue and lyrics, the composition of melodies and harmony, the invention and development of characters and the performance of music and dramatic text.

Working with the English, Music and Drama departments, the devising process unfolded as a kind of creative relay, with words devised in one session being given a musical voice in another and then a dramatic portrayal in the next, giving the young people a sense of ownership as well as an individual toolkit to take forward on their own creative journeys.

Rachel and I had an amazing time and loved working with the kids – they invested so much and created something remarkable in such a short space of time.  Gwyneth Herbert

Recitals in secondary schools

Each year classical, jazz, folk, and or world performers who are appearing at the festival give informal, interactive recitals to pupils at between 7 and 12 secondary schools.

If you would like your school to have a recital, please ask your head of music to get in touch with Julie Cuthbert.

Thank you for an inspiring performance today. Will and Luke were fantastic, both in their performing and in engaging the students in the way they spoke about what they were doing. Martha Taylor, head teacher, East Bergholt High School

Performance opportunities

This project gives young performers the opportunity to perform in front of large audiences at main festival concerts.

Performing in the Roman River Festival 2014 was a fantastic experience and I jumped at the opportunity to do so. It was exciting and enjoyable to play a solo on marimba in the unusual surroundings of Liquid Nightclub and it was a privilege to play for a hugely appreciative audience in the same concert as the acclaimed pianists, Simon Crawford-Phillips and Philip Moore.
It is opportunities like this that young musicians really need to gain performance experience and for me this helped put me in a great position for my Conservatoire auditions the following month. I am very grateful to those involved with the festival, especially to its Artistic Director, Orlando Jopling.
George Pertwee, age 18

 Side-by-side ensemble

The side-by-side ensemble is an opportunity for young musicians to rehearse and perform alongside festival musicians at the Festival Finale, and learn from intensive sectional rehearsals and coaching by professional musicians. Read more here.

“It was a fantastic experience for adults and children alike. The children had the most marvellous time, whether it was performing at the Mercury with a live orchestra, or watching the performance of Carnival of the Animals. The days spend in school just couldn’t be better. All the musicians that came were so passionate about their work and that enthusiasm was so very infectious. The children had such a unique experience it created a real buzz around the school. Also, Dominic getting the whole audience joining in was incredible, but as the HT perhaps my favourite moment was listening to Amanda sing in our school hall. It brought a lump to my throat. Thank you so very much for such opportunities.”

“I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the concert yesterday. The Side by Side Orchestra was amazing. It really has been inspirational for our students” Headteacher of a local secondary school

Insight concert

A unique opportunity for GCSE and A-level students to hear a live performance with a full orchestra, right in the middle of Colchester, of the main set works from the GCSE and A level music syllabus.

Open rehearsals 

Open to anyone under the age of 30. For more information contact info@romanrivermusic.org.uk.

Care & Retirement Homes

Every year we also perform in some of the care and retirement homes in the area, free of charge. This is not funded or supported. We invite musicians to play those people who cannot get to the regular concerts. If you know of a care or nursing home which you think might like a concert, please get in touch with the Founding Director, Zélie Jopling.

Free & discounted tickets

We offer free rehearsal passes to general rehearsals of the main festival concerts to everybody under the age of 18, and reduced tickets to festival concerts to everyone under 26.

Composition and performance project – 2015016

The Sacconi Quartet gave four composition workshops over the 2015-16 academic year with A level students at the Colchester Institute.

‘A’ level students have to submit their own composition as part of their ‘A’ level. This project gives them the chance to score their compositions for the quartet plus themselves playing their own instrument. This will give them a the unique opportunity to rehearse and perform with a top professional quartet. They will gain insights into composing for string quartets and techniques, receive feedback and advice on their own compositions, and best of all end up with a fully professional recording to hand in as part of their ‘A’ level.

The compositions were performed at Roman River Music Festival in September 2016, giving the young composers further boost, and giving you all the chance to hear the work of some of our talented students.

To get involved in the young player and secondary school programmes please contact Julie Cuthbert.

(Photo: Rehearsing for the side-by-side project © Julie Cuthbert)