You are here: 20 years of life-changing music-making


Look who we found! A very fresh-faced Ed Sheeran: did you know he was once a mentor to younger artists as part of Youth Music's MusicLeader programme?


  • 2 million young people unite as one voice, singing No Wars Will Stop Us Singing from Youth Music’s Singbook in support of world peace – a joint collaboration with the charity Peace One Day and teachers’ union NASUWT.
  • Chart-toppers Scissor Sisters donate guest list proceeds from their UK tour to Youth Music.
  • Youth Music highlights the power of music for children under 5 with the publication of a major three-year study, Turning Their Ears On. Former Atomic Kitten star Liz McClarnon supports the launch event at LSO St Luke’s in London.


  • Sir Richard Stilgoe is appointed as the new Chair of Youth Music in February.
  • Build a Band: Youth Music and the Left Field stage give young musicians the chance to perform their own ‘protest’ song at Glastonbury Festival 2007. The initiative is supported by singer/songwriter Billy Bragg. Competition winners REVOLT secure a record deal on the strength of their Glastonbury performance!
  • Sing Up: Youth Music, in partnership with Faber Music, Sage Gateshead and advertising agency Abbot Mead Vickers, wins the bid to run the government-funded national singing programme for primary school children, to be called Sing Up. Singer Jamelia helps launch Sing Up later in the year.
  • Youth Music Week celebrates its second year with the ‘Can You Hear Us?’ campaign and a major launch event at the National Gallery. ‘Can You Hear Us?’ is supported by photographer Rankin and a host of musicians, including Courtney Pine and Goldie.


  • The Origin8 songwriting competition gives young musicians the chance to create original music inspired by art from London’s National Gallery. Grime artist Kano lends his support as a celebrity songwriting mentor.
  • Build a Band: the campaign to give young musicians the chance to play at Glastonbury returns for a successful second year, this time with additional support from leading independent record label Rough Trade.
  • Metallica support Youth Music, donating full proceeds from a celebratory gig at the O2 London.
  • Youth Music Week takes to the road, giving young people the chance to support established acts at Barfly venues nationwide.
  • 600,000 children from around the country unite for Youth Music to smash the Guinness World Record for the largest ever simultaneous sing along, in a choir led by multi-award-winning singer/songwriter Des’ree. The Big Sing is broadcast live from the O2 arena, with almost 3,500 schools taking part.


  • Youth Music celebrates its tenth birthday and launches the Music is Power campaign to celebrate the power of music to transform young lives.
  • As part of the celebrations, the National Youth Music Organisations (NYMOs) all perform together for the first time at Birmingham Town Hall for the inaugural NYMO Festival.
  • National Lottery investment in Youth Music via Arts Council England passes the £100m mark.
  • The Youth Music Power Play fund is created to run a series of projects in communities nationwide, improving music-making opportunities for children and young people growing up in areas of social, economic and cultural deprivation.
  • Youth Music hosts its own dedicated stage at London’s 2009 Underage Festival, with sets from acts including Ladyhawke, Temper Trap and First Aid Kit plus support from up and coming teenage artists and bands.

Rizzle Kicks

Did you know Rizzle Kicks started out at a Youth Music project in Brighton? Here they are performing and being interviewed backstage at the 2009 Underage Festival!


  • Youth Music Voices is publicly launched as Youth Music’s contribution to the ‘Cultural Olympiad’ in the run up to the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.
  • A series of open-access regional launch events for the campaign is held. In total, 1,564 young people attend 21 events around the country.
  • The first Youth Music Impact Report is published.


  • Following selection events throughout 2010/11, the Youth Music Voices choir (90 young people from around the country aged 16-21) have their first residential rehearsals in July, resulting in a performance under the Olympic rings at St Pancras Station.
  • In November the Youth Music Network is launched: an online community to promote communication and partnership working in the music education sector. It’s still going strong today.

Youth Music Voices

Here's the Youth Music Voices choir gathering for rehearsals at the Royal Opera House in London, 2011.


  • Current Youth Music CEO Matt Griffiths is appointed to the role in June.
  • The London Olympics take place, and Youth Music Voices culminates in a series of high-profile performances including at the Velodrome at Olympic Park and at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.
  • Youth Music’s new open-access funding programme is launched, enabling a wider range of organisations to apply for grants to run music-making projects.
  • Youth Music also introduces a regional portfolio balancing approach into its grant-making process to ensure funding is equitably distributed across the country.


  • Former Radio 1 Controller Andy Parfitt is appointed as Youth Music’s new Chair in January.
  • The Fresh Thinking for Music Education breakfast seminar, hosted by Youth Music, features guest speakers including music journalist Pete Paphides, BBC broadcaster Jen Long, and Radio 1 and 1Xtra Head of Music (and Youth Music Trustee) Chris Price.
  • Youth Music is first awarded funds from the People’s Postcode Lottery Culture Trust. Players of PPL have raised an amazing £1,550,000 for Youth Music so far.
  • Youth Music’s Quality Framework is launched as a tool to help music practitioners evaluate the quality of music-making sessions, improving the outcomes for the young people involved in projects.
  • Costa Coffee partnership: Young people from Youth Music projects raise money by singing ‘alternative’ versions of Christmas songs in Costa Coffee shops nationwide!


  • ICAP Charity of the Year: Celeb musicians Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Gareth Malone and Carrie & David Grant support Youth Music by manning the phones at the ICAP stockbroking offices for the day, helping raise an incredible £100,000!
  • Give a Gig is launched as a way for musicians and fans to put on a live music event and raise money for Youth Music.
  • The Exchanging Notes initiative is launched – it’s a four-year action research programme pioneering new partnerships between schools and music education providers who normally work in out-of-school settings.


  • Youth Music is the charity partner for the Artist & Manager Awards in March. Hosted by the Music Managers Forum and Featured Artists Coalition, the A&MAs celebrate achievements in the UK’s artist and music management community.
  • MOBO award-winning singer Laura Mvula leads a host of stars in ‘A Concert for Alice’ at the Ambassadors Theatre to raise funds for Alice’s Youth Music Memorial Fund. The fund, created by the family of the murdered teenager Alice Gross, has raised over £70,000 for Youth Music so far and continues to grow.


  • Cambridge Audio launch their first ever in–ear headphones on a ‘pay what you choose’ basis to raise money for Youth Music. A limited run of 1,000 sells out within 24 hours, raising an incredible £26,764.51.
  • Youth Music is the official charity partner for the Music Week Awards ceremony taking place in April, and the inaugural Unsigned Music Awards in October.
  • The Art in a Corner project raises money for Youth Music to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ only collaborative painting, Images Of A Woman. Artists include Boy George, Elvis Costello, Brian Wilson and Jann Haworth, co-creator of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover.


  • The first-ever Give a Gig Week takes place, with 118 fundraising gigs taking place around the country, all in one week – all organised by Youth Music’s amazing supporters.
  • Youth Music becomes the first Living Wage Friendly Funder in the arts and culture sector.
  • Youth Music is charity partner for the AIM Independent Music Awards in September, with donations collected at the ceremony. Stormzy wins the independent album of the year award for his debut Gang Signs & Prayer, while Youth Music supporter Shaodow wins the award for hardest-working artist.
  • The MOBO award-winning saxophonist, band leader, composer and broadcaster YolanDa Brown is announced as Youth Music’s new Chair.


  • National Lottery funding for Youth Music via Arts Council England reaches a total of £198.3 million over the years.
  • Youth Music is charity partner for the VO5 NME Awards in February, which feature a headline performance from newly-crowned ‘Godlike Genius’ Liam Gallagher.
  • Give a Gig Week is a resounding success once again with support from artists such as Craig David, Newton Faulkner, The Wombats and Nadia Rose.
  • The week also sees the launch of the 100 Choirs fundraising initiative supported by Network Rail, with choirs singing for Youth Music at railway stations across England!

Give a Gig Week 2018

Check out the highlights video from an action-packed week of live music and fundraising. Give a Gig Week returns from 5-14 April 2019 and we'd love YOU to be involved!

2019: Youth Music is 20

Youth Music is 20 years old! We'll be looking back - and looking forward - throughout 2019. In his blog, our CEO Matt Griffiths reflects on the past two decades of life-changing music making.