Association of British Orchestras

Music Education

Orchestras in education and the community


British orchestras lead the world in their approach to creative music making and participatory projects and are pioneers of innovative approaches. They are using new techniques and technologies to engage more people in more ways; making music relevant and moving well beyond traditional schools’ concerts and workshops. ABO members work within a broad definition of music education which incorporates formal education and informal learning.

Formal education sector

Orchestral musicians find themselves working in nurseries, in schools (primary, secondary and special), with Music Education Hubs and music services, and in Further and Higher Education institutions.

Informal learning

Orchestral musicians work with people of all ages and backgrounds in a variety of settings including hospitals and other health settings, community centres, supermarkets, prisons.

Where talent is identified, orchestras are there to nurture and develop it. ABO orchestras ensure future players are inspired by the very best musicians and develop their musical skill by working with professional orchestral players.

A survey of orchestras in 2018 demonstrates the range and variety of orchestras work in education and the community:

29 out of 53 orchestras responded and out of the 29:

  • 100% work with secondary schools
  • 97% work with primary schools
  • 90% work with children and young people with special educational needs
  • 79% work with Higher Education
  • 76% work with youth ensembles
  • 66% work in hospitals or hospices
  • 62% work in early years
  • 62% work with Further Education
  • 59% work with people living with dementia
  • 55% work with amateur orchestras
  • 28% work in mental health settings
  • 17% work in adult prisons
  • 10% work in youth justice settings

For more information about our members work, you can download our table of activity

Work with adults

Orchestras and opera companies also work with the following groups:

  • Continuing Professional development for teachers and composers
  • Adults visiting day centres
  • Adults living in care homes
  • Housing schemes (extra care/independent living/sheltered housing)
  • Adult health (stroke patient care)
  • Adults who are survivors of brain injuries
  • Adults with learning difficulties
  • Adults with disabilities
  • Adults who have additional support needs
  • Street homeless people
  • Adult music enthusiasts (lifelong learning, talks and study days)
  • Adults participating in community opera
  • Amateur choirs, unauditioned community choirs, workplace choirs
  • Refugee communities
  • Adult community groups
  • Adult carers
  • Women who have suffered domestic violence
  • Cross-community groups
  • Music & Mindfulness meditations with adults

Work with young people

This ranges from work with

  • Music Education Hubs/music services
  • young carers
  • young adults
  • young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET)
  • Young adults with disabilities
  • Looked after children
  • youth orchestras
  • youth choirs
  • young talent groups
  • young emerging composers and conductors
  • out of school programmes of creative workshops

Cross-generational work

This includes work with

  • Families
  • family orchestras
  • cross-generational projects e.g. early years and older people; young instrumentalists and people living with dementia
  • Sports clubs

None of this work is possible without the huge range of partnerships and collaborations forged to make high quality music education a reality. Orchestras work with local authorities, local businesses, other arts organisations and government bodies to deliver programmes that excite and have a lasting impact.

BBC Ten Pieces

The ABO is a stakeholder in BBC Ten Pieces, which is an initiative, led by BBC Music, BBC Learning and the BBC Orchestras and Choirs, which focuses on classical music and creativity.

Related information

Copies of our education reports and publications can be downloaded from our publications pages

Visit the BBC Ten Pieces website

Annual Conference

The next ABO conference will take place in Bristol,
hosted by Bristol Beacon, from 24-26 January 2024.