Business partner: Making Music and Classic FM

A national radio station is giving wider coverage to music made by amateurs.

Arts organisations are a neglected corner of the voluntary sector. Making Music, the umbrella body for amateur music clubs, has 2,600 members, ranging from orchestras to samba bands. But it does not have a huge profile in the sector, despite chief executive Robin Osterley's conviction that music can play as important a role in promoting social inclusion as more mainstream charitable activities.

"Music is a very important way in which communities come together," he says. "If you think of the Government's volunteering agenda, there are probably large numbers of people, particularly younger ones, who don't find that agenda particularly attractive. It doesn't turn them on. By contrast, hardly any young people aren't turned on by music in one way or another."

A new partnership between Making Music and radio station Classic FM aims to promote the work of amateur music clubs and open them up them to a wider audience. Classic FM already has a number of charity partnerships: most professional orchestras are charities, and the station jointly hosts concerts with orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.

Darren Henley, managing director of the station, said: "The obvious area where we didn't have a partnership was in the amateur music-making world. These are people who are very passionate about music. I felt strongly that these were the sorts of people we should be engaging with."

Classic FM had been in contact with Making Music for a number of years, but wanted to explore more formal collaboration. "We realised there was a strong meeting of minds in terms of the sorts of things that we both wanted to promote and present," says Osterley. "We both had a strong interest in promoting music - not just in terms of people listening, but also getting them to participate and perform."

The result is a series of programmes that are going out on Classic FM until the end of 2008 and which showcase the repertoire of amateur music clubs, as well as profiling them through interviews. It has started with choirs, but will encompass other styles of music as well. The Exmoor Singers of London Chamber Choir were the first amateur artists to be selected from the hundreds of applications that were sent in. Two pieces from their current CD were featured at the end of August.

Young professional musicians who have been accepted by Making Music's young artists scheme, which gives them concert experience as soloists at amateur performances, will also receive exposure on Classic FM.

There are dimensions to the partnership other than broadcasting: for example, Making Music members will be given the opportunity to promote their own events through the Classic FM website.

The partnership is open-ended. "There is an awful lot of stuff we can do together," says Osterley. "We are limited only by our imagination."

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