Youth Music Initiative celebrates 20 years and incredible achievements from the past two decades

YMI Programme has delivered a staggering increase in children's engagement with music across Scotland.

Youth Music Initiative celebrates 20 years and incredible achievements from the past two decades

Article Source: Youth Music Initiative
First Published: 23 May 2022 14:16
Updated: 23 May 2022 14:16

Launched in 2003 with the aim to break down barriers to encourage children’s talents flourish, Youth Music Initiative (YMI) funding has given children and young people across Scotland access to free music education, growing yearly participation to over 270,000 during a span of twenty years.

Administered through Creative Scotland, YMI is a Scottish Government-backed programme which looks to eliminate barriers for children and young people in accessing music tuition. Aiming to put music at the heart of young people’s lives and learning, the programme now commits around £9m of public funds each year to the provision of 277 music education projects, primarily in areas of social and economic deprivation, that contribute to Scots children’s wider development.
Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Youth Music Initiative, there will be a year-long campaign which will shine a light on the programme’s participants and the people who make it all happen across Scotland’s 32 local authority areas.

YMI has achieved astonishing impact since the ‘What’s going on?’ report in 2003. Since then, YMI, which has received over £140 million investment from the Scottish Government since 2007, has transformed music learning facilities for children and young people as it offers a more broadened network of support. The programme reached 278,726 children and young people annually according to research published in 2021, placing Scotland on the global map as an international leader in youth arts.

Culture Minister Neil Gray said, “The Youth Music Initiative’s track record over the last 20 years is impressive not only for the free music education it offers children and young people across Scotland every week but for the way it has widened access to music making opportunities, especially in some of our more deprived areas.

“Since 2007 the Scottish Government has invested over £140 million in the Youth Music Initiative which is about much more than music tuition. It’s well known that children who take part in musical activities gain confidence and a range of transferrable skills that can boost their abilities in other subjects. Taking part in, and listening to, music is also good for the mental health and well-being of our young people.”


Over the past 20 years YMI has tackled a variety of issues within music activities and education including cultural, social and gender barriers. YMI has committed to breaking down barriers through Access to Music Making projects with 95% of these activities focused on helping young people in areas of social and economic deprivation.

Last year, The Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award introduced Sound of Young Scotland Award supported by Key Production, Youth Music and the Youth Music Initiative, aiming to drive the future of Scotland’s music scene by annually awarding a young, emerging artist. 2021’s winner Rachel Lu, aka LVRA received up to £5,000 funding to facilitate the creation of her debut album, such as producing, studio rentals, engineers, mixing, mastering, recording expenses and more.

Speaking about her experience, LVRA said, “I was really lucky last year to benefit from YMI’s support through the Sound of Young Scotland Award and I think I speak on behalf of all young musicians that this kind of funding is absolutely essential in pushing our careers forward, especially for someone like me who didn’t have the confidence to go for it in the first place. I would advise young musicians to learn to love what they do, believe in themselves, and believe in the stories they have to tell and from that will come amazing things.”

The mental health benefits of music-making can be seen by anyone who has witnessed the joy of a child singing, dancing, and playing their favourite instrument. But the impact of participating in music-based learning goes much wider, with evidence showing that it improves confidence and relationship development; leadership and decision-making; and transferable skills which translate into other academic subjects.

Morag Macdonald, YMI Manager at Creative Scotland said: “I think it’s fair to say that there’s barely a day that goes by without YMI activity happening somewhere in Scotland. In and amongst all the joyful noise, there’s those quiet moments where someone nails that difficult transition, writes their first song or finds the courage to join the music group which sparks a lifelong interest in music. With ongoing support from the Scottish Government, the YMI has become an essential part of Scotland’s rich music ecology, creating everyday opportunities to participate in high quality music making projects.”

Ensuring that every school pupil in Scotland is offered a year of free music tuition by the time they leave primary school, YMI is committed to providing young people across the country with music making opportunities. St Brendan’s Primary School in North Lanarkshire is just one of many Scottish schools that receives funding from YMI’s School Based Music Making funding. As one of the first to receive this help, the school choir has played a huge part in the school’s wider community involvement as they’ve visited hospices, nursing homes and other community venues over the years. The school now also has plans to create a community choir to include parents, grandparents and families of the school pupils.

Mrs Oates, Head Teacher at St. Brendan’s Primary School said: “Over the last 20 years the YMI project has enabled children of all ages and backgrounds at St Brendan’s Primary School to gain access to high quality music making opportunities, encouraging children to achieve their full potential in or through music. Music promotes the development of language, social and emotional skills to name a few, and also helps children to improve their self-esteem and boost their confidence.”

Over the past two decades, YMI has also funded projects such as Reeltime Music based in North Lanarkshire. Aiming to deliver a range of music services to the local community by improving the lives of disadvantaged young people, Reeltime Music offers the younger community a place to learn new skills, increase their aspirations and develop a healthier, more active lifestyle.

Ryan Currie, Project Manager at Reeltime Music, has experienced the positive impact of YMI funding first-hand. Co-founding the charity 24 years ago, Ryan, with the support of YMI Access to Music Making Funding and fantastic tutors and volunteers, delivers music workshops and provides affordable recording and rehearsal services for young people in North Lanarkshire.

This continued support has helped open the next chapter for the charity. The Scottish Government recently awarded £1.17 million to create a community music and learning hub in Motherwell. This will see exciting new projects and services for the local community, including music rehearsal and recording studios and a small grassroots music venue.

Ryan from Reeltime Music said: “The introduction of YMI funding 20 years ago was a sea change for organisations like Reeltime. For the first time, there was recognition of the importance of community music, backed with the resources to deliver it. Our charity would not be what it is today without YMI.”

To support the yearlong celebration, and raise awareness of the value of music making, the YMI team at Creative Scotland would love to hear from people about their positive memories of how participating in YMI has impacted their lives. They are calling on people of any age to share their inspiring stories to showcase the benefits of music making in order to raise awareness of the value of access to music making for all young people into the future. People can submit their story by sending an email to ymi@creativescotland.com or via social media followed by the 20-year hashtag #YMusicMatters.

To learn more about Youth Music Initiative, make sure you follow the programme on Twitter @CreativeScots, Instagram @creativescots and Facebook @CreativeScotland.

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