Changing the map of tomorrow’s orchestra

A new study has revealed that today's children are more likely to learn a musical instrument (80%) than their parents (63%) or their grandparents (55%).

New YouGov research commissioned by the Philharmonia Orchestra, released to mark the launch day of iOrchestra, their major new music education initiative in the South West of England, dispels the notion that today’s youth are an inactive generation, whose leisure is dominated by little more than computer games and social media.

The most popular musical instruments were the recorder (22%), guitar (19%) and the piano (18%) highlighting how throughout the country the recorder is still the classroom staple. The research showed that 83% of children from the West Midlands are learning a musical instrument and children from the North East are learning the most varied selection of different instruments. Singing also continues to be nationally popular, particularly in Yorkshire and the East of England.

The orchestra of tomorrow

The results gave a clear indication of which instruments were most popular across the different regions of the UK suggesting where the ‘orchestra of tomorrow’ may be coming from.

  • The North East

Perhaps channelling the legacy of local legends Dire Straits, the saxophone proved to be more popular with young learners here than anywhere else in the country. The north east also, scored highly for pupils of the trumpet, organ, double bass, harp, trombone and viola, the area proving a hotbed of musical diversity.

  • Scotland

Every good pipe band needs a rhythm and, with 8% of Scotland’s schoolchildren learning percussion instruments, the nation’s next generation of drummers seems to be secure. Evelyn Glennie watch this space…

  • Wales

Perhaps it’s time Karl Jenkins composed a violin concerto? String instruments scored very highly in the valleys, with the violin and cello, more popular here than anywhere else in the country.

  • The West Midlands

Looking for a new woodwind section? Get yourself on the M6! The flute, clarinet and bassoon (joint highest with London) scored highest in Britain’s second biggest county

  • South West

The results come ahead of the launch of iOrchestra, a music-learning initiative in the South West of England headed by the Philharmonia. Whilst instruments such as the piano and guitar maintain popularity in the South West, and the oboe proves to be more popular there than any other region, the research suggests over a third of all children in the Plymouth area do not currently have instrumental music lessons.

The research also found that girls are more likely to learn a musical instrument than boys (71% versus 66%), although boys today were more likely to learn an instrument than boys in the generation before them (66% in musical education today as opposed to 56% in the past). When it came to orchestral instruments the violin remains the most popular choice for both genders.

David Whelton, Managing Director of the Philharmonia orchestra commented: ‘These enlightening results provide a great insight into the current condition of classical music, offering encouraging signs of its future status as both a form of entertainment and educational tool. iOrchestra, which launches in the South West today, promises to radically improve the position of musical education in the area, offering new communities a chance to interact with classical music in a variety of engaging ways. We want to help shape the Orchestra of tomorrow and make sure the South West plays a big part.’