Musicians from the Harmony Kenya project

Kerala project wins support as ABRSM fund reaches grassroots music makers in nine nations

A Kerala school music project, a Mexican project working with children affected by solvent abuse, an American Sign Language choir, and a Ugandan project providing drums for young people from low-income backgrounds are among the first recipients of funding from ABRSM’s Play On international sponsorship program.

Nine grassroots music-making projects spanning countries such as Nigeria, South Africa, the Cayman Islands, Kenya, India, and Haiti have been awarded grants from the inaugural ABRSM Play On program. Launched earlier this year, Play On aims to support, inspire, and connect grassroots music learning initiatives worldwide. It builds upon the success of ABRSM’s previous International Sponsorship Fund (ISF) by extending support to more organizations dedicated to advancing music education.

ABRSM Engagement Director Lincoln Abbotts expressed excitement about the anticipated impact of Play On, stating,

“Following the many success stories of our International Sponsorship Fund, we’re excited to see, hear, and experience the impact that our new grant program, Play On, will have on so many people around the world.”

The funded activities encompass a wide range of endeavours, from establishing music departments in schools in India and Kenya to enhancing the work of an American Sign Language Choir in the USA. Play On aims to champion a diverse, inclusive, and accessible music education for all.

The administration of Play On falls under ABRSM’s partner, The Commonwealth Resounds, and is open to organizations outside the UK that provide teacher and music leader training, offer high-quality music education programs, facilitate motivational and inspiring musical experiences, or address barriers to accessing and progressing in music. Alison Cox OBE, Founder and Chair of Trustees for The Commonwealth Resounds, highlighted the diverse nature of the supported projects, stating,

“The organizations we’re supporting through the Play On fund represent a really diverse range of projects from all over the world, which is exciting.”

The Play On fund boasts a wider scope and larger budget compared to its predecessor, allowing recipients to apply for grants of up to £5,000 each. ABRSM hopes that the program will serve as a platform for cultural exchange, fostering connections and facilitating the sharing of best practices among Play On recipients.

Details regarding the submission of applications for the 2024 Play On fund will be shared through the ABRSM website and social media channels later this year.

The nine Play On recipients are as follows:

BLUME Haiti: An organization employing music as a tool for social change, working with over 50 music schools across the Caribbean nation. Play On funding will support workshops and concerts in safer locations for young musicians from dangerous and inaccessible areas. BLUME stands for “Building Leaders Using Music Education.”

Casa Alianza Mexico: ABRSM’s grant will aid a music therapy project actively engaging children in workshops designed to support their emotional development and the acquisition of new skills. The project also addresses the repair of motor skills damaged by prolonged solvent abuse on the streets and provides support for the detoxification process to prevent relapses.

Cayman Youth Choir: ABRSM supports the choir through Play On this year, particularly their involvement in the “Stronger Together Choral Festival,” which aims to bring together a diverse group of young people from the Cayman Islands in a celebration of music and song.

Harmony Kenya Foundation: The foundation supports music departments in government schools in Kenya. The Play On grant will assist Westland Primary School in Nairobi in purchasing new instruments and expanding their tuition program.

Harmony Project Phoenix, USA: Play On funding will support the project’s American Sign Language (ASL) Choir, an innovative initiative bridging the world of music and children with hearing impairments.

Kunbi’s Music Company, Nigeria: KMC is a music school in Lagos providing music lessons to students of all ages and abilities. The organization aims to deliver fun, accessible, and rewarding music learning experiences for all learners. ABRSM’s Play On funding will support their work in two Lagos centers.

JSM Academy, South Africa: The academy offers quality music education to disadvantaged communities within South Africa’s Gauteng Province. The Play On funding will be used to purchase instruments, accessories, and exam support materials.

String Heads Music, India: String Heads assists Kerala schools in developing music departments through the provision of a music curriculum, teacher training, instruments, and resources. Play On funding will support their “Jingle Bells” program.

Thrive Music Academy, Uganda: Based in Kampala, Thrive provides quality music education to young people from lower-income backgrounds. The Play On grant will enable the organization to purchase African musical instruments, including drums and thumb pianos, as well as Western instruments necessary to establish a junior orchestra and brass band.