Six composers join ABRSM mentor scheme as pilot hailed a success

Six emerging composers from diverse backgrounds have been selected to join ABRSM’s landmark mentoring scheme after the resounding success of a pilot programme last year. The six-month Writing for Music Education programme aims to demystify the process of writing for music education, encouraging composers from a broad range of backgrounds to write for exam syllabuses and a range of other educational contexts, so they can, in turn, inspire the diversity and musical progression of generations of new musicians.

The 2022 cohort was selected with help from the Ivors Academy, Black Lives in Music and the Musicians’ Union, and includes Amit Anand, Ben Lunn, Florence Anna Maunders, Hyokyung Jung, Michael Betteridge and Natalie Bleicher.

ABRSM Executive Director Lincoln Abbotts said: “Writing for Music Education is about exploring the wonderful opportunities that exist within music education and opening up this world to composers of all backgrounds and experiences. We’re delighted to be working with this diverse group of talented musicians.”

“We hope the programme content will be engaging and a lot of fun. What’s even more exciting is that the programme will connect participants with our wide range of partner organisations, broadening the range of educational contexts in which they may find work as composers in the future. Ultimately, we hope this will contribute to the creation of an even richer pool of music for learners to enjoy and explore.”

Mentees will be mentored by composer and educator Sarah Watts and musician and workshop leader Andy Grappy throughout and will receive specialist support and guidance from leading composers and educators as they complete a series of compositional tasks relating to a wide range of educational contexts. They will also have the chance to get to know ABRSM partner organisations, including the National Open Youth Orchestra, National Children’s Orchestras of Great Britain, National Youth Jazz Orchestra, National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, London Music Fund and Royal Philharmonic Society.

Last year’s pilot programme resulted in two of the participating composers, Shruthi Rajasekar and Kristina Arakelyan, receiving commissions to write pieces for ABRSM’s latest piano syllabuses.

Left to Right: Amit Anand, Ben Lunn, Florence Anna Maunders, Hyokyung Jung, Michael Betteridge and Natalie Bleicher.

Amit Anand

Amit Anand is an Indian composer currently based in Scotland. His musical training started with the tabla, an Indian percussion instrument, and his interest in western classical music and desire to learn the techniques of composition, orchestration, arranging and harmonising led him to complete his BMus in Composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Amit’s music has been performed by prominent ensembles in Scotland including Red Note Ensemble and Scottish Freelancers Ensemble, and since graduating he has launched Pianoshaale, an online piano academy in the regional languages of India as part of Amit’s aim to make western classical music more accessible and inclusive.

Amit said: “I am very excited to be chosen as one of the mentees for this year’s mentoring scheme and am confident that it will not only make me a better pedagogical composer but also a better educator.”

Ben Lunn

Ben Lunn is winner of two Scottish Music Awards 2020 for his work with Hebrides Ensemble and Drake Music Scotland, Ben Lunn is associate artist for Drake Music and Drake Music Scotland, and Trainee Artistic Director of the Hebrides Ensemble.

Current projects include a large-scale work for soloists, chorus, and orchestra which was supported by the PRS Foundation’s Composers’ Fund, as well as a concert of chamber works featured in Durham Brass Festival 2022. In 2021, Ben helped found the Disabled Artist Network, an organisation which is bridging the gap between the professional world and disabled artists.

He said: “Education is the vital ingredient to allow someone to enter the world of music. If we want our artform to better reflect society, we must do everything we can to make sure the fundamental nature of education is equal, open, and accessible.”

Florence Anna Maunders

Florence Anna Maunders is a multi award-winning UK-based composer and performer. She began composing as a teenager, graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music and then took a long break from writing music, concentrating on performing, teaching, arranging, conducting and electronic music production.

In 2018 she returned to composition with a bang, winning a series of prizes, awards and commissions, and seeing her music performed extensively in the UK, Europe, the USA and around the world. Florence is currently working on commissions for internationally renowned organisations such as the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, London Chamber Orchestra, The Arc Project, Third Coast Percussion and the Wigmore Hall alongside an array of other projects, and she is about to embark on a PhD in composition at Cardiff University, where she has the Postgraduate Studentship in Music.

She said: “I’m massively grateful to ABRSM for this opportunity to develop as a composer, and to explore the vast possibilities of composing contemporary music for education.”

Hyokyung Jung

Hyokyung Jung is a South Korean guitarist and composer with various musical loves from across the spectrum, including jazz, rock, funk and fusion, which produce unique styles and tones. With a huge interest in jazz-rock fusion, her compositions are heavily inspired by guitarists such as Gilad Hekselman, Adam Rogers, Mike Stern, and Kurt Rosenwinkel. At the same time, Hyokyung combines original ideas from her background, such as traditional Korean rhythms and jazzy voicings, which have inspired her arrangements/original material.

She said: “I feel lucky to be part of the ABRSM composer mentoring programme because I can chat with fabulous composers/mentors and explore the world of composing for music education! I’m also very excited to write for some specific educational situations with my unique musical background.”

Michael Betteridge

Michael Betteridge is a composer based in Manchester with an eclectic output mainly centred around voice, theatre, and working with young musicians and leisure time music makers. He has worked with, and created work for, organisations such as BBC Philharmonic, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Cheltenham Festivals, London Symphony Orchestra, Opera North, and Psappha. He is artistic director of The Sunday Boys – an open access low voiced LGBTQ+ choir based in the heart of Manchester.

Michael said: “I have worked a lot in a variety of music education settings, both formal and informal, however this mentoring programme with ABRSM will give me a much deeper insight into the world of music education in this country and beyond. When I studied for ABRSM exams when younger I learnt music by Bernstein, Britten, and many other LGBTQ+ composers and I wish then I knew more about their lives beyond their music in order to understand myself and my own music making better.”

Natalie Bleicher

Natalie Bleicher is a pianist, composer and piano teacher living in Hertfordshire. She studied at Junior Trinity, New College, Oxford and King’s College London, and currently studies piano with Thalia Myers. As a composer Natalie has written exam pieces for piano, electronic keyboard and harp, and her open score work ‘Thalassa’ is published by CoMA (Contemporary Music for All). She teaches piano privately and at York House School, and is accompanist for Fortune Green Choir in West Hampstead and for Mini Mozart classes in St Albans