Preludes Music – Note perfect opportunities for Bristol schoolchildren

The Bristol Ensemble is Bristol’s only professional orchestra and one of the busiest chamber orchestras in the country, organising over 100 concerts and events per year. It aims to share the gift of music across the city’s communities, supporting local musicians, and nurturing and championing young people in its orchestra.

In 2009, the charity founded Preludes Music, an educational initiative dedicated to bringing high-quality musical opportunities directly to children who would otherwise be unable to access them. Now deeply rooted in the Bristol music community, Preludes Music stands as one of the most expansive projects of its kind in the country, delivering musical learning to more than 3,000 children each year to help them explore and pursue their creative potential.

“Such a joy to experience making music without the traditional barriers that can be put in place. Music should always be this accessible and fun! Thank you.”

 – Parent of a Preludes partner school pupil


Preludes Music’s comprehensive programme encompasses activities ranging from individual and small group tuition to whole-classroom music lessons, orchestras, choirs, after-school and holiday clubs, all-day workshops and performance opportunities.

It partners with schools and community organisations to bring music to children in different ways. The main programme is aligned with the national curriculum for primary-aged children and runs throughout the full academic year, putting music at the heart of every child’s education. Beginning in the school Reception year, its approach integrates the whole school with a thorough and consistent long term music education.

Older students gain experience performing as an orchestra within their own school and with students from other schools across the city and the local area, and can perform at special events, both in their own communities and in prominent Bristol venues such as St George’s Bristol and St Mary Redcliffe Church. Through Preludes Music, schools benefit from regular interactions with professional musicians from the Bristol Ensemble, including unique performances often featuring world-class soloists.

I like the music class, I asked for a violin for Christmas after our music lessons.”

 – A Year 1 pupil


Music is well known to impact positively on childhood development and academic achievement, supporting speech and language acquisition, literacy and numeracy, verbal memory, spatial ability and attention. It also helps to improve confidence and co-ordination, whilst students can also develop significant key skills in teamwork, communication, creativity and discipline.

Against a backdrop of cuts to music provision in schools, the cost-of-living crisis, and a sharp increase in emotional and mental health issues among young people since the Covid pandemic, the Preludes Music team recognised that children and young people were encountering fewer and fewer opportunities to engage with musical learning and performance, and all the benefits that they generate.

The charity reached out to SMV in June 2023 with an application for funding that would support it to bring more musical opportunities to schools and communities in areas of deprivation across Bristol. The grant of £5,000 would contribute to the charity’s extensive provision of group and individual learning.

With the help of the funding, since September 2023 Preludes Music has delivered a host of fun, inclusive and accessible musical activities for 2,670 children, with many participating in more than one activity. The charity expects to have reached around 3,170 young people in total by the end of the grant period in July 2024.

This engagement is hugely valuable, particularly to children who live in areas that experience high levels of economic disadvantage, and face greater barriers than others to experience such musical opportunities.

The feedback from both schools and families has emphasised the children’s enjoyment of the lessons, and the positive changes seen in their behaviour. A recent survey of teachers at Preludes Music’s partner schools highlighted the impact of the activities on the children’s wellbeing: on average, increased confidence was seen in 87% of the children, communication skills were enhanced in 83% and concentration improved in 76% of the participants.

“Preludes Music is a wonderful example of how music can support children’s social, emotional and mental health whilst learning more about music… they feel proud, seen and heard when making music. For most of the class it is about boosting their confidence and ability to learn and retain. It’s a transformative programme.”

 – Teacher