Music & Drama Access Fund: breaking down barriers to the arts and boosting confidence

Music & Drama Access Fund: breaking down barriers to the arts and boosting confidence

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BY: Guest Writer
26 July 2023

Since its inception in 2020, Trinity's Music & Drama Access Fund has supported more than 200 candidates on their musical or dramatic journey, benefitting them in many ways. Recent recipients of the grant share their experiences of how the fund has benefitted them, in addition to achieving a qualification; by breaking down barriers, boosting their confidence and opening up new opportunities.

Please note that all candidate names and some teacher names have been changed.


Based in South Belfast, Claire McCartney is a singing teacher awarded an Access Fund grant for her student, Ben, to work towards his Grade 7 Rock & Pop Vocals exam. Ben lives in an area of socio-economic deprivation so his grant was used to pay for lessons and the exam fee, which Ben's family would otherwise not have been able to afford.

'Ben has had a busy and difficult couple of years, with a number of varying personal and academic obstacles getting in the way regarding the completion of his exam. He showed great commitment and determination throughout and was willing to put in the extra hours to complete his lessons and Grade 7 exam, which he passed. The Grade 7 exam will assist with UCAS points for his entry to university next year.

'Through his vocal lessons, Ben grew in confidence and he continues to seek out performance opportunities such as choral groups, school concerts and much more. He previously may not have felt confident enough to seek out all of the opportunities on offer to him prior to this.

'Ben is pleased to have attained his Grade 7 and is so keen to reach Grade 8 and receive his final grade certificate in singing.

'I am so proud of Ben for all his efforts and what he has achieved. Even when personal circumstances were difficult for him, he continued to show commitment to the completion of his exam. The Access Fund grant made this possible for Ben. I can now continue to encourage other students, who may face similar hardships, that they can achieve what they want, even when barriers may stand in their way.'


Violin teacher, Rachel Thomas, based in Doncaster was successful in gaining an Access Fund grant for her student, Isabel, to work towards her Grade 3 Violin. Isabel lives in an area of socio-economic deprivation and has specific individual requirements, as well as being in a minority group. The grant paid for lessons, music scores, accompanist fees and the exam. Without the grant, Isabel's mother would not have been able to afford to pay for her daughter to take a graded exam.

'When we received the grant, Isabel had only been playing for four months, but she could already play the violin at nearly a Grade 1 level. She had had no other musical training at this point. My thoughts were to take her to Grade 2 level; however, within a few months, I realised this would be holding her back so I decided to encourage her to work towards Grade 3. Isabel rose to the challenge, working very hard and achieved a Merit for her Grade 3 Violin exam. Her confidence grew and she entered a local music festival where she came second in her class. Her mum told me that, when Isabel came home after each lesson, she would practise, as well as most other days of the week. Isabel's mum would often video my lessons so Isabel could keep referring to them through the week when working on a new technique e.g. staccato. After listening to her at the festival, her mum said: 'Wow! I wish I could afford to learn!'. Isabel said she has enjoyed the challenge, even though she has been nervous at times when performing.

'The grant has enabled Isabel to continue her musical education. Her progress was spotted at school, where she has been asked to perform several times and was nominated to join a small choir, which had received special funding through another scheme to enter a local competition. She has grown in confidence, joined the local music service's ensembles, and leads one I have put together of my own students who are working at the same standard to enter a local music festival. She led the ensemble very well and the group won their class. She has also started playing at the local church, accompanying hymns. Her mum is thrilled at her academic progress as Isabel receives a lot of awards at school. Her mother has dyslexia and had a difficult education so to see her daughter achieve so well is very encouraging to her.

'Isabel plans to keep studying the violin and work towards taking the higher grade exams. The grant enabled her to get this far and gave me the opportunity to keep teaching her at a fee her mother could just manage.

'Knowing about the Access Fund grant means that, if I spot a talented child whose lessons may have to stop because of costs, then they may be able to continue through this grant.'

Group of Grade 1 clarinet candidates

Sam Tranchant, a music teacher at Queen Mary's Grammar School in Walsall, was awarded a grant for a group of 6 young people in receipt of Pupil Premium funding, aged between 12 and 17, all working towards their Grade 1 Clarinet. All of the young people in the group live in an area of socio-economic deprivation and are in an ethnic minority group. The grant was used to pay for lessons and the exam fees.

'This group began their musical journey when they started in Year 7 at our school, having not had access or opportunity to learn to play an instrument in their primary schools. As a music department, we run a free one year 'wider opportunities' project for all Year 7 students. During the project, we highlight gifted and talented students and offer them extra tuition, with the aim that they will take their Grade 1 exam by the end of the project. We have a high number of Pupil Premium students at the school and six of these were identified as gifted and talented clarinet players from the 2021-2022 academic Year 7 group. The Access Fund grant gave these six students the opportunity to prepare for and enter their Grade 1 Clarinet exam with financial assistance. All six students passed their exams, with five of them achieving a Merit or Distinction. They benefitted hugely from the opportunity given by this funding.

'All six students chose to carry on with their clarinet lessons into Year 8 and work towards the Grade 2 exam. They have plans to continue this into Year 9 and beyond, and will hopefully choose to study GCSE Music at the school. They are also members of the school training band and have performed in both a summer and Christmas concert in front of an audience of 300 people!'


Based in South East England, trombone teacher, Stephen, was awarded a grant for his pupil, Alex, to enable him to work towards taking his Grade 2 Trombone. Alex is neurodivergent and his mum was unable to afford to pay for him to work towards taking his exam. The grant paid for the exam entry fee, accompanist fees, and purchasing a new mouthpiece.

'Alex is a quiet lad but he enjoyed working for this exam and trying to improve aspects of his playing. He did very well, passing with Distinction, and the examiner left some encouraging feedback.

'Preparing for this exam lifted Alex's standard to a new level. For a child that struggles at school for various reasons, it gave him such a boost to his confidence, which can only help his general wellbeing. 

'Alex's immediate plans are to try to improve further and, when he is ready, taking another exam would be good for him. The Access Fund grant has given him a solid basis to work from and enabled me to prepare a pupil for an exam that otherwise could not have afforded to take it.'

The next Music & Drama Access Fund will be open for applications in early January 2024. To find out more, please visit our website.

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