Music & Drama Access Fund: unlocking doors and supporting aspirations

Music & Drama Access Fund: unlocking doors and supporting aspirations

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BY: Guest Writer
01 August 2022

The Trinity Music & Drama Access Fund provides small grants to Trinity candidates (via their teacher/Access Fund applicant) based in the UK & Ireland who experience barriers to accessing music and drama education and our qualifications. These barriers could include, but are not limited to, Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, living in areas of rural isolation and/or socio-economic deprivation, or identifying with a specific minority group. Cathy Corbett, a piano teacher in Belfast, was successful in receiving grants in 2020 and 2021 for some of her students and shares with us the amazing stories of how her students have progressed as a result.

Please note that all candidate names have been changed.


Gwen's piano lessons had been her one constant through numerous changes in accommodation and school, and being apart from her friends. The Access Fund grant supported her in achieving her Grade 5:

'Gwen has a home! This is such a joy for her and her family. She says she now has room for her keyboard, stand and chair in her bedroom. In the hostel, she didn't always have access to her keyboard. It was set on her bed and she played on her knees sitting on the floor. Gwen's piano lessons were the only constant in her life as her family ended up homeless, through no fault of their own. The Access Fund has allowed Gwen to continue with piano lessons, no matter what else was changing - she even gave a little recital one day to other residents of the hostel! The benefits of the Access Fund in this case are immeasurable. The piano lessons and exam it funded kept Gwen focused and gave her something to concentrate on and work towards - and then share with others!

'Gwen hopes to complete her Grade 6 next. She would not have been able to complete her Grade 5 exam without the support of the Access Fund.'


Living in an area of socio-economic deprivation and identifying as BAME, Joshua is supported by his mum to learn the piano. But financial constraints were impacting the consistency with which lessons could be provided, impeding his progression:

'Joshua really enjoyed his Grade 7 pieces and is now spending a lot more time listening to the sound he is creating. He has explored different styles of music over the past year, particularly modern and jazz. He enjoys composing and the dissonance of chords. Joshua has made new friends by playing the piano in music class and is now part of a band. The attention he has gathered since collaborating in music class has really developed his confidence and social skills with his peers. Joshua has started his Grade 8 pieces and is making great progress.

'Joshua has been able to attend regular lessons as a result of the Access Fund which has removed financial barriers connected to his learning. He lives in an area that has issues with crime & antisocial behaviour and Joshua's mum is delighted he's being kept out of harm's way as he is more interested in composing.' 


Similarly to Joshua, Dora lives in an area of socio-economic deprivation and identifies as BAME. She is one of four sisters - the only one learning to play the piano - and the grant was used to support her in achieving her Grade 2:

'Dora's family has struggled financially and I know her mother appreciates the Access Fund more than I can really put into words. Piano gives Dora an immense confidence boost. She is really delighted when she learns songs that her sisters can sing along with. She tells me with joy how her sisters sing along with the songs she plays and she shows up to lessons with requests from them for which songs she should learn next! It's such a beautiful image: those four girls together, Dora playing the piano and the two younger sisters singing and dancing. The Access Fund isn't just developing Dora's musicality and confidence but it's having a positive impact on her siblings and their desire to be musically involved too.'

Elijah and Levi

Brothers, Elijah and Levi, come from a large family living in a deprived area of Belfast and identify as BAME. Levi has brittle type 1 diabetes and Elijah (who is, himself, dyslexic), often cares for him. A combination of these barriers impacted the brothers' access to regular lessons and the opportunity to work towards their grade exams:

'These boys are just the life of the party, and they really are seasoned negotiators and charmers! Elijah struggles with dyslexia and note reading on the stave - he works very hard each week to progress. Levi has achieved so much with regular lessons and he's really enjoyed supplementing songs he loves alongside his method book and Trinity exam pieces. Regular lessons have really made a massive difference to these kids. They are from a large family and playing piano is something that they do that none of their older brothers know how to do so they really enjoy showing off their piano pieces. Both boys have a real sense of achievement doing something not many other people do where they live.'

In closing, Cathy had the following to say about the Trinity Music & Drama Access Fund:

'Because of the Access Fund and the support it gives to my students, I now only teach the Trinity syllabus. Coming from a low-income working-class family myself, I appreciate what the Access Fund does for [young people from challenging circumstances] and the opportunities it gives them to develop skills, and to be an outlet mentally and emotionally.'

The 2023 Music & Drama Access Fund will be open for applications in January. To find out more, please visit our website.


Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

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