Symphonize, a pioneering partnership project between the Philharmonia Orchestra and Soft Touch Arts took place in January 2015. The project engaged young people from disadvantaged Leicester neighbourhoods, who worked with musicians from Soft Touch and the Philharmonia to compose, produce, record and perform original, cross-genre music.

Leicester dub pioneer I-mitri CounterAction and hip hop producer Peri and music leader Joe Crofton from Soft Touch joined music leader Jason Rowland, and Philharmonia players Gwendolyn Fisher (viola) and Philip White (trombone) to blend classical repertoire and style with electronic and urban beats.  They worked alongside local young people to explore, experiment, and create vibrant new musical works.

The project empowered young people through intensive, collaborative working which tapped into their passion for popular urban music and technology, offering exploration of different musical styles and approaches.  Longer term, participation quipped vulnerable young people with practical, creative and social skills that are transferable to everyday life, and boost self-esteem and ambition. By working intensely with world-class professionals and peers on an equal footing in a safe, supportive environment the project encouraged understanding of, and respect for, others. The skills learnt through the project helped participants to make positive contributions in their neighbourhoods as well as to the wider cultural life of Leicester.  A performance took place on Saturday 17 January 2015 at the Y Theatre at 1pm.

Symphonize was generously supported by the J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust and it is anticipated that this initial project would kick start a longer term programme of work.

Lindsay Wilson, Director of Education for the Philharmonia Orchestra, says: “Philharmonia has been resident at De Montfort Hall since 1997, and we’re committed to surrounding our annual concert series with an extensive programme of dynamic education and outreach initiatives. We’ve long-respected the work of Soft Touch Arts and been keen to bring together the respective musicians and musical styles of our two organisations. We’re thrilled that the support of J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust has enabled this collaboration to begin, and very much look forward to working with young people in Leicester to create exciting, high-quality original work which truly fuses diverse musical styles.”

Joe Crofton, Co-Director of Soft Touch Arts, says: “This is a great opportunity for young people in Leicester to try something new and get involved in a very exciting project combining classical and urban music which is a new direction for both Soft Touch and the Philharmonia. We’ve spent two days working in the studio experimenting with new sounds and styles and are looking forward to sharing what we’ve learnt with workshop participants over the next fortnight”

Follow the project’s progress on Twitter: #symphonize @philharmonia @softtoucharts