Janie Orr

Janie Orr was recently awarded an MBE for Services to Music Education. She manages the Corporate Social Responsibility Committee at Universal Music. The company provides generous support to the Royal College of Music’s Sparks Juniors programme, enabling children from local boroughs to access the RCM's excellent teaching and learning resources. Janie explains why they’re keen to support this initiative.

Can you tell us about yourself and how you became involved in music education?

I joined THORN EMI in January 1988 and over the last 26 years my job has been incredibly varied. I started in administration in the communications department before moving on to organise global conferences and events and then in 1995 I was seconded from the parent company to EMI Records to manage their 1997 centenary plans. The legacy of that was the EMI Music Sound Foundation which is an independent music education charity now generously supported by Universal Music. The Foundation has awarded over £5 million since its inception towards the support of music education in the UK and continues to be a leading charity in the field of music education.

What does your role at Universal Music involve?

My job is twofold – I am both the Chief Executive of EMI Music Sound Foundation and I also manage the Universal Music Corporate Social Responsibility Committee here in the UK. This was set up to identify suitable charitable causes which the company and our staff can support both through money and volunteering.

How did you first hear about the Royal College of Music?

When EMI relocated to Kensington in 2004 we were approached by the Prince’s Foundation for Children and the Arts who wanted to find a funding partner to run a local youth music event. We duly contacted our local authority and were quickly put in touch with local schools and from there our support for music education grew.

In 2009 the borough’s music adviser introduced us to the Royal College of Music and from there the Sparks Juniors programme was developed. Since then we have continued our annual financial contribution which goes towards funding the instruments for the young people to use throughout their three-year specialist training.

Why is Universal Music interested in supporting Sparks Juniors?

As the global music leader we are keen to support music in all its forms and the fact that young local children are being given access to the amazing teaching and resources at this world renowned music college was totally fitting as one of our inaugural funding projects. The project gives an inspirational learning experience to people who would not normally be exposed to music teaching.

Are there any other areas of music education or specific projects you’re particularly keen to support in the future?

We are delighted that the extension programme was introduced to provide the children who have completed their three years at the Junior Department with continued access to the high level of teaching and musicianship.

We fund other youth music related projects here in London with different partners who reach a more diverse range of children – the Roundhouse project is focused on NEET young people and our work with XLP assists young people living in inner city areas who may not otherwise get access to support for their music-making.

Do you often visit the RCM?

Along with my team, I make a point of visiting the programmes we support twice a year – first not long after the children begin their teaching and then again at the end of the summer term so we can see first-hand the progress they have made.

We are also lucky enough to be invited to numerous RCM Sparks events, so regularly get to see the fantastic work that the RCM is doing with young musicians. Attending the graduation ceremony of the first three-year graduates was truly inspiring and to see them perform alongside their RCM mentors shows the true success of this programme. It was particularly impressive that the percussion students felt confident enough to walk in playing one set of instruments and then switch to another seamlessly – all down to RCM percussionist Ruairi Glasheen’s expert coaching.

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Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BS. Tel: +44(0)20 7591 4300 Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BS.
Tel: +44(0)20 7591 4300
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