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City of London SinfoniaSound Young Minds

City of London Sinfonia (CLS) is an orchestra that approaches audiences as individuals who can connect with the musical experience in their own way, drawing on the practice developed through 30+ years of participation work in healthcare and community settings to provide engaging experiences.

Sound Young Minds is a bespoke programme originated by CLS in partnership with Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School and funded by Youth Music, that builds confidence and self-esteem in young people living with severe mental health and psychiatric conditions through music-making and sharing. It is the only programme of its kind in the UK.

City of London Sinfonia

City of London Sinfonia

City of London Sinfonia

City of London Sinfonia

Target Beneficiaries

Working across three different hospital schools, the project includes pupils aged six to 19 who are resident and day patients at psychiatric hospitals. These young people present a broad range of mental health illnesses and come from across London and other areas of the UK.

In these projects, music is the pathway for connection and engagement. The young people are provided with opportunities to work together, express themselves and build confidence and self-esteem through music making.


CLS artists and musicians work alongside students and staff to deliver a range of creative projects using instruments and technology that respond to the Orchestra’s artistic programmes.

All sessions are recorded, and the year closes with the collection of recordings created by young people together with CLS musicians being installed in a sound sculpture – a pop-up interactive installation that tours to CLS concerts and special events, such as the Tate Lates in 2019, offering an important bridge between CLS’s participation and performance work. From January to April 2022, the public will be able to explore all three sound sculptures in a free dedicated exhibition at Bethlem Gallery.

Sound Young Minds has been reimagined over the last year in response to the pandemic. Together, Gawain Hewitt and CLS viola Matt Maguire have developed an in-person and digital hybrid framework for future sessions that combines the use of accessible, online music tools with live improvisation by CLS musicians on classical instruments. Thanks to the introduction of the new digital element, Sound Young Minds was able to be delivered in the Hospital School during the pandemic and, for the first time, in the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit at Bethlem Hospital.


Delivered as a termly programme, each annual cycle reaches more than 200 8-18 year olds across the academic year.

Sound Young Minds received the 2020 Royal Philharmonic Society Impact Award (awarded for initiatives that have a lasting positive effect on people who may not otherwise experience classical music).

As well as finding opportunities to share this work as part of concert programming, CLS is developing a pedagogy and practice that will be carried forward into other projects in this field and other areas of the Orchestra’s health and wellbeing work. CLS has embarked on a major piece of post-doctoral research with the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London to establish what clinical outcomes can be measured across the Sound Young Minds programme. The work is currently being peer reviewed.

As it enters its fourth year the programme is expanding its footprint with roll-outs at Lavender Walk Adolescent Mental Health Unit (at Chelsea Community Hospital School) and at The Darwin Centre for Young People in Cambridge.

A report on ‘Orchestras in Healthcare’ was published by Orchestras Live, the Association of British Orchestras and CLS in 2021 and presented at the inaugural conference of the Centre for Society & Mental Health.


This report provides the first comprehensive picture of the impact orchestras are making in these fields and highlights the vital role they can play in alleviating some of the significant mental and physical health issues connected to COVID-19

Dr Darren Henley OBE Chief Executive, Arts Council England

Sound Young Minds...has transformed how we as an orchestra connect with people and make music together, impacting not just our participation programme but also our public performances.

Fiona Lambert, CLS’s Director of Participation


Funded by Youth Music

Partners: Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, Lavender Walk Adolescent Unit, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, The Darwin Centre for Young People (Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust), Royal Academy of Music, Sound Connections.