Summer School


The fifth Grand Union annual residential Summer School will take place in the wonderfully spacious Writtle University College and its idyllic surroundings, near Chelmsford in Essex. It will run for four days, beginning lunchtime Monday July 30th, and concluding on Thursday afternoon August 2nd with a concert of the work created during the course.

Grand Union’s Summer Schools are unique in both content and manner of teaching. Our policy towards the education and training of young musicians is clearly described in this article GUO Composer / Director Tony Haynes wrote for the influential on-line journal Music Education UK in November 2017.

The 2018 Summer School will put into practice the principles outlined in that article; and the illustrations give an idea of the kind of music – and approach – to expect.

The performance in these two short video clips from GUYO's concert Rhythms & Revolution
at London's Rich Mix is led by Brazilian Ricardo Axe, one of the Grand Union tutor-musicians on the 2018  course


And here gu zheng (Chinese harp) virtuoso Zhu Xiao Meng leads GUYO musicians through the introduction and jazz section in an unusual version of a Chinese folk song The Song of Four Seasons.


The course will be led by musicians from the Grand Union Orchestra, many of them also featured in that article. They represent all the world’s major musical traditions, into which they were born and bred; internationally-fêted performers in their own right, they are also great communicators and charismatic workshop leaders.

The course is open to young musicians aged 12 to 21 who wish to learn more about world music techniques first-hand from experts, and develop their creative and improvisational skills. Players of non-European instruments are especially welcome, and we also encourage multi-instrumentalists.

Full board and lodging are provided – breakfast, lunch and dinner, and accommodation in single rooms. The cost will be £240 (£180 if booked before the end of May); bursaries and a limited number of non-residential places may be available.

What’s in it for me?


Who is it for? 

Young musicians of secondary school age and up (12-21) interested in learning about music from other parts of the world, and/or who play a non-European instrument.

How do I apply? 

Download the Summer 2018 flyer  here.


In this short video, students describe their experience -


The fourth annual Grand Union Orchestra Summer School took place from July 31st to August 3rd 2017 at Goldsmiths, University of London. The course is described here; Grand Union's Shanti Jayasinha, the course director, sums up the experience:

This year's summer school was another great success, with some fabulous teaching sessions from musicians from Ghana, South Africa, India, Chile, Colombia and the UK!

On the first day we always break the ice with a free improvisation, and this year we were led by one of our Second Generation stars, Evan Cryer. The rest of the day was African day, with workshops in singing from South African drmmmer Brian Abrahams, an old friend who was visiting from his new base in Australia, and Ghanaian Abass Dodoo, who supplied us all with panlogo drums and taught us some rhythms and songs from his home country.

On the second day I started the group off with some konokol exercises (rhythmic syllables in South Indian music) in a 7 beat cycle, and Baluji Shrivastav taught us the raga Bhairavi with a composition in 7 (rupak in North Indian music). The afternoon began with the ‘Big Blow’, with Tony Haynes creating a couple of large ensemble pieces. Reflecting the earlier work of Abass and Balu, these explored a Yoruba chant and African 12/8 rhythm, and a brassy bhangra approach to raga Bhairavi.

The last session of the day was for the students to begin make their own music in smaller groups. They too were asked to use ideas or influences from the workshops they had had so far, and the three groups came up with very different and interesting compositions.

Day three started off with more konokol in 7, and then a session from Colombian percussionist Emeris Solis. Emeris comes from the south west of Colombia, on the Pacific coast, where the music has strong roots from Africa. He taught us two songs, in the Currulao and Bunde rhythms. Everyone had a great time learning the rhythms, the songs and improvising. In the afternoon, long-standing member of the Grand Union Orchestra, Carlos Fuentes, from Chile, taught us the Frevo from North East Brazil. It's a fast Carnival rhythm and the kit drummers were stretched trying to play the snare pattern, but they got it in the end.

 The three small groups then completed their compositions, some adding more material inspired by that day's Latin-American sessions.

We finished the summer school with a performance to friends and family, incorporating several of the songs and pieces we learned in the workshops with the students' own compositions. It was really gratifying to see how much they had picked up from our visiting musicians and how they were able to use their new-found knowledge so creatively. The audience were thrilled with the show.

Here's to many more summer schools. We always aim to include workshops in styles new to us all, with sessions led by leading exponents of those traditions, but also to make sure that there is some kind of hidden thread that unites them – maybe a common scale or rhythmic feature.

  Here is some of the music created at previous summer schools...


Open to young musicians aged 12-21, this annual event is a unique opportunity to learn about world music and improvisation first hand from internationally-renowned musicians born and brought up in all major musical traditions worldwide.

Grand Union Orchestra musicians are not only acclaimed artists in their own right, they are also highly experienced teachers and workshop leaders. Under the general direction of Shanti Jayasinha and Grand Union’s founder composer/director Tony Haynes, the course is led by these musicians, who have worked together as Grand Union’s core performers for many years.



For more information contact 020 8981 1551 or

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