Summer School

Open to young musicians aged 12-21, this annual event is a unique opportunity to learn about world music first hand from internationally-renowned musicians born and brought up in all major musical traditions worldwide and develop their improvisation and creative skills. Players of non-European instruments are particularly welcome.



For further information, regular updates or to sign up,

The Summer School is open to young musicians aged 12-21 keen to delve more deeply into world music techniques, develop improvisation and composition skills, form their own groups and make music together. In the idyllic surroundings of Writtle University near Chelmsford, they will gain inspiration from experts born or brought up in every major musical culture worldwide, all regular members of the Grand Union Orchestra. Players of non-European instruments are especially welcome, and we also encourage multi-instrumentalists.

The course is led by Shanti Jayasinha (trumpet/cello) assisted by GU Youth Orchestra director Joshua Brandler (guitar/bass/drums). Musicians running sessions will include Claude Deppa (South Africa – trumpet/percussion), Louise Elliott (Australia – flute/tenor sax), Yousuf Ali Khan (Bangladesh – tabla/voice), Zhu Xiao Meng (China – gu zheng) and Abass Dodoo (Ghana – African drums).

The cost of the four-day course is £80. There are limited free places available for young musicians who live in the London Borouigh of Tower Hamlets. To find out more, contact Josh Brandler or go to To register, download the form, or sign up online. We are committed to offering a nurturing environment and maintaining Covid-secure measures. 

what to expect from a grand union orchestra summer school - faq

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.

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 2018. Our Summer Schools put into practice the principles outlined in that article.

What do young musicians think?
Let's leave it to the students themselves to describe their experience, which they do very enthusiastically, followed by some reflections by Course Director Claude Deppa:

“What a fantastic summer school we had – I think it was the best one yet! We had a very enthusiastic group of young people who wanted to learn, and they got to experience a very wide range of musical genres - at least two a day! – and then went and got to compose their own pieces using these various styles.

"In the African drumming workshop we saw young people claiming their hands hurt, but did they stop? No, they would not, and we had to advise them to hold the metal legs of their chairs to cool their hands down! Subsequently, their pieces all included very strong inflections of the drumming session. Clear influences they had been taught in the afternoon session of Chinese music also came out in their other compositions.

"The same was true of the South Asian music and the Afro-Cuban rhythms and melody we used. There were also young people who tried out instruments they’d never played before - a couple had blisters from playing bass guitar etc but would not give up practising. The after dinner sessions were a real hit too, and the one day we could not get in the kids were furious. They just wanted to play and then play some more.

"The hardest part was to see the young people not wanting to stop when we had run out of time. As usual there were pleas to make the summer school longer, but maybe we could look at doing a few days in winter or Easter to grow the residency idea.”

In this short video, Cassius Cobbson, an inventive drummer who joined GUYO in 2014 when he was 13 years old, tells Claude Deppa why the Summer School is so important to him. these two video links gu zheng (Chinese harp) virtuoso Zhu Xiao Meng leads GUYO musicians through the introduction and jazz section of an unusual version of a Chinese folk song The Song of Four Seasons., students describe their experience of past Summer Schools:


...and here is some of the music created:


Grand Union Orchestra musicians are not only internationally-acclaimed performers in their own right, they are also great communicators, highly experienced teachers and charismatic workshop leaders who have worked together as Grand Union's core artists for many years.  Many of them are featured in the  article cited above; they represent all the world’s major musical traditions, into which they were born and bred;




Stay In Touch