Pathfinder is the Royal Northern College of Music’s flagship programme for young people who have a talent and passion for music but are unable to progress into further training due to challenges and barriers, some of which include low income, family circumstances, mental or physical ill-health, disability, caring responsibilities, etc.  

Participants are signposted to the programme by teachers and music education hubs and project staff work with the young people and their families to design a bespoke programme of training and support based on their individual needs.  This unique bespoke approach results in real impact for participants, including increased musical examination grades and acceptance onto further training including Junior RNCM and undergraduate programmes at conservatoires and music colleges.  

15 year-old B, from Greater Manchester, came to Pathfinder in January 2022 after a stream of recommendations from a local contact who heard by chance that it was B’s lifelong dream to be a professional pianist. Despite having had no formal training, B was able to perform a selection of pieces by Chopin, Beethoven and Rachmaninov from memory. With no musical background in his family and no acoustic piano at his school, B spent hours each weekend teaching himself piano using an electronic keyboard and then an acoustic piano at his grandfather’s, where he walks the 2 mile round trip three nights a week to practice. 

Though it was evident that B’s natural ear for music is exceptional, the absence of any formal training meant there were large gaps in his knowledge and he lacked any theoretical context through which to expand his musical journey and build his technique to master more difficult repertoire, meaning his musical development was at an impasse.

B was quickly offered an advice audition with senior RNCM and Pathfinder staff, access which could only have been afforded to him thanks to the networks created by the Pathfinder programme. He was awarded a place at the Junior RNCM and started Pathfinder on a fully funded bursary. Through the programme, B attended an improvisation workshop where he was given his first chance ever to play piano alongside other musicians.

Thanks to Pathfinder, B is now being supported and nurtured to pursue the musical training and opportunities that he needs to fulfil his dreams and ambitions in music, which would otherwise be denied to him due to his personal circumstances.

On behalf of all of us who have been so inspired by what we have glimpsed in this special boy, we cannot thank you enough for being so generously open to our appeal. We know that your powerful influence has helped to secure B the undreamt of chance to become the person he was meant to be, despite all the problems engulfing his struggling family. His whole family and I are all absolutely overjoyed!…Now he can be carefully shaped, formed, educated and nurtured in the very finest of musical environments, make new friends with young people like himself, feel the influence of the truly great teachers you have most kindly procured for him and gradually be fledged into his first performances.”

B’s former teacher