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Multi-national youth band in North Wales “makes the world a better place”

A TALENTED young cornet player will be taking centre stage at a gala concert just seven months after she started playing the instrument.

Akusua Asubonteng,12, hasn’t looked back since she joined the Bellevue Community Youth Band in Wrexham along with her 10 year old brother, Paapa, in January.

They will be taking part with more than 200 other children in the concert being organised by Wrexham Music Cooperative at the Stiwt theatre in Rhos at 7pm on Monday, July 15

It will be the first ever public performance for  Akusua, Paapa and around 10 other new members of the multi-national brass band.

Among those joining the band on stage will be the Wrexham County Youth Choir, the  Signing Sensations Sign Language Choir and the Wrexham Blast Off Wind Band who will be making their debut.

Also there will be the winners of the Song for Wrexham Project from Ysgol Rhiwabon who will be represented by a rock fusion band and their 30-strong Year 7 choir.

The Wrexham coop is part of the North Wales Music Cooperative which includes a sister organisation in Denbighshire and between them they teach 5,000 children every week.

The service was formed nine years ago in the aftermath of a financial crisis that saw funding for peripatetic music teachers being axed.

Since then, it’s gone from strength to strength and the Bellevue Community Youth Band was formed in September 2021 as the world began to emerge from the Covid nightmare.

It’s provided a real boost to Akusua, a pupil of Darland High School in Rossett, whose family moved to live in Wrexham from Ghana nearly three years ago.

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She said: “I’ve been a member of the band since January and I’m really enjoying it. I had a warm welcome and the teachers are very good.

“I am excited about taking part in the concert but also a bit nervous.”

Also loving every minute of being in the band is fellow cornet player Muddi Smith, 10, a pupil of Victoria County Primary School who’s been attending the weekly sessions at the Bellevue Community Centre for the past few months.

She said: “One of the things I like about the cornet is that it’s easy to carry  and I like being in the band because my family is really musical.”

Looking forward to the concert is tuba player Ethan Roberts, 10, a pupil of Ysgol Alexandra, in Wrexham.

Ethan was homeschooled for six months and the band has helped his return to mainstream education.

He said: “I joined about two years ago . I wasn’t sure about the tuba straight away but I did get into it and I really like it now.

“Being in the band has given me something to do  and it gave me an extra thing to do at home when I practise . It’s also helped me at school  and given me more confidence. It’s made a big difference.”

The band is the brainchild of Wrexham Music Cooperative Manager Scott Lloyd who served as a tuba player with the bands of the Royal Irish Regiment and the Prince of Wales Division.

During his 14 years in the army, Scott toured internationally and played at a great many ceremonial State occasions both at home and abroad, from the Falkland Islands to the  Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall.

He’s now on a mission to bring music to the youngsters of his hometown of Wrexham and is passionate about making a positive difference to their lives.

Scott said: “The band started at the back end of Covid when children and young people had such a rough time.

“We wanted to set something up that was community focused without any barriers – so we didn’t want it to cost the kids anything to attend and provide the instruments.

“A lot of the children  have difficult stories. We have some school refusers who were not even attending school but who were attending band every week and it was the band that helped get them back into the education system

“The band also about strengthening the community which is pretty diverse around here with around five different nationalities represented in the band. They all bond really well.

“It’s been particularly good for the kids who are new to the area – it’s been a great way for them to make friends.

“When they arrive in Wrexham they know nobody and the fact that they have this new skill is something they can take into their school to help them integrate.

“They’ve all come in from the same standpoint – they’ve never played a note before so it’s a very level playing field.

“I’ve watched the band break down cultural barriers and see integration happen because music is an international language.

“Being immersed in music helps you make new friends. It’s about bringing a community together through the medium of music. It makes the world a better place.”

Scott added: “The band started as one group but as it’s grown exponentially because some of them have become better at playing the instruments and when new kids arrive, which they do weekly, we have a group for new beginners.

“They will both be performing at the gala concert and for around 15 of them the concert will be their first ever gig which they’re all really excited about.

“It’s a lovely venue, a fantastic auditorium. It’s going to be a fantastic night with something for everybody.”

Head of Service Heather Powell added: “I’m looking forward to hearing this fantastic youth band and all of our other ensembles at the Gala concert. 

“As a service we are proud of all of our ensembles from beginners to our Higher grade performers.

“We work hard to ensure all of our pupils access high level training,  support and can attend one of our many ensembles in Wrexham.  Well done to all involved “

Free tickets for the concert at the Stiwt at 7pm on Monday, July 15, can be booked on the theatre’s website: https://stiwt.ticketsolve.com/ticketbooth/shows/873660749and for more information about Wrexham Music Cooperative go to https://wrexhammusic.com/

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