Julia Bentley-Dawkes, founder of Concertini

Concertini was set up in 2015 to provide an opportunity for families with young children to go and see really great quality Grown-Up Live Music, to introduce them to all sorts of different styles of live music and musical instruments and to inspire them to take up a musical instrument or join a choir themselves!

Each ‘Concertini’ features a different live musician or ensemble and is produced in a relaxed and enjoyable way. With music designed to appeal to both children and adults, these concerts are joyous, inspiring and never dumbed down. Currently scheduled to take place in venues and schools throughout the Thames Valley concerts last under an hour and are followed by the chance to meet the musicians and their instruments and even have a go! Do take a moment to check out the Concertini website or follow on Facebook where you can find up to date photos, videos and information about upcoming Concertinis.

Tell me about you, your background?

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a musical family and was inspired to learn the flute at an early age. After graduating from music college I moved back to cookham where I set up a teaching practice from my home in Station Road. I also started working for Dawkes Music in Maidenhead where I met my husband Jon.

How long has Concertini been going now and how has it grown over the last 3 of years?

Concertini was launched as part of the Cookham Festival in May 2015 and our early concerts took place at Cookham Rise Methodist Church. We still return every year for our annual Christmas Concertini with the Cantorum choir but the majority of our concerts take place at Norden Farm in Maidenhead as well as local schools and nurseries.

How did the idea of Concertini come about?

I took my children to lots of fabulous baby and toddler classes when they were little but I was frustrated by the lack of real instruments and proper ‘grown-up’ music. I really wanted to produce something that grown-ups could enjoy just as much as the children.

What prompted you to decide to take it that bit further and start your business?

I was overwhelmed by the reaction from our first concert and as I’ve always worked for myself it seemed like a no brainer.

What do you enjoy the most? What is the most challenging aspect?

Besides from speaking in public I honestly enjoy every part of my job. My favourite moments are watching how the children react to the music; some like to move around and dance, some like to sing, some like to chill out on our bean bags and even fall asleep. But it’s all sinking in and it’s an experience that will hopefully stay with them for a lifetime.

What are your goals for the future of Concertini?

Over the next few years our goal is to produce Concertinis in more and more venues and organisations throughout the Thames Valley. We’re also hoping to make an appearance at a few family friendly Music Festivals, organise a large scale Charity Concertini and eventually expand across the UK through franchising.

What is your favourite piece of music?

This is such a difficult question! It depends on what kind of mood I’m in.

Where do you get your inspiration for concerts?

We try to get out to hear as much live music as possible and I’ve got a lot of inspiration from the Music Festivals we’ve been to over the years.

We also listen to a really eclectic mix of music at home and I often ask my girls whether they think a certain style of music will go down well at a Concertini.

What can we look forward to in the New Year?

In addition to our New Years Concertini on the 12th January we are delighted to announce our first season of Relaxed Concerts at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Maidenhead. These specially adapted concerts are aimed at families who may find going to a concert challenging, in particular parents with babies and toddlers or children with SEND. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign we have been able to book some of the Thames Valleys top musicians and we’ll be introducing a variety of styles from Bluegrass to Gospel. We’re particularly excited about our Beatles Sing-a-long in April.

Why is music so important for young children?

All children are born with a natural connection to music and study after study has shown that music helps learning in other areas. Not only does listening to or playing music provide a total brain work out it also develops sensitivity, discipline, and endurance and the earlier we introduce this the better!

You can experience Concertini for yourself on one of these toe-tapping dates.

Tuesday 19th February 11.30am - Half Term Bluegrass Concertini ‘Music to Make you Smile’

Sunday 31st March 11.30am - Mothers’ Day Gospel Concertini ‘Music to Inspire You’

Tuesday April 16th 11.30 - Easter Holidays Sing-along Concertini ‘Music to Sing-along To’