Two Birmingham music teachers who went ’above and beyond’ the call of duty and whose music making touched thousands of children during the pandemic, have been recognised nationally for their work.

Charlotte Buxton, Deputy Head of Music Service and Head of Ensembles at Birmingham charity Services For Education received the overall ‘Goldstars’ award at the prestigious National Music and Drama Education Awards – announced in London. Her colleague, Naomi Stevenson, a brass and piano teacher, was highly commended for her work.

Charlotte and Naomi were the only two of six finalists in the national Goldstars Award to be personally honoured in the award that recognised teachers who demonstrated compassion, flair, and creativity during the pandemic.

Speaking after the awards were announced, Services For Education Chief Executive Sharon Bell, said:  “This is an outstanding achievement and is a great tribute to two members of staff – and their colleagues - who delivered so much despite adversity. I am proud of them and all of our 250 staff who did so much to support Birmingham children during the pandemic.” Charlotte was praised for her creation of Services For Educations’ Virtual Youth Proms Festival: four nights of concerts, delivered live, weaving together individual performances from ensemble members performing in their own homes presented on consecutive evenings in July via the web.

A huge team effort also enabled the concerts to be complemented by four daytime programmes for children at school and in their own homes, including masterclasses in woodwind, brass, and percussion. Amongst the celebrities that she engaged were violinist Nicola Benedetti, saxophonist Jess Gillam, Birmingham Conservatoire principal Julian Lloyd-Webber and the Royal Marines.

The judges said Charlotte had shown “formidable impact and reach. The judges were impressed with the scope of her ambition and vision and remarked on an amazing achievement in challenging times.” Naomi was highly commended for her extraordinary energy delivering more than 20 hours of online music lessons to children each week during lockdown – despite extreme family demands.

Five years ago, her husband Mark was diagnosed with cancer and has had to self-isolate at home throughout the pandemic. Despite this and other family commitments, including looking after their two-years old son, Thomas – who sometimes made appearances in online lessons – she continued to ensure every young musician received normal lessons. When regulations allowed, Naomi has also delivered music training in schools one-to-one and in small socially distanced groups.

Additionally, Services For Education Music Online Educational Resource was declared overall winner in ‘Outstanding Music Education Resource’ for its pioneering Music Online Educational Resource – a totally new online platform developed in-house during the pandemic. Created wholly during the pandemic, the resource is believed to be the largest online music education in the country with 800-plus video tutorials and 380 hours of tuition.

The online portal required 540 hours of recording undertaken by 197 Birmingham music teachers – and 144 hours of editing. The online service was offered to 410 schools in Birmingham with 229 schools subscribing in the first two weeks alone. It is now thought to be the largest resource of its type in the UK.

Sharon said: “The awards are recognition of how our Birmingham-focused charity has been so supportive of so many thousands of children in the city during the pandemic. All those working in education, whether in the front-line as teachers, delivering training courses or in supporting functions, deserve the highest praise for continuing to deliver in challenging situations. To my mind, every one of them is a winner.”

Stuart Birnie, Head of Music Service at Services For Education, said he could not be more proud. “The commitment of all our music teachers are encapsulated in these honours for two hard-working members of our team,” he said.

“This has been an extraordinarily tough time for teachers, schools and parents. At the start of the pandemic, we made a commitment to ensure that no school or child would go unsupported. Our teachers and support staff have worked incredibly hard and gone way beyond requirements and expectations. These award wins are recognition of their resilience, imagination and determination to continue supporting children with their music tuition.”

The National Music and Drama Education Awards, now in their ninth year, celebrate the extraordinary contribution made by professionals, companies, charities, schools, and other organisations to the lives of others through music and drama. Finalists in the 2021 awards were chosen by a prominent panel of expert judges with the winners announced live at an online awards ceremony by Alexander Armstrong.