Company History

The Times

HMDT is one of the very few idealistic, altruistic organisations… which advocates the use of music in human development…. genuine heroes.

HMDT Music was set up in 1995 as Hackney Music Development Trust by Hackney Council as a fundraising arm to support the first Centre for Young Musicians satellite Junior Centre. Early projects included helping young artists with the business side of music making and a ground-breaking project on local housing Estates ‘Opportunities through Music’ which offered a range of DJ, dance, singing, Sax workshops alongside an Elders choir engaging residents in getting to know each other and living together in harmony.

In 1999 HMDT collaborated with English National Opera’s education department The Baylis to support a new community opera ‘Palace in the Sky’ by Jonathan Dove and Nick Dear performed at Hackney Empire. This led to us taking over the Baylis’ Elders Choir, The Hoxton Singers and to commissioning our first children’s opera The Hackney Chronicles by Jonathan Dove and Alasdair Middleton, which introduced stories from four periods of Hackney’s local history. The project enabled two primary school classes to become an opera company stage managing, producing, marketing and performing the piece with a professional team of three artists who worked with them for an intensive month whilst they covered all their curricular work with a specially developed teaching pack linking all subjects to the themes of the piece. Thus HMDT’s unique methodology was born and the project toured to 13 schools over 3 years.

Jonathan Dove Composer

‘I have had great experiences with HMDT. By combining lots of different types of learning within a creative process, they literally as well as metaphorically take children to places they’ve never been. I believe some of their ideas are ground-breaking, and I’ve certainly used them as models in working with other arts organisations.’


Our subsequent projects using a similar structure of commissioning a new work supported by arts embedded learning include:

  • 2004 The World Was All Before Them (Matthew King and Alasdair Middleton) an opera commissioned by Jubilee Primary School based on the stories of how their parents came to Hackney;
  • 2004 On London Fields (Matthew King and Alasdair Middleton); a new community opera performed at Hackney Empire developed through Operaction Hackney, a programme of accredited Skills for Life courses which led to winning The Royal Philharmonic Society’s Award for Education; The performances constitute the tip of the iceberg… nothing but praise – Opera Magazine
  • 2006 Hear Our Voice an international project working with students from Nuremberg, Prague and Hackney creating a response to writings by children living through the Holocaust culminating in a tour of a new music theatre work (Jonathan Dove, Matthew King and Tertia Sefton-Green) and an art exhibition in each country; The value of the project in educational terms is immeasurable The Guardian
  • 2008 Confucius Says (Richard Taylor and Stephen Plaice) celebrating the Beijing Olympics with 9 local schools performing at Hackney Empire and winning a second RPS Award for Education; Artistically strong, educationally ambitious and culturally appropriate, Confucius Says was an inspirational achievement. RPS.
  • 2010 Shadowball (Julian Joseph and Mike Philips) – a jazz opera about the Negro Leagues baseball players banned from the Major Leagues because of their colour which was performed at Mermaid Theatre, Hackney Empire, Sheffield Crucible and Birmingham’s The Drum with local schools in each venue alongside baseball training; Undeniably a thrilling and illuminating venture – The Guardian
  • 2012 The Brown Bomber – a new dance piece about boxer Joe Louis by Julian Joseph choreographed by Sheron Wray performed as part of the Cultural Olympiad at Sadlers Wells Baylis Studio and the Southbank Centre alongside boxing training;
  • 2014 Trench Brothers commemorating ethnic minority soldiers with a touring project of artefacts handling, puppet making, composition and a new music theatre work by Julian Joseph, Richard Taylor and Librettist Tertia Sefton-Green. Imaginative and inspiring – a wonderful synthesis of music, theatre and puppetry engaging and challenging young people. Dr Murrison MP


The instrumental school continued to flourish and in 2012 CYMH (as it became called) became part of our Saturday Programme which also includes The Music Box (Early Years), I Can Sing! Music Theatre, the Julian Joseph Jazz Academy and Music Treehouse (SEND). Led by an excellent team of artist educators it offers a wide range of music provision and performance opportunities.


In 2009 One Spirit our work with young people on the verge of exclusion, was piloted in Feltham Young Offenders Unit. It is now a highly successful programme for young offenders using the arts to rehabilitate which offers projects and mentoring to over 200 young people inside HMYOI Feltham, Cookham Wood, Aylesbury and Highdown both inside and upon release.

Howard, Ex-Offender

‘Without the One Spirit Project I would be back in jail.
Now I would love to be mentoring and do the same
for other people that the project did for me.’


  • 2007-9 PRSF Young Composers Scheme which helped train young composers in the skills of devising music with participating groups and developing the results into commissioned works (a process which has been the basis of almost all our commissions);
  • 2008 Odyssean Variations was our first work for CYMH forces and a soloist which saw internationally acclaimed cellist Natalie Clein performing with our groups at LSO St Luke’s leading to her becoming our first Patron;
  • 2005 Music Box – our Early Years project initiated several music books and resources for under 5s including the delightful music storybook An Invite from the Queen narrated by Griff Rhys Jones;
  • 2013 – ongoing Partnership with Creative Education Trust to develop a range of projects for their Academies in the Midlands and Norfolk;
  • 2012 establishing the Julian Joseph Jazz Academy and Julian becoming a Patron;
  • 2016 -17 TIME (testing impact measuring effect) research project to develop arts-embedded cross-curricular learning.

In 2012, we became independent from Hackney and expanded our work nationally across the country, rebranding ourselves as HMDT Music to reflect this change and in 2013, moving to our current office in Enfield.

Opera Magazine

HMDT is deservedly touted as
one of the country’s
exemplary arts education outfits.