Professional support for music in Gwent schools is the best in Britain, according to one of the world’s leading competition judges.

Eric Tebbett said the Gwent Music Support Service, which sends travelling tutors into schools and prepares the area's youth orchestras, bands and choirs for public appearances, was 'unbelievable'.

At Cwmbran in March he judged regional finals of the national Music For Youth Festival, which takes place in Birmingham next month.

As a result, fifteen Gwent musical ensembles organised by the service will be performing at Birmingham‘s Symphony Hall, as well as two more run independently by Caerleon and Bassaleg comprehensive schools.

"It was staggering at Cwmbran to see group after group giving amazing performances at all levels,” said Mr Tebbett. “The breadth of activities was superb.

Gwent’s music support service is the pace-setter for all others in the UK. It's unique."

The service's staff, maintained by the area’s local councils, teach students one-to-one as well as organising large ensembles drawn from the best school musicians in Torfaen, Newport, Monmouthshire and Blaenau Gwent.

This is in addition to the work of the schools’ own music staff.

"If all other UK music support services were like Gwent's, the UK would be untouchable in the sphere of music education," said Mr Tebbett, who travels the world as a performer, conductor, examiner and adjudicator. He’s an honorary fellow of Trinity College of Music, London.

Alun F. Williams, the head of the Gwent support team, said: “We are delighted with the high achievements reached consistently by our young people.

It’s a result of ensuring that standards of teaching and learning have risen through planning, training and quality recruitment.

“These achievements are only the tip of a very wide pyramid which offers all children the chance to take part. The continued support of the councils, schools and head-teachers, parents and students themselves make those achievements possible”.

Gwent has previously held the record for sending more musicians to the annual youth festival than any other local authority area. That includes classical, jazz and pop.

A new rock-and-pop service called Jampod was opened by local band Goldie Lookin’ Chain in a collaboration with Duffryn High School, Newport.

The Newport-based support service currently teaches over 13,000 students directly at group or individual lessons. It also runs six regional music centres for out-of-school music-making.

Each year the team presents a showcase of schools music at St David's Hall, Cardiff, the only place in the area big enough to accommodate the huge number of participating youngsters and their legions of supporters. This year’s is on July 4.

Mr Tebbett's remarks were made in the context of savage cuts in schools music provision in the rest of the UK. Support service staff in his home area of Bedfordshire have all been made redundant.

But he said the Gwent team were themselves examples for young people to follow. They expected high standards and were able to motivate young musicians. The musical skills they were teaching were also life skills.

“Society could be transformed if all youngsters were involved in a music service like Gwent‘s,” he said. “They wouldn't have time for anything else. Gwent is the role model for all in Britain to follow.”