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Avril Dankworth dies aged 90

12 March 2013

Avril Dankworth, the innovative and inspirational music educator best known for founding the Avril Dankworth Children’s Music Camps – now the National Youth Music Camps – has died aged 90.

Sister to jazz musician John Dankworth, Avril was born in Southend-on-Sea in Essex in 1922 and educated at Walthamstow High School, Hockerill Teacher Training College, the Royal College of Music and Trinity College of Music. She worked first as a singer and accompanist before teaching in various London schools and colleges and travelling the world lecturing, training teachers and adjudicating. The author of several books, including the bestselling Make Music Fun, she also wrote a history of jazz and was instrumental in introducing the idiom into the school music curriculum.

In 1970, John Dankworth and his wife Cleo Laine bought the Old Rectory in Wavendon, Milton Keynes, with the idea of turning the stable block into a theatre. Avril saw the field at the back of the stables and realised she could fulfil her dream of setting up an annual music children’s music camp. From the start, her camps enabled anyone aged seven to 17 to spend a week under canvas and make music. There was no minimum entry grade, and all instruments and styles of music were welcome – an ethos continued today at the National Youth Music Camps, which still take place at Wavendon Stables.

In 1990 Avril was awarded an honorary doctorate for services to music education. ‘Avril enthusued generations of teachers and students with her fun approach to music education,’ said Sarah Watts, current director of the National Youth Music Camps. ‘The music camps she established have inspired thousands and often changed lives.’

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