Music for Youth was founded in 1970, with the aim of providing young people with an opportunity to perform live in a supportive and non-competitive environment, regardless of their ability. The first event staged was the National Festival, which took place on 10 and 11 July 1971 at the Lyceum on The Strand.
Following on from its success plans then developed to introduce a nationwide series of Regional Festivals to underpin the whole Music for Youth programme. This open access approach resulted in a massive increase in entries for the second National Festival, held at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon in 1972. In 1981 the National Festival moved to London's South Bank Centre and remained there until 2005 when the Festival moved to Birmingham.
The first Schools Prom was held in November 1975 at the Royal Albert Hall, where the concerts still take place today. Throughout the years there have been many guest performers including John Dankworth, Ronnie Scott, Don Lusher, Humphrey Littleton, Andrew Lloyd Webber, John Williams, Rick Wakeman, Tim Rice, Julian Lloyd Webber, Kenny Baker and Malcolm Arnold. Past performers include Evelyn Glennie, Nigel Kennedy, Michael Collins, Jason Yarde, Thomas Adès, Simone Rebello, John Harle, Gary Barlow, Ian Belton and Matthew Barley.