Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

The Journey: Exploring Music Education November 18, 2010

I particularly enjoyed developing the FUNomusica Family Concerts as part of my job working for a professional orchestra.  This prompted me to want to learn more about the role of music education within the music industry whether it is in schools, orchestras or part of outreach projects. I wanted to discover what opportunities there were to enter into this field, looking at the role of the music teacher, animateur and administrator.

I volunteered on a number music outreach projects as well as shadowing music practioneers which came to a total of 9 days work experience:

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The Orchestra of the future? October 27, 2010

Filed under: 1B: research,1D: issues — concerttuning @ 1:18 pm
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Southbank Sinfonia is unique in that they are the only full-time, independent Orchestral Academy currently in existence, but it is their open-mindedness that really bowled me over when I met their Chief Executive, Justin Lee.

They are actively paving the way into the future. Not only are they prepared to re-evaluate the role of the orchestra in the 21st century, but they are equipping their players with the ability to survive the modern music market. Justin Lee explained that their aim is not only to generate creative people who are passionate about music, but crucially to develop musicians with the means to communicate this. Consequently, they are trained in public speaking and are expected to talk to the audience at concerts.

The organisation is not tied to the rigidity or risk of a concert series. This gives them the flexibility to explore alternative avenues and take artistic risks, ensuring that there is still a role for the orchestral musician in 20 years time. Prepared to look beyond the autonomy of classical music, Justin Lee relishes the opportunity to collaborate in cross-art performances. This comes from his passion to reveal connections. Classical music is not chronological or closed to the world, though many a conventional concert typically portrays it as such.  Instead, through his programming he hopes to weave musical connections across time or use other art forms to shed light on the music. If they had a niche it’s their use of movement. For example, the musical mirroring in a Bach Canon was demonstrated in concert by two players physically imitating the direction of their musical subjects.

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Once upon a time – Storytelling course October 17, 2010

I undertook a storytelling course run through the WEA to gain some basic skills in storytelling. The course compromised of four two-hour long evening sessions in Stonleigh.

Working with the workshop leader, Janet Dowling, as well as receiving feedback from the rest of the group allowed me to develop my own storytelling style as well as build experience and confidence.

One of the most useful tools I learnt was how to break down the structure of a story and put it into 8 boxes. Most stories follow this pattern of: initial situation, problem, (preparation for quest), try, try, try, transformation and conclusion. I found this helpful as it made the story easier to remember as well as being a template for any stories that I choose to invent.

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Experienced Animateur gives advice September 24, 2010

I interviewed Kate Comberti, an animatuer and freelance violinist, to hear about her career in music education and her perspective on ‘tuning the concert’.

Kate has worked as a freelance orchestral violinist for over fifteen years with numerous British orchestras and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in the early 90s. She studied at the Royal Academy of Music as an Honorary Scholar with the late Manoug Parikian.

Kate was introduced to educational side of music after attending a residential course for orchestral musicians. Though an experienced practitioner, she recently went back to college and graduated with an MMus in Creative Leadership from the Royal College of Music.

Kate’s ideal concert, would be something she could take her 7 year old son to. She is terrified that she could put him off classical music, so she is very selective and careful about what they attend.

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Taking it into his own hands September 16, 2010

Filed under: 1B: research — concerttuning @ 8:25 pm
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I met up with Peter Fender, conductor of Philharmonia Britannica to learn about what inspired his audience development and how he would like to ‘tune the concert’.

Originally a freelance violinist and teacher, he has conducted on and off over the years. However, attending a conducting course 4 years ago inspired him to form his own orchestra, Philharmonia Britannica.

During the set up process, it made him think of all the things he had ever wanted to do. In particular he was interested in mixing different art forms, for example the use of videos with music. It was personal interest rather than audience development that initially spurred him on, as he is also a bit of a Thespian and enjoys chatting to audiences. For example, for a film concert he dressed in a Darth Vader costume to conduct the orchestra!

Thinking about the audience though, he thought that if he combined two art forms, he would have a greater chance of attracting a larger audience. He would be appealing to two sets of people, those who are interested in music and those for example in film. Consequently this broadens the potential audience base. In reality this hasn’t worked quite as well as he hoped, as typically it is the music lovers that attend his concerts. However, he hopes that if someone ever did attend the concert due to being predominately interested in the other art form,they may, in a ideal world, start to also like the music.

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A taster: working with BBC Proms learning Team September 7, 2010

I volunteered over the bank holiday weekend to help with the family orchestra and chorus who performed in Prom 60 on Monday 30 August.

Families from Cornwall and London had been selected to première a BBC commission by Graham Fitzin. The participants ranged from 5 years to 80+ and covered a spectrum of abilities. As well as the performance sounding truly impressive (you can hear it on BBC iplayer), it was very interesting to see how the participants had been taught the music and how it was put together.

There was no music, but instead they learnt numbered themes, which the section leaders indicated using hand signs. For example, theme 1 in the violins was a clenched fist and it was bowed (mimed bowing). Furthermore, there were three conductors as well as the section leaders. This included the conductor for the BBC Concert Orchestra, Keith Lockhart, the workshop leader, Lincoln Abbotts and the composer, Graham Fitkin. The conductors kept time, while the sections leaders told their musicians exactly when to come in, stop and which theme to play. It was a very clever way to build a complex piece with a mixed ability group of musicians.

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BBC Proms Inspire Day August 4, 2010

Filed under: 1B: volunteering/training/shadowing — concerttuning @ 11:01 am
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I volunteered at BBC Proms Inspire day on 2 August. The participants were teenagers who had entered the BBC Proms Young Composer Competition who travel from as far as Scotland to come to the young composers’ day.

I helped on the day by directing and instructing the participants at the BBC studio, participating during the workshop and helping the stage moves during the concert at the Royal College of Music.

The day was led by composer, Stephen and four musicians. When entering the Hall the young composers were thrown amidst an improvised composition where they participated by ringing their mobile phones when they saw a sign with the month of their birthday. This was then followed by an exercise where they sang happy birthday as slow as possible out of sync. This produced some beautiful harmonies.

Then followed a number of composition workshops, introducing them to the workshop musicians as well as composition techniques. They evaluated their work as they went along and all got a chance to participate. The day culminated in an experimental composition called ‘Poldergeese’ with the 100+ young musicians. This was made up of various pieces of material which were then combined and ordered by the conductor. I got to play the tam tam!

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