Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

The Orchestra of the future? October 27, 2010

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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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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

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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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Interview with an animateur, Sam Glazer August 4, 2010

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I met up with Sam Glazer after a schools project to hear about his career and his opinion on tuning the concert.

After an English degree he went into marketing and PR. However, after a musician training project with the ASMF in Colchester he decided to undertake a career change to become a musician and animateur. He held an apprenticeship at Spitalfields Music and trained on the job working for institutions such as Wigmore Hall and Glynbourne. He says he is very happy with this decision to change career as he has gained confidence in the process as well as it being a journey of discovery.

Sam explained that what he does is not teaching nor is it his aim is to bring classical music to people but rather to ‘make music with people’. Regardless of technical ability and personality, music can be a meeting point as it is such a collaborative art form.

It was suggested that classical music should look outside itself and be open to influence from folk and art. This was the case in the past for composers such as Dvorak and Liszt but today classical music has become very fixed, as we play the same repertoire. Sam explained that you cannot have a dialogue on one person’s terms but it is necessary to talk to others. This is the case with classical music.

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Future Career plans… August 3, 2010

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Meeting professionals in a variety of fields in the music industry has made me question where I would like my own career to take me.

The most enjoyable part of my current job is organising the family concerts and events. As well as the organisational side, I like the interaction with the children as well as demystifying music and making it fun.

Consequently, I am considering whether to move out from my administrative role down the animateur/workshop or music teacher route. In an ideal world, I would like to use animateur techniques in a more stable position within a school or organisation. I have started researching career options and found musicleaders website very helpful as well as a document published in 2004 called Teaching Music, which sets out all the career options.

I spoke to my Arts Advisor, Philippa who suggested the following plan of action:

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Administrator turning Animateur July 27, 2010

I met Becky on 15 July 2010 to ask her some questions about her career and her view on Tuning the Concert.

She had previously had lots of teaching and workshop experience before working at the BBC Proms as learning and audience development administrator which then led onto her job of Learning Assistant at BBC Symphony Orchestra. Inspiringly, she is currently taking a part-time one day a week course at Goldsmiths to train as an animateur, which she hopes will help her career development.

When asked how successful music outreach is at introducing people to classical music and to the concert, she explained that is the process that participants go through is equally as important as inspring them to attend a concert.

However, there are a number of scheme and events to help introduce new-comers to the concert, such as the Out and About Prom at Westfield (reviewed here) and family introductions at the Proms as well as free Proms. Interestingly, her opinion has changed favourably about the Westfield event though crucially it presents serious music and maintains its quality, though in an alternative venue.

Amazingly, they managed to get 100 children to attend a concert where Stockhausen was programmed, as they were involved in the pre-concert performance. As they had to be there anyway, it was easier to get the families to attend the concert even though the programme was rather hard-core. It was a valuable lesson for the children in the way they formed an opinion of Stockhausen’s music, even if they didn’t choose to hear it again.

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Creative learning with Britten Sinfonia July 23, 2010

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I met up with Sophie Dunn on the 16 July at the British Library to hear about her career and her current job as a Creative Learning manager.

How did you get where you are today?

Sophie trained as a music teacher and taught for three years before moving on as an intern at the Orchestra of St John’s orchestra and then later a position with City of London Sinfonia for 5 years. She is currently working for Britten Sinfonia, who she has been with for 3 1/2 years.

Do you think the classical concert can reach a wider audience?

Sophie explained that in the office at Britten Sinfonia they had recently been re-thinking their goals. To paraphrase, their three main aims are:

  1. Broaden audience awareness by better informing them about the repertoire
  2. Develop talent
  3. Involved guest artists in community work giving everyone access to the stars

Many of these aims help to encourage greater accessibility to classical music and hopefully will introduce new people to their work. This also extends to putting the members of staff in the public eye and subsequently making the whole orchestra feel more approachable.

Do you reach alternative audiences?

Britten Sinfonia is known for being innovative for example by crossing different genres and playing in a variety of setting not commonly associated with classical music. For example they perform at the:

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