Starting at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Since my last post on Disability Arts Online (DAO) last October, things have progressed far beyond anything I could have   imagined.  Since you’re reading this, you might have already noticed the publicity surrounding Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s (the BSO) Change Makers project and that I am now training there to develop my conducting.  This is the first of many blog entries about my time with the BSO…

It all started last April when Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra called for expressions of interest from disabled artist with whom to apply to the Arts Council’s Change Makers fund.  At the time, I was busy preparing the Conducting Development Week , and I kept umming and erring as to whether I had enough time and energy to respond to the BSO’s call.  The call for expressions of interest repeatedly appeared in various newsletters and websites, such as DAO, almost as if it was asking me for a response.

Luckily, I took note of the frequency and gingerly e-mailed in my cover letter and CV into the BSO on 10th April 2016 with a proposal for a tailored conducting traineeship.  The decision to respond was one of the best decisions I have made yet. I was invited to an interview via Skype with a panel of three  to discuss a more focussed idea around which the traineeship may be framed ;based on a previous project conceptI was researching a few years ago. The interview was a success, leading to the BSO and I making a successful funding bid to the Change Makers fund.  On 28th September, the Arts Council granted the funding, and I started my traineeship on 1st June.  Details can be found on the BSO Change Makers page.

Photo of James in a meeting at the BSO

James in a meeting at the BSO

Over the last few weeks since my start date, meeting the many lovely people at the BSO has been my main priority and will continue to do so for the sheer number of different roles within the company.  This has been a part of my induction process during which I continue to get a feeling of the internal culture and the inner workings of the BSO.  Knowing about the breadth of roles and workloads is proving useful for developing my role and way(s) of working in the best way possible with others.

As part of my induction process, I was obligated(!) to participate in a team building exercise at the gelato bar situated opposite the Lighthouse in Poole, in which the BSO is based. Obviously, this was one of the more stressful tasks I’ve done as a part of my role at the BSO so far, but with a bit of teamwork, we got through it!  Choosing the right flavour from the vast selection of different ice creams and sorbets was hard work, a dilemma which I shared with my new colleagues.  Through this shared experience, we all sought validation and comfort from each other!

Another highlight of my starting at the BSO was my slanting desk! During the first week of having my electric height adjustable desk, one of my colleagues came in the morning only to find my desk being lop-sided!  Somebody obviously decided to have some fun and frolics with the height adjustment feature; affixing the left-side leg at a height whilst continuing to lower the right-hand-side.  This created a slanted feel to the area surrounding the desk, bringing memories of James’ family home from Tim Burton’s rendition of James and the Giant Peach to the fore.  Whoever created this slanted effect did so with such diligence and accuracy, achieving a gradient large enough for it to be noticeable whilst still maintaining a degree of “levelness” for my PC and monitor to stay safely upon the surface of the desk.

So, whoever you are – Slanty Desk Person – I take my hat off to you!  I genuinely mean that for it provided an extra talking point which I took full advantage of as I broke the ice with the many people I met that day.  I felt sorry for my assistant that day who repeated everything I said because I lost count of how many times I said the phrase “…it adds character” whilst remarking on the desk during conversations with different people.

The slanty desk situation was rectified a week later with full credit to the operations and IT people at the BSO who, like everyone else here, work hard to work as effectively as possible to get things done.

I am now sinking my teeth into my role and feel as if I have landed something quite special!  My team is really nice and excited about what is to come.  My attention is now turning to converting the project’s work plan into reality, and to start this journey into uncharted territory.  I look forward to keeping you updated!

James Rose
BSO Change Maker / Conductor

A thought whilst cycling

Hugh Nankivell – BSO Participate Associate

I recently finished a BSO Associates project in Torbay. For this project I travelled to all my sessions and planning meetings by bike. I didn’t have to take many instruments or much equipment (at most a melodica, a laptop, a shaky egg, a notebook and some lunch) and the school I was working in was nearby. It felt very good being able to cycle to the sessions. I was energising myself and being a rare role model for musicians on bikes.

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I remember when I was working with Opera North in Yorkshire there was a member of the orchestra who travelled to most concerts and workshops by bike, with his viola on his back. He was unusual, but I have often thought of him in the years since.

I felt a sense of relief at not having to take a whole load of equipment. When I am working in care homes or with early years I usually need to take in a keyboard, an accordion, a guitar, a box of percussion, some ukuleles, a white-board, my laptop, pens, roll of paper etc etc… This means that even if the session is nearby I cannot travel by foot or bike, but must go by private motorised transport. I accept that at times this is (probably) inevitable.

I recently had a meeting with Ben Twist who works for Creative Carbon Scotland, he was telling me about the changes in thinking he is encouraging with arts organisations in Scotland to do with their carbon footprints. Some organisations are better at coping with (and even anticipating change) and others much less good. How does an organisation that has a massive infrastructure (a symphony orchestra, a ballet or opera company) actually think about reducing its carbon use when it is wedded to a model that is massively consumptive of fossil fuels and is based on a repertoire and practise that is based on a model of practise from previous centuries?

With the BSO we are starting to think about new models and the Associate Scheme is one such. The six of us are spread out across the region and not based at a central depot (Bournemouth/Poole) and so the BSO can now access the communities of the SW more effectively even though we still may need to travel distances, usually by private transport. The recent ABO conference hosted by the BSO entitled ‘Disruption’ was a real provocation towards exploring what the Symphony orchestra can be in the future (where there are women conductors, more BME and disabled performers) and another part of this should could be, how do we plan for a constantly changing world.

The BSO is also starting to look at these issues with the SW virtual orchestra, and the recent appointment of James Rose as new ‘Change Maker’. So this is the start of a journey to a truly inclusive orchestra to which we travel as participants and audience by bike or public transport or visit virtually, where the music we play is affected by the world we live in and is able to change and reflect this.

Trinity Laban students Side by Side with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Earlier in January this year, the BSO was delighted to announce the Orchestra’s new long-term partnership with Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. This collaboration sees the two organisations work closely together to identify talented and committed young musicians and composers from communities currently under-represented in the profession.

The BSO and Trinity Laban have also paired up for the unique Side by Side series, in which Trinity Laban students work alongside professional musicians. Principal BSO players have recently performed alongside and are offering mentorship to Trinity Laban students. Percussionist and Trinity Laban student Craig Lutton, who was a part of this year’s series, shares his experience of the project so far.


Photo Credit: Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra

“I gained so much from the experience working Side by Side with the professionals. Sacha Johnson was leading the sectional – he was on bass drum and I was on cymbals – and when we were playing together it was really great, it sent shivers down my spine. The two day event ended with a sold out concert at Blackheath Halls which was really successful. I’m coming to the end of my studies and orchestral music is primarily what I want to do, so to learn from Sacha and play side by side with him in a concert was really special.

The experience was intense because you’ve only got around 8 hours of rehearsal and then it’s the concert – it’s just like being in a professional working environment. You’ve got limited rehearsal time and you’ve got to nail it straight away. It was a nervous excitement I was having, with Sacha beside me, literally side by side, it was a step closer to reaching my dream of being an orchestral musician.”

During a rehearsal’s lunch break, Craig was lucky enough to receive an impromptu cymbal lesson from Sacha Johnson.

“Sacha said that when you go into the profession this is what most of you would play in the main orchestras, so he said over the lunch break he’d spend half an hour teaching me and I thought ‘this is fantastic’. I was learning from a true professional, because he’s played with all of the London orchestras and toured the world. He taught me so many different techniques and sounds, it was really beneficial. I could then put that into the afternoon rehearsal and the evening concert. He was really digging deep into how I could make my playing better. He gave me a bit of a career talk as well which was really inspiring to hear. It was a really poignant moment.”


Photo Credit: Brian Furner

Craig spoke about his time studying at Trinity Laban:

“It’s been very special. I’ve had lots of amazing performance opportunities and I’m so glad I moved to London from Northern Ireland. There’s so many opportunities, London’s the centre of the universe for music! It’s been incredible and I’ve met so many people, I’ve made friends for life and made some great contacts. The Side by Side concert at Blackheath Halls with the BSO was a really special moment and I’ve had so many others.

My current teacher Michael Doran coached me in the Ulster Youth Orchestra in 2009 – 2013 which is where I first met him. He encouraged me to audition for Trinity Laban and I knew straight away in 2009 that I wanted to study under him. Here I am now having nearly finished four years of his beneficial tuition!

In my second year, Michael got me in for two performances of La Boheme playing with the ENO and once again in third year – that was special and probably a highlight from my time at Trinity Laban. It was at the London Coliseum, and being in the pit playing the cymbals was really special. I remember the moment just as the curtain came down for the interval and I was standing on stage playing the side drum. It was amazing – I was absolutely buzzing marching out on stage. There were about 2,000 people watching, it was insane! I had my dad in the audience for the first night so that was great, because I’d never really thought I’d make my professional debut in an orchestra. When I was younger it was always the dream, so for it to actually come true made it one of the best nights of my life.

The principal percussionist in the BSO is Matt King, who also studied at Trinity Laban. Sacha was telling me about him and it was really inspirational to hear about people with professional jobs in orchestras – principal jobs – who have studied at Trinity Laban. There’s a lot of them in the professional world and that’s another one of the reasons why I chose to study here.

I did another Side by Side series with the BBC Concert Orchestra. We had Alistair Malloy, their principle percussionist, who was playing beside me again. I could use things that I’d learnt from Sacha in January and bring it into that performance. I’d never really worked on cymbals until the lesson with Sacha, he said ‘if you want to be a professional percussionist you’ve got to nail this’, so I thought right, this is my moment. I then stuck at it for 2 months and it’s really paid off.”

Craig Lutton interviewed by Alice White; originally posted on the Trinity Laban website

To find out more about Craig visit his website:

Cornwall Residency round-up: Day 7 – 120 musicians take on Dvořák in a day

As the culmination of the BSO’s most extensive Cornwall Residency to date, the Truro Rusties saw local amateur musicians of all ages come together to learn, rehearse and perform Dvořák’s Symphony No.8 alongside the BSO, in just one day!

The BSO’s 2017 Cornwall Residency has seen the Orchestra visit 60 different locations across the county to deliver 7 days of musical activities including over 50 school visits, 3 ensemble concerts, 2 Tea Dances, a full symphonic concert and, on the final day, the BSO Rusties ‘Symphony in a Day’ project. As part of BSO Participate’s Resonate strand of work promoting social inclusion and cohesion within communities, the BSO Rusties enable amateur musicians of all ages and abilities to benefit from specialist coaching from BSO musicians, professional instruction from a BSO conductor and the opportunity to perform alongside the full Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in concert, all in a friendly and relaxed environment.

Taking place at Truro School, the Truro Rusties project invited local amateur musicians from across Cornwall and beyond to take on the musical challenge of performing Dvořák’s Symphony No.8 alongside the BSO’s musicians, with just a day to learn this challenging but lyrical work. 120 musicians took part in the event, making it the largest Rusties held in Cornwall to date, with participants coming from as far away as North Somerset and Dorset.


The 120-strong BSO Truro Rusties

The day began with sectional rehearsals led by BSO musicians, with the whole orchestra coming together in the afternoon for a tutti rehearsal led by Victor Aviat, BSO Leverhulme Young Conductor in Association. Dvořák’s Symphony No.8 was composed in 1889 and is a bright and lively piece filled with the joy the composer felt at being alive in a world full of natural wonders, making it the perfect piece to perform in the midst of springtime. The finale to the day was the concert performance alongside BSO musicians to an audience of family and friends, showcasing the hard work of everyone involved and providing an unforgettable end to the event. Feedback from the day showed how much the Truro Rusties was enjoyed by those who attended and it was a pleasure for the BSO’s musicians to work with such enthusiastic participants:

“A fantastic opportunity – this is the third time I have taken part in a ‘Rusties’ day and hope to do so again. An incredible experience!”

“It was incredible and I learnt so much and played much better than I had ever played before. So thank you so much for the amazing experience. I will never forget it, thank you!”

“It was so thrilling!! I learnt more in five hours than I have in five years!”


BSO Leverhulme Young Conductor in Association, Victor Aviat (Photo Credit: Harald Hoffmann)

As the Orchestra for the South and South West, the BSO has a unique remit covering 10,000 square miles including the Isles of Scilly and this year’s Cornwall Residency enabled the Orchestra to engage with even the most remote communities in the region, delivered by BSO Participate. A core part of the BSO’s mission is its work beyond the concert hall and BSO Participate works to offer people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to experience the power of music through five specially tailored strands of work.

The Residency would not have been possible without the backing of partners and funders and the BSO would like to thank the following organisations for their substantial support:

Coral Samuel Trust

D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust

Norman Family Charitable Trust


Cornwall Music Education Hub

Cornwall Music Service trust

Carn to Cove

Arts Council England

A special thank you also goes to Classic FM, for their support of the BSO’s Cornwall Residency by providing excellent coverage of the week’s events on-air and via their social media channels. As Classic FM’s Orchestra in the South of England, the BSO’s partnership with the broadcaster enables the Orchestra’s world-class music-making to reach even wider audiences, through outstanding coverage on digital and FM radio as well as online. Finally, of course, a very big thank you to all the participants, musicians, schools and guests who made the residency the resounding success it was.

The BSO is already looking forward to its next Cornwall Residency and in the meantime, schools in the county will be able to engage with the thrill of live orchestral performance with the next of the BSO’s Schools Concerts on Wednesday 24 May, which will be live-streamed from Lighthouse, Poole, enabling schoolchildren unable to attend to participate virtually instead. This year’s theme is ‘Secrets and Codes’ with pieces specially composed for the children to learn by award-winning composer James Redwood.

Look out for a short film being produced about the residency on the BSO Participate page, coming soon!

Cornwall Residency round-up: Day 6 – creative workshops, cakes and a cello concerto

Day 6 saw the BSO’s musicians and Associates visit locations as diverse as the rural hamlet of Gwinear and Truro, Cornwall’s only city, with an exciting line-up of workshops and community events including a BSO Tea Dance and a full symphonic concert with guest soloist Guy Johnston.

As the BSO’s 2017 Cornwall Residency reached its penultimate day, there was no change in the pace as the programme of music-making activities continued across the county. With 7 events planned on Day 6, it was another busy day for the BSO Participate Team and the BSO’s musicians and Associates, doing the part of their job they love best – inspiring local communities with music.

BSO Bash started the day’s activities in the north of the county with a workshop visit to Altarnun Primary School. The ensemble worked with 28 children in Years 4, 5 and 6 exploring the sounds and techniques of a variety of handheld percussion instruments including maracas, boomwackers and xylophones. Meanwhile in the rural hamlet of Marshgate, BSO Associate Matt Harrison led a creative workshop with children in Years 5 and 6 at Otterham Community Primary School, enabling all musical abilities to join in and have fun with different instruments and try out composing a new piece of music as a group.

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Otterham Community Primary School making music with BSO Associate Matt Harrison

The BSO’s residency aims to engage people of all ages and backgrounds with the joy of music-making and is delivered by three of BSO Participate’s five distinct strands of activity. Blast brings the professional orchestra to 5 – 18 year olds through a wide range of schools visits, concerts and workshops, developing new and exciting ways to bring classical music alive for schoolchildren across the region by working in partnership with schools and Music Education Hubs. In addition to the day’s primary school visits, BSO Associate Patrick Bailey visited Community School on the Cornwall/Devon border and worked with Year 10 students to compose a piece as part of their GCSE Music studies. The completed piece was titled ‘Buzz’ and the students also made a recording of their work with Patrick.

BSO Associate Patrick Bailey (with accordian) and the students at

BSO Participate’s Boost strand of work focusses on health and well-being through music, making music accessible to all in the community including older people and those in full-time care and healthcare settings. As part of this year’s residency, Boost held two BSO Tea Dances in rural communities, enabling people in more isolated areas the opportunity to engage with live music-making, meet new friends and enjoy the chance to dance with like-minded people whilst enjoying tea, coffee and cakes. Day 5 had seen a Tea Dance held in the small fishing village of St Mawes, whilst on Day 6, a Tea Dance was held in the small west Cornwall village of Gwinear, overlooking the Angarrack valley. Held in association with Carn to Cove, Cornwall’s performing arts scheme for rural communities, the Tea Dances provided a fun afternoon of dance and music in a warm, friendly environment. The BSO Teatime Band performed a selection of dance floor classics including vintage Sinatra, Gershwin and Mancini to participants at the village’s Hall for Gwinear, where the village committee had made the BSO’s musicians and Participate Team members feel very welcome with a wonderful assortment of homemade cakes and beautiful bunting.


The beautifully decorated village hall at Gwinear

Further creative workshops followed in the afternoon and the finale to the events of Day 6 was a symphonic concert with the full BSO at Hall for Cornwall in Truro, Cornwall’s only city. Classical Brit Award-winning cellist Guy Johnston joined the Orchestra and guest conductor Michael Seal in a stunning performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, in a programme which also featured Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and Sibelius’s Symphony No.2.

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Guy Johnston (Photo Credit: Kaupo Kikkas)

Catch up on all the events of the BSO’s 2017 Cornwall Residency by visiting the updates page

Cornwall Residency round-up: Day 5 – BSO musicians up for adoption and the Orchestra does the splits

In another packed schedule of workshops, performances and visits, Day 5 of the BSO’s Cornwall Residency saw two of the BSO’s musicians adopted by local primary schools and the Orchestra’s ensembles delight audiences in North Cornwall with three intimate performances.


The BSO arrive in Perranporth

As the BSO’s 2017 Cornwall Residency passes the halfway point, the Orchestra has already engaged over 1,500 children in local schools with its music and visited communities across the region, ranging from Bude in the north to as far south as the Isles of Scilly. Day 5 saw the BSO continue its extensive programme of music-making workshops and schools visits, which included two of its musicians being ‘adopted’ by local primary schools.


Harrowbarrow Primary School ‘adopts’ BSO Principal Tuba Andi Cresci

The Adopt a Musician project enables schools to ‘adopt’ a BSO musician for a day and get to hear them perform, learn more about their instrument and take part in workshops. BSO Principal Tuba Andy Cresci ventured into the beautiful Tamar Valley to visit Harrowbarrow Primary School where 33 children were treated to a very rare hosepipe and didgeridoo duet! The other BSO musician up for adoption was BSO Second Violin Vicky Berry, who visited Dobwalls Primary School near Liskeard. The children were entranced by her beautiful performance of Massenet’s Meditation from Thaïs and were able to ask lots of questions about her violin. Besides providing an exciting opportunity to meet an orchestral musician and see and hear their instrument up close, the project also aims to inspire creativity and interest in orchestral music and ensemble performance.


Dobwalls Primary School with their ‘adopted’ musician, BSO Second Violin, Vicky Berry

The BSO’s Blast schools visits continued to inspire local schoolchildren with creative workshops and special private performances in their own school halls from the BSO’s world-class musicians. Highlights included St Merryn School’s energetic performance of their Egyptian-themed composition ‘Tutenkhamoooooooon!’ with BSO Associate Matt Harrison; more lively sessions with BSO Bash, who visited Fourlanesend School and Menheniot Primary School; and creative workshops with experimental composer Nomura at Pennoweth Primary School and Mithian School.


BSO Associate Matt Harrison and the children of St Merryn’s School

In the evening, the BSO did the splits and divided into the three main families of the orchestra to perform as Brass, Strings and Wind ensembles, enabling the Orchestra to reach communities without a venue large enough to host a full symphony orchestra. The peaceful rural community of St. Endellion were treated to the big sound of BSO Brass who performed a programme including works by Byrd, Sondheim and Gabrieli. The ensemble was also joined by 5 young local brass players who performed side by side with the BSO musicians, in collaboration with Cornwall Music Service Trust.


BSO Brass performing in St. Endellion, joined by 5 local young brass players

The beautiful seaside town of Perranporth was treated to a concert of music reflecting the wonderful diversity of the classical string repertoire by the BSO Strings, conducted by BSO Leverhulme Young Conductor in Association, Victor Aviat, and featured works including Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings and Grieg’s Holberg Suite. Popular guest conductor Frank Zielhorst, meanwhile, was in the historic market town of Launceston with the BSO Winds, who performed a programme of Hummel, Jacobs and Dvořák to a packed hall.


Launceston Town Hall, the venue for the BSO Winds concert

The concerts were in association with Carn to Cove, Cornwall’s performing arts scheme for rural communities and form a key part of the BSO’s Cornwall Residency, ensuring the Orchestra reaches those communities who, due to their location and small size, would otherwise miss out on engaging with live orchestral music-making by professional musicians.
To keep up to date with the BSO’s activities as part of the Cornwall Residency, please visit the live updates page

Cornwall Residency round-up: Day 4 – making music from Launceston to Land’s End and beyond!

Day 4 saw another full schedule for the BSO as intrepid BSO Associate Patrick Bailey made the journey – by boat – across to the Isles of Scilly, whilst on the mainland schoolchildren found themselves ‘In at the Deep End’, and the ensembles continued their tour of Cornwall’s schools.


The BSO reaches Land’s End

As the Orchestra of the South and South West, the BSO has a unique remit covering a region of over 10,000 square miles, embracing many rural and isolated communities. The BSO’s Cornwall Residency enables the Orchestra to reach these more isolated areas and engage people of all ages and backgrounds with the thrill of live music-making.

Day 4 of the residency saw BSO Associate Patrick Bailey brave the blustery weather and choppy waters of the Celtic Sea to make the journey to the Isles of Scilly, the farthest flung corner of the BSO’s home region, to spend a day working with the children of Five Islands School. Patrick is a familiar face on the Islands, together with fellow Cornwall Associate Matt Harrison, who visit throughout the year to deliver community music-making projects including a community choir, Family Orchestra and ensemble for ‘Rusty Returners.’ Patrick’s visit as part of the residency involved creative music workshops with the children, using various hand-held percussion instruments accompanied by Patrick on guitar. There was also a special guest as PC Mat Crowe from the Islands’ Police Station dropped by to join in!


PC Mat Crowe joins BSO Associate Patrick Bailey and the children of Five Islands School for some music-making

Back on the mainland, the BSO’s ensembles continued their packed itinerary visiting schools along the length and breadth of Cornwall, together with BSO Associate Matt Harrison and guest Composer-in-Residence Makoto Nomura. The BSO Bash ensemble spent the day at Sennen Primary School, not far from Lands End, whilst BSO Strings were at the other end of the county in Bude as they met pupils at Budehaven Community College, before joining up with BSO Brass in Bodmin for an inspiring performance in front of 600 children at St Petrocs C of E Primary.


BSO Bash workshop at Sennen Primary School

Students at Humphry Davy School and Bodmin College found themselves ‘In at the Deep End’ when an ensemble comprising musicians from the BSO and Cornwall Music Service Trust performed for them. The ‘In at the Deep End’ ensemble of Tuba, Double Bass, Bassoon and Trombone aims to encourage more young musicians to take up bass clef instruments and the concert demonstrated just how versatile these instruments can be and that their roles are far from being limited to just providing a bass line, with the group performing as an ensemble and also treating the audience to solo performances.


‘In at the Deep End’

In the evening, BSO Brass visited St Dennis Community Band in St Austell, where the 26 strong brass ensemble received coaching and rehearsed side by side with the BSO musicians. The band has been performing in the town since the mid-19th century and brings together musicians of all ages from across the local community, demonstrating the capacity of music to transcend generational and social barriers.


St Dennis Community Band performs with BSO Brass

To keep up to date with the BSO’s activities as part of the Cornwall Residency, please visit the live updates page