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

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.

TrinityLabanSideBySide_CreditYoungMusiciansSymphonyOrchestra

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.”

TrinityLabanSideBySide_CreditBrianFurner

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 https://trinitylaban.wordpress.com/2017/05/05/craig-lutton-side-by-side-with-bournemouth-symphony-orchestra/

To find out more about Craig visit his website: www.craigluttonpercussion.co.uk