The Arts Council’s pilot of the Change Makers fund enabled Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra to work with me on a project which continues to ricochet around the globe; affecting many people in the orchestral sector and beyond.
I have kick-started my conducting career and I am now starting an extra year of training at Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, in order to refine my development as a conductor. Eighteen months in, I now work with the first disabled-led ensemble oozing musical talent from six of the most talented musicians, run by a world-class mainstream orchestra that is Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.
In the first year, we have performed to 6,100 audience members, delivered 9 school concerts, and played at 3 public performances, including the BBC Proms. You can watch our debut Proms appearance here, performing Alexander Campkin’s Hoping.
Throughout this traineeship, I feel I have grown as a person through learning difficult lessons, sometimes feeling humiliated and then learning from mistakes. I write this feeling honoured to have been exposed to situations that have and continue to challenge my approaches, attitudes, and readiness to adapt to any situation. I think this would resonate with everyone involved in the project and this continues to be a success for the support we provide each other.
I also feel lucky to be working with my fellow musicians in BSO Resound, all of whom are amazing and talented individuals and have taught me so much about musicianship.
A friend a few years ago said to me that there is no change without pain which is so true; I continue to question everything, but commit to actions based on solid decisions and have grown in confidence as a result. This pain comes from pushing boundaries of comfort, implementing thought patterns and behavioural changes in the way I approach and react to unpredictable situations and people positively. Whether this relates to my score preparation, conducting or rehearsal technique, or even my physical fitness. It has highlighted a need to improve my physical exercise and I’m now looking at options to improve my ability to exercise other than sitting at an exercise bike in my flat.
One of the options includes using a RaceRunner – a tricycle without pedals which supports you to power it by walking. Although risking going off-topic here by writing about RaceRunning, this is actually a good example of one of the many unexpected outcomes of the project and in taking inspiration from others, I have come to realise the extent to which personal fitness affects one’s ability to perform.
As well as making creative decisions, a conductor is constantly in the spotlight all the time, whether in front of talented musicians or opinionated audiences. One of the major things I’ve learnt is that I can’t please everyone all the time and as long as I remain genuine to the music and people around me, everything will fall into place.
There have been many unexpected outcomes and unexpected situations to which I’ve found ways of adapting. The overriding concepts of adapting to the unknown and remaining genuine to the outcomes of the project will resonate with the entire team at Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. None of the realisations, experiences, or lessons I have mentioned should be taken as being close ended because, as with everything in life, things will continue to evolve.
It is fair to say that expectations of everyone involved with the Change Makers project at Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra have been, and continue to be, exceeded. We have attracted a phenomenal amount of publicity and started to engage with a wider section of society – primarily those who have disabilities – and hopefully have inspired more people to take up musical activities, as well as highlighting music as a possible career choice.
We are already seeing the impact of our work; this December one of the winning soloists for the BSO’s live screening of The Snowman, who got to sing with the full Orchestra, was a young person with a disability.
The next phase for me as a conductor will be to hone my craft this year and start to think about the bigger picture focusing my efforts on working with orchestral repertoire as well as chamber. For our last 2018 concert in November, I successfully tested a way of turning pages of scores independently using an iPad during rehearsals and performances. This has since revolutionised the way I read scores whilst keeping a more accurate eye on where I am in the score at any one time.
Let’s see what 2019 brings!
James Rose, BSO Resound’s Conductor