The conference opened yesterday with a powerful speech by Giancarlo Guerrero, Music Director of the Nashville Symphony. He told the story of his childhood as a refugee from the war in Nicaragua, first in Costa Rica and then the United States. He passionately spoke for the power of music to give people a voice, a purpose and a community. We were also treated to a performance by Nashville Symphony’s Accelerando group, which is a programme giving opportunity, specialist support and teaching to young people from BME and Latino X backgrounds. It is fantastic to see the work that is happening in the US to tackle the issues of lack of inclusion and opportunity from these diverse backgrounds.

We both could not help but reflect that we have come to tell the story of our championing of diversity for disabled artists and musicians, something that is not being mentioned here and we hope that our story will have the same type of impact that we felt from Maestro Guerrero.

It was good to meet with US colleagues in the sessions yesterday, Dougie finding the curated CEO conversation on the challenges of leadership and organisational culture fascinating from a UK context. Lisa discussed diversity in another form, as in the diverse skills needed in Participation/Education teams to deliver an orchestra’s work in their wider communities – putting out chairs to strategic planning.

The Nashville Symphony gave a brilliant ‘end of season’ show last night including a new Symphony by Jonathan Leshnoff (we premiered his new cello concerto in April with Johannes Moser) and an incredible performance of Carmina Burana, fully staged with Nashville Ballet, the Symphony Chorus and a film. It fully deserved its standing ovation from the sell-out audience!! We did pretty well at the post-show party, networking with US and British colleagues and managed to get to bed 11:30 local time – but it did still feel like 05:30 UK time!

Tuesday has another fantastic line-up. We’re looking forward to the different sessions and also meeting with some of the big US Agencies to talk about the BSO and see what plans we might be able to hatch. Dougie might also just have to buy some boots!

We are all ready and excited for our session tomorrow – ‘Musicians and Audiences with Disabilities: Making Inclusion the Heart of your Orchestra’ – is the title of the session. We will be sharing the stage with fellow speakers Fiona Harvey from the Association of British Orchestras, Kelley Bell from Nashville Symphony and Emelyne Binham from the Blair School of Music.

Together we will be calling on this distinguished audience to think about how to roll out organisational change to include training and development that integrates disabled artists into professional orchestras.

Dougie & Lisa