Monday 18th June 2018

I got in to the office early to make sure that everything was ready for the day’s rehearsal and soft concert. The soft concert was the first time that BSO Resound had performed as an ensemble to an audience. My first task of the day was to pack the car with everything we would need for the next 3 days. I had to fit a turntable (a piece of equipment James uses to stand), 1 chair, 2 music stands, 7 collapsible music stands, a box of music and, most importantly, refreshments, into a Ford Focus! The turntable would then be replaced after the day’s rehearsal with 2 musicians, their instruments and suitcases. The ultimate game of Tetris!

Once the car was packed, I was on my way to the rehearsal venue and upon arrival found James (BSO Resound’s conductor) waiting outside to let me know that the venue’s accesible toilet was broken (luckily it was fixed whilst we rehearsed-phew!). I quickly set to work getting the space ready whilst also greeting the ensemble as they arrived.

BSO Members and staff were invited to hear the premiere of BSO Resound for the soft concert which the ensemble performed brilliantly! They have come such a long way as an ensemble in just the 6 weeks I’ve been working with them, never mind the 6 months prior to that.

As soon as questions were over, I was quickly collapsing music stands and packing up the car again before taking Siobhan and Matthew to their hotels, which were nicely on my route home.

Tuesday 19th June 2018

Tuesday consisted of a visit to Linwood School in Bournemouth and then a rehearsal in Bournemouth. En-route to the school, I picked up Siobhan and Matthew from their hotels and (with a few delays from traffic works) we arrived at the school in time to get a good parking space.

This was the most challenging get-in of the tour as we had stairs to get percussion up and 3 sets of double doors to get through to the hall, along with parents also arriving for Sports Day. The school were fantastic at accommodating us and managed to get us into the venue as smoothly as possible. Students quickly settled in and the concert was underway. It was fantastic to see how engaged the students were with the music and at the end, they asked questions about the instruments. One young boy simply said “You guys were awesome!” The students also kindly presented the ensemble with a Thank You card which now has pride of place on a BSO Participate noticeboard.

As quickly as we’d brought everything in, we were taking it back out again and after packing up the car again, we were heading back to hotels for 40 winks and lunch before the afternoon’s rehearsal.

The ensemble used the afternoon rehearsal time to tackle some new repertoire along with Alexander Campkin’s new piece for the ensemble. Straight after the rehearsal, it was back home for some well needed rest before the 2 concerts on Wednesday but not before the car got a well-deserved clean.

Wednesday 20th June 2018

Wednesday was the final day of our tour and included trips to Beaucroft Foundation School, Wimborne and Montacute School, Poole.
It was an early start for me and rush hour traffic meant that it took an hour for me to get there. Luckily, I still managed to get there with plenty of time to spare.

The school was so welcoming and it was so nice to see so many members of staff stop to take a peek as they passed. The Q&A session turned into a compliments session with lots of the students putting their hands up to say how good the ensemble were. Some students came up to the ensemble afterwards to ask more specific questions, with one student deep in conversation with James and another being shown the violin and viola by Siobhan.

And just like that, we were off to our final venue with a stop at Tesco to grab a meal deal. Montacute School is a beautiful school and, again, so welcoming. During set up, one student asked if I needed help so I taught him how to unfold a collapsible music stand and wowed him with my stand unfolding magic! During the performance, one student took their teacher’s hand and together they danced to the music and waltzed out of the room!
At the end of the performance the ensemble surprised me with a birthday card (it was my 25th birthday the next day) and led the students in singing Happy Birthday to me, a lovely end to a busy few days.

After the performance, we packed up for the last time and left Montacute School behind a line of school buses. There was a quick stop at Poole train station to drop off Matthew and Siobhan and then I was back at BSO HQ, un-packing all of the equipment.

The 3 days I spent with BSO Resound were eye opening in many ways. My first main observation was that when students asked the ensemble questions, none of them asked about their disabilities. All the students wanted to know about was the music, the instruments and their training. The students saw past the disabilities and were totally focused on the music they were hearing.

The second was more of a personal realisation. On spending so much time with the ensemble and getting to know them all better, I discovered just how much my own disability was like everyone else’s. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 2 years old and have spent a lot of my life being told what I can and can’t do (and eat!) by people who don’t know diabetes, and been the subject of nasty comments due to others’ lack of knowledge of the condition. I was also described at school as “extraordinary” for managing my condition when to me, I didn’t know a life without it. In my eyes, I wasn’t extraordinary, this was just my ordinary life. Working with the ensemble showed me that they have all been through that too and, like myself, just want to do what they love regardless of their disabilities.

These three days truly showed me the meaning of “ability not disability” and proved just what this ensemble can do for disabled people, not just in classical music, but in all industries.

Alison Holmes, BSO Participate Co-ordinator