RSNO Work Experience: Thea Sands

Renfrewshire's Young Ambassador, Thea Sands, describes what work experience with the RSNO means to her.

I’ve always been interested in the arts but only in the past year or so has music really started to form an integral part of my life. I constantly have odd little pieces of music circulating through my thoughts, often causing my brain to take diversions and become completely distracted from the task at hand but I love it! Sometimes it’s hard to ignore and I have to give in to the glory of the music by frantically dancing around to obscure polyphonic melodies, impersonating the violins with my dulcet - often terrifyingly off key - tones or by simply grabbing the nearest pen in site and taking centre stage as a flamboyant conductor with my biro for a baton! I often fall into trances where I become totally transfixed with a piece of music; all other sounds become muted and I can do little else but stare into space trying to comprehend the music in my own little world. I first fell under the spell of classical music when I burst into tears upon hearing the first few bars of Bach’s B minor Mass. I find the power classical/orchestral music holds to evoke emotions and communicate utterly enthralling.

I’m really passionate about helping other young people experience similar feelings with regards to classical music … and all music for that matter! It’s so important for me to help others explore forms of music, even if that means influencing someone to attend one concert resulting in them deciding it’s not for them. It’s essential that they have at least tried it before disregarding the form. With this in mind, the opportunity to become a Young Ambassador for the RSNO seemed absolutely perfect! I get to promote live orchestral music and work within my own community to try to enhance the integration of this musical form into youth culture. My aim is to effectively act as a ‘doorway’ for young people establish a route into classical music and other diverse realms of music.

The ideology behind increasing accessibility for the arts comes quite naturally to me and I find it easy to talk about integration with people similar to my age group and adults. I’m brimming with ideas for projects/schemes and events which may boost this integration. It’s obvious that the perception of classical music really needs to undergo a form of modulation in order to get young people interested. I’m here to instigate change!

One of my major resolutions for 2014 is to simply delve into the world of music and get involved with further Youth Arts strategies. I’m going to continue to follow my love of Classical/orchestral music and see where it takes me and try and introduce it to those who have never experienced it before. I’m determined upon finding that spark that will get young people interested in Classical music.

Thea is part of the RSNO's Young Ambassador scheme, arranged by the Learning and Engagement Department. All views expressed by Young Ambassadors belong to those of the individual and are not representative of the organisation. For more information, visit the RSNO website.

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Young Ambassadors Survey: Natalie Brayshaw

One of the Highlands' Young Ambassadors, Natalie Brayshaw, describes the results of a survey she created for pupils at her school analysing their opinions on classical music.

I’ve recently been given back the completed surveys which were given out to a group of first year pupils, and the results are certainly very interesting!

Firstly, It was shocking to discover that over half of the pupils had never been to a classical music concert or been involved in a workshop, and that only five (of the twenty-eight who completed the survey) had been in the last six months.

These findings go hand in hand with the fact that only four pupils had a definite interest in classical music. Interestingly, almost all of the people who said they had an active interest in and enjoyed it play an instrument themselves. This suggests that the opportunities are there, but it is not always easy to expose everybody to them. A few pupils even said that they weren’t entirely sure what constituted as classical music.

So could the general disinterest of the young in classical music be down to a lack of experience of it? This ties in with the question about workshops or concerts: sixteen pupils said they had never been involved in either of these, though when pupils were asked how they thought we could encourage more young people to be involved in classical music, workshops were the most common suggestion.

Other suggestions included using music from films – which we have already discussed – and having older members of the school perform, for example at assemblies, to inspire the younger pupils. A few also suggested that teachers play classical music in class, though this would be a little impractical.

We’re fairly restricted as to what we can actually do within classes - the teachers obviously have to stick to the curriculum - but what can we do in ensuring that there are more ways to introduce young people to classical music? It would be highly difficult and impractical to bring the RSNO directly to each individual school and areas but are there other ways in which we can run workshops?

There are ongoing discussions within the RSNO Young Ambassadors on this topic, with ideas such as working with local musical groups external to the school, and starting informal groups in which pupils with no prior experience in classical music can learn and broaden their minds as to what it actually is – an idea already being put into action by one of the Ambassadors. The suggestion from one of the pupils about using the senior students in the school to help change the image of music as something 'boring' or 'uncool' is also a very good one, which I hope to be able to work on. I also hope to be able to use the fact that the RSNO’s current Engage project is based in the Highlands - the area in which I live - to encourage the involvement of more young people in the orchestra.

Natalie Brayshaw

Natalie is part of the RSNO's Young Ambassador scheme, arranged by the Learning and Engagement Department. All views expressed by Young Ambassadors belong to those of the individual and are not representative of the organisation. For more information, visit the RSNO website.

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Young Ambassadors Forum #2: Seona Glen

Stirling's Young Ambassador, Seona Glen, describes the second Young Ambassadors Forum and Oundjian Conducts Walton, Thu 6th Feb at Perth Concert Hall. 

On Thursday 6th February the second RSNO Young Ambassadors forum took place at Perth Concert Hall, one of five locations across Scotland in which the Young Ambassadors will meet this year, so as to reflect the National aspect of the RSNO and indeed the Young Ambassadors Scheme. For many of us, Perth Concert Hall was a relatively unfamiliar venue, and it was great to see the RSNO in action outside of Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

To kick off the evening, we were very lucky to have Peter Oundjian, Music Director of the RSNO, come to talk to us about our role as Young Ambassadors. He listened attentively as we explained our ideas as to how we can promote classical music to a younger audience, and offered some of his own ideas which we have taken on board.

When Peter had to run off to prepare for that evening's concert, Manus Carey, Executive Producer of the RSNO, kindly came to speak with us. Manus was interested in hearing our views about the programming of concerts, and asked what we liked and perhaps didn't like about the programming, which sparked some interesting discussion about what type of experience appeals to a younger audience, and also the controversial issue of 'concert etiquette'. A view which was raised was that we should perhaps try to advertise concerts as being not only about the music, but also about enjoying a wider experience, with a vast number of people in one room who have a shared appreciation for the music and the orchestra.

After our discussion with Manus, we sat down with Neil Cullen, Digital Projects Coordinator, who runs the Young Ambassadors Scheme, to discuss the concert in June, which the Young Ambassadors will be planning and aiming at under 25s. This will include choosing the venue, ensemble and repertoire, and promoting the concert. Thursday's discussion was largely an exchange of ideas, and there seemed to be a mutual feeling that in order to best attract young people, the concert should be different to a 'normal' concert. We took this idea into account when considering possible venues.

Following the forum, the Young Ambassadors were invited to attend the evening's concert, Oundjian Conducts Walton. The concert opened with a very moving performance of Wagner's beautiful Overture to Tannhäuser, which captivated the audience from the opening calming melodies right through to the tremendous climax, where the strings seemed to cry out against the strong chords in the brass.

The next piece was entirely different in character, and quite refreshing between two more rich and powerful pieces. Richard Goode, the phenomenal American pianist, took to the stage for an exquisite rendition of Mozart's Piano Concerto No17. His elegant playing balanced the orchestra perfectly, and the orchestra's crisp articulation mirrored his. For me, however, the highlight of the evening was still to come.

In the second half, the RSNO returned to perform Walton's First Symphony, a piece which I had never heard before. However, by the third movement I had completely fallen in love with it. It's not all that often that I really enjoy a piece the first time I hear it, because it usually takes a few listens to be able to really 'listen properly'. So, the fact that the piece won me over on the first listen is testament to the expressive and open playing of the RSNO. I left the concert hall with that great feeling of having discovered a new piece, and even without the rest of the concert, I would have been happy to leave with that alone.

Seona Glen

Seona is part of the RSNO's Young Ambassador scheme, arranged by the Learning and Engagement Department. All views expressed by Young Ambassadors belong to those of the individual and are not representative of the organisation. For more information, visit the RSNO website.

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RSNO Chorus Director to leave at end of Season

Timothy Dean will direct the Chorus until the end of the 2013:14 Season, concluding his tenure with performances of Mahler’s Symphony No8

Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) Chorus Director Timothy Dean will leave his post at the end of the current Season, concluding his tenure with performances of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony in Edinburgh and Glasgow and joining an RSNO Chorus trip to Prague in June.

Timothy was appointed to the position of Chorus Director in November 2006 and, over his eight years at the helm of Scotland’s national orchestra’s Chorus, has worked in partnership with former Music Director Stéphane Denève and current Music Director Peter Oundjian to present some memorable programmes, including performances of Magnus Lindberg’s Graffiti in 2010, John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls in 2011, Britten’s War Requiem on the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth, and prepared the Chorus for what one music critic thought was the best performance of Handel’s Messiah they had ever heard, earlier this year.

Timothy, also currently Head of Opera at the Royal Conservatoire Scotland (RCS), has recently taken over the responsibility for the Leverhulme Conducting Fellows, a new development for the RCS. Over the last twelve months he has been increasingly in demand abroad, working on projects in New Zealand, Hong Kong and Nuremberg. In the future Timothy plans to work abroad more, as well as devoting more time to pursuing his own creative projects and performing career.

RSNO Chorus Director Timothy Dean:

It has been a privilege to be part of the RSNO family for the last eight years, and to have been able to contribute to a number of truly memorable performances. I will miss working regularly with the RSNO Chorus – their commitment, their sense of fun, their sound and, above all, their Glaswegian warmth and spirit. However, it is the right time for me to move on and I wish them continued success in their new home.

RSNO Music Director Peter Oundjian:

Tim is a joy to work with and I have valued his musicality, knowledge and experience. He is capable of getting the best out of our accomplished Chorus and we shall all miss him. Our final project together, Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, promises to be exceptionally poignant.

Chief Executive of the RSNO, Michael Elliott:

I’m grateful to Tim for all he has achieved with the RSNO Chorus and I have to thank him for agreeing to stay with us until the end of the current Season. He should be proud of his accomplishments during his eight-year tenure as Chorus Director, and he leaves a legacy of a highly professional body of singers. All of us at the RSNO wish him every success for the future.

The RSNO will commence its search for a successor shortly, aiming to make an appointment before the move into its new home later this year.

Young Ambassador Review: John Lill’s 70th

West Lothian's Young Ambassador, Rebecca Smith, describes John Lill's 70th in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Sat 1 Feb 2014.

Stravinsky Symphonies of Wind Instruments
Schubert Symphony No. 4
Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1

Douglas Boyd (Conductor)
John Lill (Piano)

It was a great change to open the concert with just the wind players. The players brought out each melodic line and shaped it wonderfully.

I enjoyed the Schubert symphony after having had the theme explained to us at the pre-concert talk. This symphony really sticks out amongst the other music of the time, and was very refreshing.

John Lill was warmly received by the audience, his unique musicality shining through at 70 years of age. The slow movement was particularly moving, played with clarity and flawless technique.

As a Young Ambassador, I was struck by one audience member who chose to voice his opinion rather loudly during the interval. He seemed very angry that one young person sitting near me had coughed a few times during the first half, making jokes such as ‘my favourite composer is Tchi-cough-ski’, and saying that she should not have come to the concert. The girl was offered cough sweets by two audience members who made it clear that they were unhappy about her coughing.

I found it very strange that audience members sought to control the concert environment. They chose to exclude a girl, who could very well have been asthmatic, from enjoying the music. Many people coughed during the performance, as in every concert, but they chose to approach this young girl over any other audience members. I found it very uncomfortable and discouraging to listen to this man who seemed to think that a teenager was not mature enough to be in a classical music environment, which is simply not true. Funnily enough, the principal trumpet player also seemed to have a bad cough, but no one tried to exclude him from enjoying the music like they had with the girl.

Usually I can deal with sonic disruption from the audience, and normally focus on the music rather than the people around me. However, I have gone to many concerts alone where I have seen older people around me staring at me. I know that I have a much greater understanding of music than the average concert goer, so I don’t let it put me off, but it creates a less than welcoming atmosphere I have to say.

Thankfully the group of young people told me after the concert that they had had fun and thought that the performance had been very good. The people who had approached the girl for coughing had not left a lasting impression on her, although their attitude had struck me.

If we hope to encourage more young people to classical music, perhaps we should try to educate the audience that any listener has the right to enjoy the concert, whether they have a beeping hearing aid, a cough or otherwise. I don’t think that it is right for anyone to tell anyone else off for something like a cough, because that is very different from asking politely.

In a normal situation, coughing is not thought of as loud, but as soon as you move to a concert environment, the rules seem to change. Everyone in the concert hall was sitting quietly, with no talking, no ringing phones, no crying babies. If we start to pick on every single noise in a concert hall we are leading into an infinite number of more rules: no air conditioning, no squeaky chairs, no sneezing… the list is endless. Is that really what we should be focusing on, is that why we go to concerts, as a weekly occasion to enforce more social rules on people? Or is it to enjoy the music? I sincerely hope it is the latter.

Rebecca Smith

Concert etiquette is of frequent debate amongst audiences. Read the article by Kate Molleson in The Guardian, published September 2013: A quiet word about classical concert etiquette. Share your own thoughts on Twitter @RSNO

Rebecca is part of the RSNO's Young Ambassador scheme, arranged by the Learning and Engagement Department. All opinions expressed by Young Ambassadors are that of the individual and are not representative of the RSNO. For more information, visit the RSNO website.

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