Chineke! Leading by Example

Chineke logo1The Chineke! Foundation was established in 2015: it’s mission, to provide career opportunities to young Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) classical musicians in the UK and Europe. At a time when much of the news around classical music focused on laurel ts, elitism and the problems of engaging young people in a ‘difficult genre’, the organisation has stepped forward with inspiring energy.

Chineke!’s message is of real importance to young BME musicians. For these students, the orchestra offers more than the traditional outreach: It offers role models.

Learning and Participation Manager, Ishani O’Connor, has been in her role since June 2017, and has already found herself  ‘very busy!’ The Music Workshop Company catches up with Ishani to hear more about Chineke! and its work both in the community and within its groundbreaking Junior Orchestra. 

“The Chineke! Foundation and its Professional and Junior orchestras were founded by Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE 2 years ago, specifically to promote ethnic diversity in classical music. Chineke! has had a stratospheric ascent, recently culminating in the Chineke! BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall, an event with a huge audience reach and the youngest orchestra in its history to be offered a Prom, becoming the BBC’s second most memorable Prom online, with over 10 million views.

This is a massive achievement by a dedicated orchestra management team​ ​but​ fundamental to the success of the Chineke! Orchestra has been the ​firm ​belief that​ mentorship and learning are key to th​e​ development of Chineke! as a cultural organisation. In this way, the Chineke! Orchestra provides the much​ ​needed role models for the Chineke! Juniors​.​

Chineke! Learning and Participation currently has a two-pronged approach to supporting the next generation; through the work with the Chineke! Juniors, encouraging young and gifted BME Classical music students by giving them opportunities to perform in the orchestra, and secondly by taking adult members of the Chineke! Orchestra into schools across the UK, to cities where the orchestra is touring, particularly in areas where there are higher statistical rates of BME communities.

Members of the adult orchestra working with young musicians in a Birmingham School

The Chineke! Juniors have the opportunity to perform in venues such as the Southbank Centre; in the Clore Ballroom and on stage at the Royal Festival Hall, but also in smaller venues such as at Hatfield House for the Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival – a sold out concert coming up in October 2017.

The Chineke! Juniors’ ages range from 11 to 18, and many are on a pathway to a Classical music career. The standard is from grades 6-8 and beyond. A professional orchestra starting its journey with an associate junior orchestra is unique in the UK and demonstrates a commitment to nurturing talent which is essential, if the Chineke! ‘effect’ is to perpetuate far into the future. The Chineke! Juniors act as a bridge between current youth music schemes and higher education, giving its players experience, encouragement and confidence during their formative years, whilst increasing the numbers of BME students currently studying music at third level.

A new star has shone this year, a member of the Chineke! Juniors who played in the orchestra’s first cohort in 2015. Sheku Kanneh-Mason; a dynamic and gifted cellist was winner of BBC Young Musician 2016 and has launched his solo career even before commencing his music degree. Although Sheku’s recent notoriety is all to do with his unmistakable talent, hard work and support from family and teachers, he is a brilliant role model to many of the young, BME musicians in the Chineke! Juniors but also throughout the world of music. Sheku’s association with Chineke! is evidence of a positive start to a great career and demonstrates the confidence-boost that playing with a group of BME musicians can give. The televised broadcast of Chineke!’s BBC Proms augmented Chineke!’s reach and I dearly hope that there will be BME students of classical music in the UK and across the world who watched this stunning concert who will be inspired by Sheku and the brilliance of the Chineke! Orchestra’s performance.

The ​young ​Sri Lankan born conductor, Manoj ​K​amps guided these gifted young people whose confidence​ ​blossomed​ under his leadership​. The Chineke! Juniors, many of whom were coming together for the first time, performed brilliantly​ ​both technically and musically​.​ At the event, they also led a ‘Passenger Seats’ session on the Clore Ballroom where audience members of all ages sat next to and in between them listening. They also offered a ‘Have a Go!’ session where players from the Chineke! Juniors worked peer-to-peer, very successfully, with children of their ages who wanted to try their hand at an instrument.

In a parallel exchange of skills, the adult musicians from the Chineke! Orchestra over the same weekend mentored and supported the Chineke! Juniors during rehearsals, developing their performance techniques and encouraging them to lead the sections of the orchestra, to listen and make eye contact with each other and play-out with more confidence. I watched as the young people’s backs straightened during every rehearsal session and their concentration and involvement became more intense and focused. It was a very quick progression; the talent and skills were already there, they just needed the support and platform to shine.

Members of the adult orchestra working with students in Birmingham

In our work with schools across the UK, Chineke! L&P aims to reach as many young people as we can in regions that do not normally have the benefits of London’s large arts ecology. We work closely with venues where the Chineke! Orchestra is performing, who often have their own education programmes and music hubs or other charities who are well-connected to schools. These workshops also promote the huge benefits that learning music has to the students at a time when music education and the arts in general are being de-funded in favour of the EBacc subjects.

Recently, we took a string quartet of Chineke! Orchestra musicians into the assemblies of three primary schools in inner city Birmingham in conjunction with the Chineke! Birmingham Symphony Hall concert. The quartet played a special transcription of three of Elgar’s Enigma Variations (we commissioned from a composer), including Nimrod, deliberately relating the repertoire to the Chineke! Orchestra concert. ‘The Enigma’ also helped us to create an interesting narrative for the children as each of the variations are named after someone Elgar knew, number XI, entitled GRS, about his favourite dog falling down a river bank.

Smile! Members of the adult orchestra with students in Birmingham

We also introduced the young audience to the work of a very interesting 18th century black composer, Joseph Boulogne (aka Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges) by playing one of his string quartets and with a presentation on his life. Born of a French plantation owner and an African slave, Saint-Georges was a multi-talented fencer, athlete, military commander and politician but also a violin virtuoso, orchestral conductor and composer who pioneered the string quartet as a musical form. The Chineke! Foundation also aims to educate the audience by celebrating the work of often forgotten or neglected, brilliant black composers. Other composers which the Chineke! Orchestra has played and continues to champion include, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Florence B. Price, George Walker and contemporary composers Errollyn Wallen and Hannah Kendall.

Chineke!, works through positive action, to enact change and increase the diversity of professional musicians in Classical music. The long-term goal is to see this change across manifold orchestras in the UK and in Europe. But music critics and regular concert-goers are already observing Chineke!’s effect on audiences, who are the most diverse I have ever seen at classical music concerts. Chineke! follows a very powerful, positive and effective journey of mentorship, which can be observed in the transformation of musicians who play in the Chineke! Orchestra and the unique privilege I have, of watching the Chineke! Juniors blossom during rehearsals and when they play on the UK’s most prestigious stages.

The Chineke! Foundation models how the combination of many different levels of mentorship can progress the development of individuals but also the whole organisation. Mentorship is demonstrated through peer-to-peer learning, professional to junior musician mentoring, the conductor’s leadership of the orchestra and it is transmitted from the expert performers on stage to curious audiences. This also encourages mentorship and support from venues and funders who see the great potential in an organisation that can lead the way in addressing the issue of the lack of diversity in the cultural and creative industries, through brilliant creativity and positive action. The most striking element of mentorship, however, is the unwavering leadership of Chineke! founder, Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE and her tireless effort to get the message out there; to encourage and recruit both young and established BME musicians and to change the face of the Classical music world, through direct action.”



www.chineke.org

Championing Change and Celebrating Diversity in Classical Music

 

Twitter @Chineke4Change

Facebook @chinekefoundation


Advertisements

From Small Beginnings to Big Impact Learning

6082091This month marks the 14th birthday of the Music Workshop Company. To celebrate, Maria Thomas, Founder and Artistic Director, tells us about her inspiraton, highlights and vision for the future. Alongside her work at MWC, Maria is Programme Leader for the Music Industry Management Programme at the University of Hertfordshire. Her specialism is entrepreneurship and small business.

Why music?

“Both my parents are music teachers and keen semi-professional musicians, so I was introduced from music from a very young age. I learnt to read music when I learnt to read words, and played recorder and piano from the age of 3. I took up the oboe when I was 9: I wanted to play the trombone but my arms weren’t long enough! The oboe gave me the opportunity to play regularly in a fabulous range of ensembles including orchestras and wind bands. When I was about 14, the music service had vacancies for bassoon players and saxophone players. I looked into playing bassoon, my arms still weren’t long enough! So I took up saxophone alongside oboe, recorder and piano.”

Beginnings…

200-0-706-0-6469-10000-1243-2“I studied oboe at Trinity College of Music (now Trinity Laban) on what had been called the BMus Plus course, which offered students the chance to tailor their studies to their interests. We were introduced to workshop skills in our first year and I loved visiting schools working with children on performance and composition. I was very lucky to have an inspirational workshop skills tutor, Kate Buchanan, who encouraged me and allowed me to sit in on workshops she was leading. Whilst at College I had vague ideas of working with other musicians to run workshops, but I never thought I’d end up setting up and running a business!

I loved visiting schools working with children on performance and composition

In my final term at Trinity, Kate told me about an internship opportunity that was being advertised through the Education Department at The Royal Opera House. As a big opera fan, I applied immediately. The job was in the Orchestra Office and after a summer of interning, I was able to join the team in a full time role, working with the orchestra, stage bands, as well as co-ordinating auditions, chamber music concerts and Health and Safety.

While I was at the Opera House I began to think seriously about the idea of setting up a kind of agency supplying workshops to schools. I knew teachers who were keen to have workshops but didn’t always know what would work for them, or which musicians would be best, and I knew lots of musicians who were running inspiring workshops. So I left the Opera House to set MWC up as a bridge between the two.”

The idea…

“One thing I was keen to do was to create the projects that schools wanted. Other workshops organisations who were around at the time each had one specialism – one would feature singing, another African drumming – I wanted MWC to be able to offer a wide range of projects that could be tailored exactly to the school’s need.

welwyn-festival-photo

At the beginning I really didn’t know much about running a business, and although I was lucky enough to have support from my local Enterprise Agency with advice on contracts and general marketing, they didn’t know the specifics of working in Arts Education. I wish I had known more about running a business before I launched MWC, that’s why I’m so passionate about my work at the University. It’s very full on, and I try to ensure that my students know both the real life challenges and benefits of running their own business. I have learnt a great deal through trial and error.”

Growing the business…

“Our initial market was schools as that is where my experience lay, but since launching we have worked with a wide range of organisations such as community groups, event managers, businesses and Universities.

The growth into areas such as community groups and businesses was not something I originally planned, but we have worked with a great range of people from Brownie camps in Lancashire to businesses in Southampton. The team has grown: What started with just me in the office and a team of 5 musicians is now a business with up to 4 people in the office and 40 musicians!”

cardboard-orchestra-leaders-1

The future of music…

“I am passionate about access to music for everyone and schools offer a great opportunity to give children and young people the chance to actively take part in music making. We hope to inspire people to follow up their MWC experience through school or online resources. One of my favourite experiences is when we run open workshops in venues such as shopping centres. Children have the chance to show parents the rhythms they have learnt at school or adults come and join in having not played an instrument since they were at school.

I believe that Music and the Arts should be an integral part of education at all levels

I believe that Music and the Arts should be an integral part of education at all levels. So many skills are developed: Team work, performance skills, motor skills, language skills and confidence… So much research shows that access to the Arts is a vital part of life, we need to do everything we can to widen access both in schools and out.”

The vision…

“MWC visits a wide range of schools, many of which are doing great work at engaging children and young people with music and see it as an important part of school life. few see a one-off workshop as their obligation to music completed, which I think is very sad.

maria-djembeMy hope for music education is that it is compulsory for all schools to engage with music up to Year 10 and that students are encouraged and supported to take part in musical activities post Year 10, whether that be playing in a band, attending concerts or just playing for their own pleasure.

I hope that MWC inspires participants, through exposing them to new genres of music or inspiring them with our talented workshop leaders who bring their performing expertise to the workshops. I’m also keen to develop MWC’s online learning resources. The archives of blogs, articles and Top Tips are growing but we have plans to develop this further with more teaching resources.”

The inspiration…

“I love everything about running music workshops! I enjoy liaising with the clients to find out what it is they are looking for and leading a workshop, but my favourite moment is when the participants perform the piece they have been working on whether it’s an informal performance at the end of the session or a performance in a school assembly. Seeing the development from a group who may never have seen that particular instrument through to an ensemble that can perform a piece is something I find hugely rewarding.

sam_1967

I also love returning to work with the same group over time. One of the groups I have worked with is a local adult Mencap Group. I’ve been running workshops for them since 2007 and have got to know the members really well. It’s great to repeat their favourite activities alongside introducing them to new instruments and rhythms.”

About MWC…

The Music Workshop company (MWC) aims to supply high quality, bespoke, interactive and fun workshops to clients. We aim to supply the workshop on the date of choice and follow the timetable of choice. We can create a workshop that is just for fun such as for Arts Week or Cultural Week or meet specific outcomes such as preparing for a performance, linking to GCSE / A-Level set works. This can be a challenge as if people haven’t had workshops before they don’t know what to ask for – or they have had a workshop in the past and want an exact replica and we might supply something slightly different.

 

%d bloggers like this: