It’s now over half-way through a project I devised with some students from Guildhall School to explore my pupils’ perceptions of attending classical music concerts. It felt the right time to reflect.
The project is something of a collaboration between me and Guildhall School’s Understanding Audiences research project. My aim is to understand how young people want to experience classical music. There are plenty of initiatives to bring classical music to younger audiences but how often do teenagers get to curate a performance on their own terms? Not many.
This project is a pilot as I was keen to make it manageable within the confines of the school week and the schedule of the players. A piano quartet were recommended to be involved by the Head of Chamber Music and I devised a six session structure, that would bring a group of pupils from my school into a working relationship with the ensemble to devise a concert.
- The players introduced themselves by a short performance and then the pupils instigated conversations by asking the players questions and vice versa. The pupils expected the players to be older, and less ‘cool’. The chance to chat to the players and develop a rapport was important.
- This session was an opportunity to see the ensemble begin work on a new work and the pupils were able to ask about how the ensemble works, and the mechanics of chamber music. The pupils brought their instruments and joined in with the group.
- This session was an opportunity for the group to play a selection of music from which the pupils would choose their programme and programme order. It was great to hear the pupils lead discussions with each other about choice and where to place items.
- This session explored how the space would be used and how the concert would run. After some encouragement the students took real ownership of where the ensemble will be placed, lighting, programme and how the experience would feel for the audience.
- This will be the dress rehearsal following the pupils preparing the logistics.
- The concert.
Following the concert we will evaluate. Already it has been rich with issues and revelations for both parties. Researchers from Guildhall School have been joining to document aspects of the project, to help me reflect at this mid-point but also for their own interests in how this project might lead to future and further collaboration of this nature.
For me, it is the authenticity that is the most important element. The pupils are discovering a great deal about the repertoire, logistics of being in a chamber group and to learn about the business of classical music performance. What pleases and excites me the most is that the pupils are revealing their own thinking about the classical music experience that speaks to them and not to them through adult ears.