Orchestral Conference

I travelled up to Manchester yesterday to support my colleagues in the MU’s Orchestral Dept in preparing for the Orchestra Section’s AGM and annual Conference. This was to take place today at the iconic Mechanics Institute in Princess Street and was being organised by the Union’s highly efficient Assistant to the Music Industry Depts, Angela Gascoine.

My role included responsibility for audio and visual facilities, reporting on the event via the MU twitter feed, plus liaison with journalist Andrew Stewart and photographer Joanna Dudderidge, as the event is to be prominently featured in the spring issue of The Musician journal.

Attended by stewards, musicians, managers and administrators from orchestras across the UK, the Conference is an important opportunity for the industry to discuss the major issues affecting the orchestral scene.

The day commenced with the Section Committee’s AGM and featured Chair Daniel Meyer alongside MU Officials Bill Kerr and Morris Stemp, as they collectively reviewed the Union’s work during 2017 and outlined plans for the coming year.

The morning agenda also featured a timely and sensitively handled session, ‘Changing the Culture of the Music Industry: how the MU is tackling claims of sexism and sexual harassment’, which was presented with sensitivity and astute professionalism by Live Performance Official, Kelly Wood.

After a brief lunch break, the Conference itself kicked-off with a Session focusing on ‘Recording & Broadcasting: the evolving landscape & the value of performers’ rights.’ Panellists were moderator Naomi Pohl (MU Assistant General Secretary), Rachel Lockwood (CBSO Assistant Orchestra Manager), Phil Kear (MU National Organiser, Recording & Broadcasting) and Dan Alicandro (ENB Head of Digital).

This was followed by the third session: ‘Scheduling, Repertoire and workload – the hidden issues.’ This asked whether the way orchestral work is planned and scheduled adversely affects the work life balance and wellbeing of musicians and would the situation improve if musicians were more involved in the planning process? Moderated by Nickie Dixon, BSO Double Bassist / Steward / EC Member, the panellists included Simon Webb (BBC PO General Manager), Dr Jane Oakland (Music psychologist / BAPAM / UCL) and Bill Chandler (RSNO Director of Artistic Planning & Engagement).

All the sessions generated in-depth debate and the delegates and panellists raised numerous interesting points based upon their considerable experience in the workplace and showed their willingness to find solutions for the challenges faced by orchestral musicians and managers.

My thanks to my colleagues in the Orchestral Dept and the administrative team at the Institute for their excellent hospitality and for ensuring the AGM and Conference were once again a heartening success.

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