Snow is back! And so is that quiet voice in my head encouraging me to write something new. I had a chance to participate in Hear and Now project a few days ago and with memories still being fresh, I decided to share my thoughts on music, the project itself and tell a little bit about my experience as a student ambassador for the Philharmonia Orchestra.
2000 – 2014
If you know me long enough you probably noticed that whenever someone mentions classical music* – I appear. But it was not always like that. I started music school and piano lessons when I was 5 years old, graduated 9 years later. Too young to appreciate the opportunity I was given. Everyone would educate me on how important music concerts, theatre, and other cultural events are for your development. Music was always there. Perhaps that was the reason why for so long I took it for granted.
2015 – 2016
It took me 6 more years and a change of country to understand the value of music. When I started my course at De Montfort University I complained to everyone who listened how unfortunate it was that university like DMU had no Music Department. Well now it does and I spend a great amount of time annoying the people who work there. (Yes, there was and still is music related courses and a Music Society, but it is not the same.)
DMU signed a partnership agreement with London based Philharmonia Orchestra in 2016 December. To be completely honest, I cannot remember how I heard about this or how I managed to obtain an invitation to the ceremony that only handful of students were invited to attend. My home country has some great musicians and Orchestras, but when I heard Philharmonia for the first time, it felt divine. Perfectly combined movements and crisp sounds, dancing together in a sea of modern technologies, passing on notes and chords that were created centuries ago.
In September (2017) I received an email from DMU Music Department inviting to apply for the Philharmonia Student Ambassador Scheme. I had to send a cover letter explaining why I want to be an ambassador and attend an interview. I was over the moon when I received an email congratulating me on being selected. There are currently two of us and as an ambassadors, we help to promote Philharmonia’s concerts and ‘£5 tickets for students’ offer. In exchange, we receive complimentary tickets to Philharmonia concerts at De Montfort Hall, access to rehearsals. We even had a chance to meet with people responsible for the running of the Orchestra and learn more about marketing, event management and running of the arts organization.
My ambassadorship began as simple work experience which slowly turned into a new hobby, restoring my connection with the world of music. Why? Because Philharmonia is not just an orchestra, it is a community of talented artists making this world a better place one concert at a time. Teaching young people to appreciate classical music is something I am very passionate about and it is incredibly satisfying to witness the amount of energy Philharmonia invest in this. Check their website to learn more about what they do, they also have this impressive virtual reality project.
Have you ever heard about enhancement (also known as reading) week? If not, all you need to know is that some of the UK university’s have it as part of their academic calendar. It is a week where there are no lectures and students are expected to either catch up on their academic work or attend sessions to enhance their study skills. I personally think it is a wonderful idea and I tend to use my time to either travel or do things I would normally have no time for.
When people from DMU Music Department invited me to join Hear and Now I almost said no.
Project description from this DMU article:
“Hear and Now is an intergenerational community creative project created by the Philharmonia. Led by Artistic Director Tim Steiner, this project has proven very successful in bringing together different generations of a community through music. In 2016, we piloted the project in Leicester together with the Alzheimer Society’s Singing for the Brain with the aim of bringing together young people and vulnerable adults and allow them to create, build and grow together through music.”
“Aside from creating exciting music and making new friends, you will get the opportunity to play with and learn from professional musicians from the Philharmonia Orchestra. As Mentors, you will be working with the vulnerable adults, their carers, local school children and professional musicians to create new music.”
First of all, I felt like my piano skills were far from sufficient. Play and learn from professional musicians? Create music? Surely I cannot do this. In addition, it meant that I would have to devote 4 days or 24 hours of my enhancement week to the project. All the academic work I could do at that time. And what about the fact that activities were supposed to start at 10 AM? Why would I want to wake up this early when I have work in the evening? As you can see I compiled an extensive list of reasons why I should say no. However one of my 2018 resolutions was to stop looking for excuses not to do something and just go for it. I said yes. After all, I have been creating various piano melodies for quite some time now and I always wanted to learn song writing.
My thoughts? Philharmonia musicians were absolutely amazing, Artistic Director knew the answer to every question, children were well behaved and full of brilliant ideas. Singing for the Brain members were all incredibly positive, full of light and inspiring stories. My musical skills improved massively. I had a piano rehearsal last week and today – the difference is impressive. My hands remembered the combinations of notes and chords that once were their second nature. I also learned basics of songwriting. It is impressive how we managed to create such beautiful lyrics and background melodies in considerably short time. I could not help but wonder, if I had a chance to participate in project like this when I was 7 or 8, maybe today I would be playing in an orchestra.
Anyhow, we received great training and that 10 AM start was not even half as bad as I expected. After the first day I could not wait for the second. The atmosphere of Hear and Now was brilliant – merits to the Artistic Director who managed to get a room filled with people create a joint pieces of fantastic music and lyrics.
Forget to Remember
Life is full of instruments we do not know how to play, there is no conductor to guide us through and some chords might not match the lyrics. Perhaps sometimes we need to forget if we want to remember. But it is never too late to learn how to read the music and listen to that song you never heard because you did not know how to listen. Thanks to Philharmonia, I learned that beautiful things happen when you stop looking for excuses – fight that laziness and say yes. If you will keep the doors closed, sit there and hope that one day someone will bring the right key to you, you will have to wait a long time, perhaps even forever. Open the door, go out for a walk. Admit that you do not know something and watch your questions turning into notes, sheets and sheets of music telling your story. Create etudes from your mistakes, turn your dreams to preludes, compose nocturnes from memories you made that night you said you should go home early and draft a rhapsody for all the steps you already took in the right direction.
*For clarification, in this context I mean music performed in a classical way rather than created in the Classical period. Philharmonia also performs a lot of modern film scores and music series.