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Christopher Wainwright reports on his Churchill Fellowship

During January and February 2014, as The Mr & Mrs Gerald Frank New 2013 Churchill Fellow AdYO’s General Manager, Christopher Wainwright travelled to the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States to undertake a study of participatory orchestral education and music education programs.

Chris says, “To have eight-weeks to questions one’s pre-conceptions, values and beliefs was an absolute privilege. During the eight-weeks I observed and participated in a variety of educational programs, which included: African drumming with disadvantaged teenagers in Edinburgh; musicianship classes with gifted young musicians; planning a chamber music concert with high school students in London’s East End and witnessed a classroom of primary school students in New York learning how to create music. Whatever I observed and participated in, I did so with a real curiosity and openness, for some of my peers it perplexed them that I wasn’t excited or elated to be involved, but I knew such emotions would cloud the impact and analysis of the experience.”

When he was not participating in educational programs, he attended meetings with senior orchestral management, orchestral educators and other key people involved with the development and delivery of community based education.

In the course of those meetings and through his reflective processes, it gradually became apparent that his original plan of solely focusing on school-related education, while it made sense in terms of making the project manageable, it was in some respects closed Chris’ thinking to the more holistic and perhaps more effective approach of lifelong learning.

In coming to that realisation, he realised that, all aspects of an orchestra’s work, whether it be its concerts, pre-concert talks, communication materials and programming do have an educational role. Each person when they engage have differing levels of knowledge, but most people in engaging with one’s work is curious and are seeking an experience, which in part has some educational aspects.

For some orchestras at certain the times, the philosophy underlying education has been of outreach and/or paternalism, which at one level is understandable. However, he realised that if one operates from that model you are closing the door for real interaction and relationship building with the communities one is working with. While there is no question that orchestral education can create or play a role in social change, I came to the view that in no case should it be the principal reason for providing orchestral education.

A particular highlight of the Fellowship was to attend the Association of British Orchestras National Conference in London. Over three days he learned a lot about the state of British orchestras and the key issues that exist relating to issues including: musicians’ well-being, philanthropy, government funding, education and programming. The opportunity to learn through case-studies and conversations was invaluable.

An additional and magnificent aspect of the Fellowship was the opportunity to attend numerous concerts, where he was able to discover new conductors, soloists and repertoire. Apart from the inspirational and emerging aspect of attending those concerts. It allowed him to learn and observe how orchestras present themselves, how program notes are used as a tool of audience engagement and to gain an appreciation of the orchestras’ supporter base.

At this stage, he is still reflecting and considering how to best implement the learnings into his day-to-day work with the Adelaide Youth Orchestras. However, without doubt, he can and does imagine that in the not too distant future, new projects and processes will evolve which are based upon the Fellowship’s learnings.

 To find out more about Christopher’s fellowship, visit: http://chriswain74.wordpress.com/

 

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