Orchestras Live Production and Insight Coordinator, Karys Orman, shares her experiences of attending the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) conference for the first time, and what we can take away from the different perspectives that were shared...
Witnessing the continued impact of the pandemic on the disruption of our daily lives, in our projects and beyond we are discovering unexpected outcomes of the necessity of doing things differently. One of these was the move of the annual Association of British Orchestras (ABO) conference to be hosted online. This meant a reduction in cost for delegates to attend – in admission fee, travel and accommodation – and broader range of organisation staff from across the sector were able to join together. Including me, taking the opportunity to attend for the first time.
The resulting range of different voices in the room was refreshing, including some inspirational speakers from overseas and musicians (the musicians themselves were awarded the ABO Award in recognition of their tenacity during the challenges of the last year).
It was brilliant to hear from clarinettist Katherine Spencer (also known as Waffy) from one of our partner orchestras, City of London Sinfonia, and her experiences of how musicians engage with people in healthcare settings that she shared during ‘A Healthier Nation’ – our conference session co-chaired by Orchestras Live CEO Sarah Derbyshire and City of London Sinfonia CEO Matthew Swann:
It’s often better not knowing the medical issues of people in care settings when working with them, which forces musicians to be very open. There are lots of fab musicians out there. Let’s get them all doing this work!
~ Waffy, clarinetist with City of London Sinfonia
Waffy (travelling between care shifts) also may have started a trend of joining the conference from your car (another expected bonus of an online conference); John Summers (ex-CEO of the Hallé) accepted his ABO Special Award from his local Waitrose carpark due to internet connection issues (the pitfalls of an online conference!).
Other crucial perspectives focused on equality, diversity and inclusion and anti-racism. These are not new conversations, and they are now more important than ever (not least because they have been topics of talk but limited action for so long).
Throughout the conference it felt like that the sector was sitting up and seriously considering our place in society in relation to these issues. It will only become evident once we see action – for example, how the sector engages with Chi-chi Nwanoku’s newly-launched initiative (the European Alliance for Audition Support) promoting a more inclusive and representative approach to auditioning and hiring musicians – how seriously this is taken in practice. The speakers, addressing the harsh and unequitable reality of the current state of the sector, urged delegates to act.
Action is not due, it’s overdue.
~ Roger Wilson, Black Lives in Music
Be brave. You may come off the path, and you may end up in places you don’t know, but you’ll be on a route.
~ Linton Stephens, Chineke! Orchestra bassoonist and Musicians Union EDI Committee chair
Your intent is not important, your impact is. We cannot be separate from what happens in society, we must participate.
~ Aaron Flagg, DMA Chair, Associate Director, Julliard Jazz Studies Program
We have to stay focused on what we gain, not what we lose.
~ Sakurako Fisher, former Chair, San Francisco Symphony
As we consider the big issues facing the sector, can we still justify the impact on the climate of bringing together several hundred delegates from across the country (and long-haul flights for overseas delegates) in person when so many of us were able to constructively participate from home? This affects not just conferences but the activity the sector produces (not to mention international touring). We will be addressing the question of whether we want to go back to ‘normal’ in our next Regenerate Series event on 6 May, so perhaps you’ll join us to continue the discussion of live, online and hybrid activity there…