Chief Executive, Sarah Derbyshire MBE, shares her thoughts on our New Connections project, creative music leadership and co-creation
Successful collaborations often begin with partners openly admitting their shortcomings. When we acknowledge what we don't know and where we might go wrong in our plans, it paves the way for us to work together, reaching a deeper level of understanding that ultimately leads to better outcomes.
That’s exactly how the New Connections project was born.
Orchestras Live has a strong track record of implementing programmes to nurture music leaders, as part of our strategy to grow and diversify the pool of practitioners we can call on to lead creative projects in community settings. However, our experience has largely been with early or mid-career musicians. We recognise that the fact that musicians require leadership skills development indicates a gap in the comprehensive training and institutional validation of creative music leadership among music students.
Leeds Conservatoire shares this perspective, as demonstrated by their recent exploration of Artistic Citizenship. But recognising the problem is only the first step. Both partners realised that a more profound understanding of the elements for successful co-creation and creative community work was necessary before creating a teaching programme. And to truly reflect the principles of co-creation, that understanding should be built on a holistic approach that gives equal weight to the input of participants, students and professional musicians.
A Knowledge Exchange programme offered the perfect solution. Described by the Office for Students as “a process that brings together academic staff, users of research and wider groups and communities to exchange ideas, evidence and expertise”, Knowledge Exchange provided a robust framework. It enabled us to rapidly establish a new understanding and evidence base to inform curriculum development, addressing the concerns of teaching staff, students, and the professional sector.
The independent evaluation report by Kirsty Halliday of Red Sands Arts Management has provided valuable insights. It points to key building blocks that all organisations involved in supporting musicians’ skills development, whether students or professional performers, should incorporate into their practice.
Professional music organisations and the freelance body of portfolio career musicians, are forging closer ties with community, health and social care settings, as well as formal and informal education settings, where co-creation’s impact is increasingly sought. It’s vital that our collaborative work with these communities is of the highest quality, that we don’t pay lip-service to the ‘idea’ of co-creation but embody it across every aspect of delivery.
It's disingenuous to think that our commitment to the theory will sufficiently inform our practice. Failing to acknowledge that more needs to be done to establish training and develop best practice principles is a disservice to our musical workforce and the communities we engage with.
I have full confidence that Orchestras Live and Leeds Conservatoire, through their ongoing partnership, will not only integrate the recommendations from New Connections but also create a resource that can be shared with and inform everyone in the sector committed to the artistic and social impact of co-creation.