Like many children from the Emerald Isle, my first encounter with music was via the niche yet fascinating medium of Irish dancing. I hated everything about it; doing it, watching it, curling my hair for it (and I already have curly hair- that’s how strange the Irish dancing world is!) so I soon gave up. However, I absolutely adored the music we danced to and my mother, faced with the prospect of having a 5 year old with not enough on her C.V, sent me to singing lessons, which soon turned into piano lessons. However, piano was always going to be a bit of a lonely activity, and I soon clocked that the boys in my local youth orchestra were quite good looking, so off to flute lessons I went. And also recorder lessons…but I’ll come to that later.
Many years later, I was trying to work out what to do with my life and came up with two options; a law degree or a music degree. And foolishly at that stage, I didn’t think about how much I enjoy fancy, over-priced cocktails in flashy bars so I decided to do a music degree and have my flute lessons at Guildhall. Best of both worlds innit?!
However, there was a snag in my grand bohemian life plan; I started hating playing my flute about 6 months into my degree. Which, when you are faced with playing your instrument all day, every day, for the rest of your life is a little bit of an issue.
That summer, I started interning in an office, with photocopiers and all sorts of grownup things. It was for a well-known early music ensemble and I had no idea what I was doing. I marked up a lot of bowings and had a cry in the toilets about not being able to fax a contract to Germany. The following summer, I was feeling bigger and braver and interned again at a little-known orchestra called National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. I had a great time and didn’t cry in the toilets once! I also did a Masters at Kings College London around this time which was all about working in the Creative and Cultural Industries.
Once I graduated, I eventually (hello recession!) managed to get a part-time job as a team assistant a music education charity called Music for Youth. Music for Youth provides performance opportunities for young musicians all over the UK, from low key gigs in church halls to huge concerts in Birmingham Symphony Hall and the Royal Albert Hall. Over time, they were foolish enough to promote me to Assistant Producer and eventually Producer, where I produced concerts involving multiple ensembles and up to 1000 performers per night. It’s as terrifying as it sounds. You basically don’t breath for 3 hours. But you get to sit here and manage lots and lots of people so you feel like a total boss:
I then had a very brief sojourn back to Northern Ireland to work as the Education Manager for the Ulster Orchestra before coming back to London to work as the Artist Development Manager at Southbank Sinfonia. And here I am!
What’s on your playlist right now?
Jain, Corelli, Bach, Ensecu and Taylor Swift. What a dinner party!
What do you think concerts of the future should look like?
I think more classical music concerts should happen outside the traditional concert hall, lose the DJ’s (dinner jackets) and maybe add some DJ’s (disc jockeys.) I’d like to bring my non-musical friends to classical concerts, without them feeling inferior or intimated by what a classical music concert is. Give them a few drinks and make them feel included so that they too can know the sheer joy of a Mahler symphony.