Music around the Corner A practice-based research project at the Royal Conservatoire, The Hague. Ilona Sie Dhian Ho, Professor of Violin Can district musicians convey the value of classical music and give classical music a place in a local community? In this project conservatoire students are trained to become ambassadors of music in a community. The main characteristics of the project are giving live performances in unusual venues, building a long-term relationship between the musicians and local audiences, organising participation by local people and training students to become communicative performers. The Court/City musician is the historical model for this idea. Design The case study describes a project designed by professor of violin, Ilona Sie Dhian Ho. The head of the Master programme “New Audiences and Innovative Practices” and the principal of the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague were involved in training the students. For this project a group of 10-15 Bachelor and Mast students adopted a specific district in The Hague. The area selected was Morgenstond. The local agenda was explored to learn about local interests and organisations. The students and project manager investigated how classical music could contribute to the well-being of this community. After these preparations, performances were organised in collaboration with local partners. The musical agenda was based on present-day needs. Performers and local organisations shared responsibility for organising the events. The students became local musicians performing in a district orchestra, the Morgenstond Orchestra. In addition to playing, they created musical projects. Repertoire and performing The choice of repertoire and the way it is presented are based on the context: the occasion, the audience and the venue. The musicians use creative methods to get audiences involved. Engaged listening is encouraged by presenting music in a story or by encouraging audiences to participate. Results The project started in 2013 and has been increasingly successful. Performances There have been over 40 performances at more than 15 venues, all supported by local organisations. Participation projects -A school song composed by the Dutch composer Theo Verbeij to lyrics written by the children at a local school. -A project in which mentally disabled people told stories about their lives after hearing music that inspired them. The music and stories were presented at a sold-out performance in the local theatre. -A chamber opera entitled The Thief of Morgenstond created for the anniversary of a voluntary organisation for local safety, the Neighbourhood Intervention Team. -Several concerts with the Morgenstond Fiddlers, a group of young violin pupils that was initiated by this project. Other results -A covenant to support classical music has been signed by 15 local organisations. -Interaction and mutual support between cultural organisations have increased. -Some students have said their confidence as artists has increased and they have less stage anxiety. Conclusion Conservatoire students, acting as district musicians, can establish a link between classical music and new audiences. Performances designed to enhance the understanding of classical repertoire help to convey the value of classical music. A long-term relationship embedded in a local area helps musicians to get to know the local people and that helps to achieve the aim. A personal approach and identification by local people with “their” musicians help to overcome obstacles like prejudice and cold feet. Engaged listening and creative participation in combination with performances of a high artistic standard are important for giving new audiences an appreciation of classical music. Training and practical experience as district musicians offer conservatoire students a way of forming strong musical personalities as well as helping them to create something that affects their future: an eager, music-loving audience.
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