As part of my MA in Arts Management, Policy and Practice, I undertook a placement at The Bridgewater Hall, one of Manchester’s most prestigious music venues. For the duration of the placement, I worked with Paula Wilson, Learning and Participation Manager at the Hall. My placement was varied, which meant I really got a flavour for everything, from working with the Conferencing and Events team to spending time in the Box Office (where I now work!).

The placement really focussed on giving me a real sense of what The Hall is like, from all departmental perspectives, but my favourite aspect was in learning and engagement. A particular day on placement I enjoyed and felt I personally got a lot out of was in in January 2019. Paula and I travelled to meet Lucas Van Woerkum, creator of ‘Symphonic Cinema’: an innovative way of promoting classical music by pairing orchestral pieces with art films, made by himself. We were travelling to UTC Media College in Salford Quays to give film studies students a workshop in how music can be used to influence film and vice versa.

The workshop was being held ahead of a showing and performance of Lucas’ films alongside the BBC Philharmonic on the following Saturday, a concert which many of the students attended. The workshop was so inspiring; Lucas generally talked about the history of Symphonic Cinema and the influence it had internationally. We watched some videos of Lucas’ work and some clips with different styles of music and discussed how the music chosen influenced the way we thought about the scene.

I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a group of teenagers more engaged with classical music in my life! Coming from a classical music background myself, I can understand that it is a difficult one in engaging teenagers. It’s often seen as boring or just not for them and even for me, as a classically-trained musician, I often find it hard to engage with it, which I don’t think many classical musicians would admit! It’s a lot to expect people to engage with sound alone and conjure up an image in their mind in a concert hall. Often, I find people respond better when they are given a visual stimulus. I was sceptical at first about Lucas’ idea, but I can honestly say his work enhanced the music and likewise, the music enhanced his work. The students were so thoroughly engaged and the majority came to the concert at the weekend to hear more.

This workshop only lasted for an afternoon, but its impact has stuck with me since then. In engagement, it is so important to break down barriers between the artist and the audience, and between the work and the people who listen to it. I really think that a lot of young people today don’t come to see classical music because they simply don’t relate to it. Thinking about it, when you listen to music, often it relates directly to how you’re feeling then and there, how you want to feel or a certain feeling or memory related to that song. Young people of today will feel this with non-classical music, but classical music often has a barrier to it. However, workshops like these show that classical music is relevant for today in putting it with modern day situations through film. Seeing the music through the eyes of the composer, the very feelings it evokes and situations it can accompany really brings it to life and for these students, it showed the evocative nature of the classical.

Sunset overlooking The Bridgewater Hall on my way home from the workshop. (Photo: Sophie Pegum)