Conducting has been life-changing - and game-changing for others too


BSO Resound's conductor on his path to the podium

In November, the BSO won the RPS Impact Award, an award given for an outstanding initiative or positive impact on the lives of people who may not otherwise experience classical music. The Orchestra was recognised for its BSO Change Makers programme and disabled-led ensemble, BSO Resound in just the ensemble's second year of existence - the founding conductor James Rose reflects on the ensemble, and on his own music experiences.

At the time of writing, it has been less than a week since we at Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) won the 2019 RPS Impact Award for BSO Resound and the BSO Change Makers programme. Being the first trainee of the programme and having led BSO Resound for the last two years, it is a real privilege for us to have gained the recognition from the sector. I am so proud of the team and have yet to get my head around our achievements so far.

The last two years have had an extraordinary impact on my life and conducting career, despite the fact that I held conducting ambitions since young age. I only started addressing my ambition seriously in 2012, when I spent eight months rehearsing for a number of London 2012 ceremonies in which I was dancing and partaking in a massive creative live production project. The experience showed me that anything is possible, no matter how mad and crazy the idea. Prior to this experience, I’d satisfied my hunger for creativity through participating and working on theatre and dancing projects but it wasn’t enough, and left me with some internal remnants of frustration. Parallel to this, I would escape into fantasies whilst listening to music generating the sweats as I imagined myself conducting whatever I was listening to at the time; these fantasy sessions somewhat counteracted the frustration remnants until I made my re-entry into the real world. This continued for approximately the first 25 years of my life because, at the time, the idea of conducting using one’s head had never been done before. I also had little to no musical experience nor the understanding of the theory behind the art form.

As a child, I was always supported with any crazy ambitions; my parents would always encourage my aspirations, regardless of how crazy they sounded. This reaction was given when I randomly declared to them my new mission to conduct music with my head.

From the moment I began to actively pursue my conducting aspirations, in 2012, I was under no illusion that it would be easy. I was met with much doubt at first. It took time to develop contacts with the right kind of people so that I could access or create training and development opportunities.

As a young conductor, working with BSO Resound has been life-changing. Not only it has been a platform which I have used to gain experience, but it has publicly validated my conducting aspirations. My way of conducting has never been done before and has, as with anything new, been met with doubt and resistance. Having the fantastic support of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra helped proved that the evolution in conducting can still continue unrestricted by traditions and conventions.

It’s fair to say that my training with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra has been a massive boost to my conducting career. I have received on-the-job training and have been ripped apart before building myself back up, accumulating strength from each lesson learnt.

I have learned to truly express myself without embarrassment. This is crucial in being able to deliver a genuine and honest performance, which touches your musicians and audiences alike. This is a multi-level process, starting with my interpretation of the music I’m conducting, informed by my thinking and personal experiences. This is then interpreted by the musicians through their playing and the way the music is delivered to the audience. I see music being tantamount to a rawest interpretation of human consciousness. This has been a professional traineeship leaving a legacy spanning across many other people. BSO Resound – the world’s first disabled-led professional ensemble, embedded in a mainstream orchestra – has given talented musicians who have previously found it impossible to play in a mainstream orchestra a platform for exposure and stepping stone into the sector. The work at Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra is focussed on creating a long-term sustainable programme of work to create pathways into the orchestral world for musicians who have disabilities. This is crucial to increase the diversity within the orchestral and classical music sectors.

Find out more about BSO Resound; learn more about the BSO Change Makers report and BSO Programme for Cultural Change

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