With this week being International Women's Week, I've been reflecting upon the inspiring women in my life. I feel very lucky to have such an amazing mum, twin sister, best friend and to be surrounded by so many great girl friends and colleagues. But I thought that it also might be interesting to reflect upon and celebrate some of the women within the music profession, whom I know and have recently worked with, and who have inspired me.
Over the last few weeks, I've had the opportunity to work with two wonderful conductors, as a member of the Southbank Sinfonia. In February, we gave the premiere performances of a new youth opera at Glyndebourne (Nothing by David Bruce). The production received rave reviews and was conducted by Sian Edwards (below left). I knew Sian from the Royal Academy of Music, where she is Head of Conducting, and it was a true pleasure to work with her. Sian was efficient, clear and, above all, she was patient and friendly. Sian never lost her temper, never singled anyone out, would admit her own (rare) mistakes as much as anyone else's, and conducted every rehearsal and performance with a smile. For me, it was a masterclass in how to earn respect and achieve great results by being nice!
The following week, Southbank Sinfonia brought in the inimitable Rebecca Miller (above right) to conduct Beethoven's 3rd 'Eroica' Symphony. From her very first downbeat, Rebecca's energy was tireless and, as if by osmosis, the orchestra absorbed this energy and gave two fantastic performances of the symphony. Rebecca's enthusiasm and dynamism was exactly what we needed after the collective exhaustion from the Glyndebourne project and she was described by a member of the Southbank staff as 'a dose of caffeine' for us all!
That week, we performed the Eroica in our regular Rush Hour concert, and also at our first family concert at Cadogan Hall, based on the theme of Heroes. The use of fun multimedia elements, exciting lighting, acting from the orchestra and some carefully chosen excerpts from the symphony culminated in an engaging concert for both the children and their parents. After the concert, the kids were able to meet the musicians and their instruments and even have a go themselves. This interaction between the audience and musicians is actually how I first came across the trumpet when I was five years old and, well, the rest is history..!!
As well as being inspired by conductors and figures at the front of the orchestra, I have been particularly inspired recently by my female colleagues and friends. I've loved working in all-female ensembles in the past, such as Bella Tromba, and we also had an all-female trumpet section for the Glyndebourne opera. One trumpeter who I admire is my section partner in Southbank Sinfonia, Etty Wake (below left). Etty is a fabulous high-range player - something that I'm currently working on in my own playing - so it's been very interesting for me to listen to her playing and to talk with her about different techniques and ideas. If you'd like to hear Etty in action, we are performing Telemann's Double Trumpet Concerto in E flat major in next week's Rush Hour Concert! See here for more details.
Finally, a friend who continues to inspire me is harpist Olivia Jageurs (above right). Olivia is one of the most entrepreneurial musicians I know and is always thinking of ways to make classical music more accessible to new audiences (be it organising a recital in her flat for neighbours and friends or doing workshops with children in schools).
Olivia's most recent venture is 15 Second Harp. The idea behind this project is that composers (either professionals or amateurs) can send Olivia a 15 second-long piece, which she will then learn, record and post a video of online by 5pm the following day. 15 Second Harp therefore provides a perfect platform for composers to try out new ideas for the harp and hear (often within 24 hours) the result. Olivia gives extensive feedback to each contributor and advice on how to make their harp writing more idiomatic. 15 Second Harp is gaining popularity by the day, with 84 contributors to date, almost 1000 followers on Facebook and a number of her videos have been viewed over 4000 times.
Alongside this work, Olivia is a busy freelance harpist, performing with major London orchestras and playing harp and percussion on stage in the current West End production of The War of the Worlds. I spoke to Olivia recently about how well things seem to be going for her. She told me that she spent a long time, both during and after her studies, worrying about her 'weaknesses' and constantly criticizing herself for them.
She recently decided, however, that life is too short to make yourself miserable with this mentality, so she chose to focus on the aspects of music that she really enjoys and has a particular talent for: contemporary music and sight reading (the core foundations, for her, of 15 Second Harp!) Since making this adjustment, Olivia says that opportunities in other areas have actually started to present themselves too and, as she continues to do the things she loves most, she is more in demand now than ever (most recently as a performer, as an interviewee for online harp magazines or as a panellist for a recent YCAT talk!)
Since talking to Olivia, I've really tried to incorporate this into my day to day life. It is so important to remember and acknowledge the things that you do well, the things that make you 'you', and to allow yourself to do them. Of course, it is also important to have goals and to always strive to be the best you can be, but don't forget to be kind to yourself once in a while and silently congratulate yourself on the things that make you wonderful!