It’s been an exciting few weeks for Southampton University for student musicians. Firstly we had the news that Susanna Riddell had been appointed Symphony Orchestra Director. And now, (as those of you who follow Southampton’s classical music scene might be aware) Southampton has just gained its very own professional orchestra. Those of you uneducated in the classical music scene, understandably are probably wondering what I am talking about. To give you a brief idea, The són project is in it’s infancy but is already creating waves with its new format concerts, which ‘unwrap’ great works by the likes of Beethoven and Elgar, but also through its innovative education schemes.
As many of you will probably know, or at least expect, classical music is daunting at the best of times, not least for those who are trying to break into the professional world. As a way of breaching this gap, són have launched a masterclass scheme to give the university’s music students a chance to sit alongside the orchestra during rehearsals, and even in concert to gain confidence and to see exactly how to perform at the highest level.
The Artistic director of són, Robin Browning, kindly spoke to me about the scheme and what it is trying to achieve. He stated: ‘It’s long been a dream of mine to offer musicians, including conductors and composers, opportunities to work alongside those at the peak of the profession – through masterclasses and interactive side-by-side schemes. It’s a terrific opportunity for the students to learn the skills, mindset and behaviour which are so pivotal to developing a successful career in today’s music profession.’ Robin continued to discuss what són had already done, saying ‘Our Shakespearean family concert in June (a special performance of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) was the perfect opportunity to offer high-level stu
dents the chance to perform, live on stage, with regular són professionals.’
Robin also runs the conducting course at Southampton, and this scheme directly benefits students at the University. One of these students, Kath Roberts, a third year violinist and Principal of Southampton University’s Symphony Orchestra, discussed her experience with són, and how the scheme has already furthered her professional opportunities. Kath said: ‘I found that my playing was challenged in ways I wasn’t even aware of previously, in the long-term it has taught me to think in much more detail about my performance.’ She was further effusive in her praise for the programme, enthusing ‘The experience that són has given me is invaluable, it looks brilliant on my CV and gave me direct contact with musicians that I aspire to be like.’
Work experience is a trial we all have to go through in some form but chances to play in the professional music world are so few and far between that it’s reassuring to see Southampton students benefiting from such support. són offers students an amazing opportunity to be involved in top quality music production and performance, and it is great to see so much support given to these budding performers. Here’s hoping it establishes itself as a key part of the brilliant music programmes and societies and becomes an integral part of it. The early evidence is certainly very promising.
To find out more about the programme, check out the link here.