Leeds Student Placements

Waaaah! Today we say goodbye to Liz and Steph, who have been our Leeds University student placements for the last year.

Steph has been working with our community team for the past year, managing music-making projects with young people as well as working in collaboration with the marketing team to create some pretty amazing videos about our work.

Liz has been working in our concerts team, travelling up and down the country, ensuring all the shows run on time and most importantly that the orchestra have their music!

The two of them have been an incredible asset to the team here and we are sure that they will go on to achieve great things in their careers.

Steph and Liz – we will all miss you!

Read more about Steph and Liz’s experiences in these blog posts below.

Stephanie Boon & Liz Dixon

Liz Dixon – Concerts Placement

I’m Liz and I’m doing a BA Hons Music course at the University of Leeds. I joined the Concerts team in Manchester Camerata last September as part of our ‘Year in Industry’ placement scheme. If you’d asked me a year ago what I thought my year in industry was going to be like, I would have said something like ‘it’s a year to gain work experience’. Whilst this is true, this past year has given me so much more than that. I feel as though I have grown and developed myself as a person and learnt and developed so many new skills: like independence, problem-solving and even communication!

For the past nine months I have assisted with around 20 different projects with the Camerata. From Mozart, Made in Manchester in Stoller Hall to our debut concert in Wigmore Hall with Jess Gillam, helping with stage management and librarian duties has given me the opportunity to work with and meet so many different musicians, all with different backgrounds. Their passion for music is really something special and their love can be felt as soon as they walk through the doors on day one of rehearsals, right through till the end of the concert.

Before starting this placement, I had gained lots of experience playing in orchestras however had a very limited idea about what goes on behind the scenes. Being part of the concerts team has opened my eyes to the world of arts admin, such as ordering sheet music, contracts and lots and lots of emailing!! Not only that, being part of the concerts team has really inspired me; being surrounded by people who share the same passions and are all so dedicated to Manchester Camerata, it’s incredible to see.

Exploring Manchester has been really exciting, especially through visiting lots of different venues with the Camerata. With this I have learnt to be adaptable – including working in less than usual spaces (see the picture of me sending out more lateral flow tests….): Mayfield Depot, a former railway station now a popular venue, is one of the more… interesting places I had to work which is where we held one of the Hacienda concerts!

Personally, the concert we did in Wigmore Hall in London was one of the main highlights of my placement; it was two days of many firsts. From getting the train by myself, flagging down a cab, to taking a lead in concert managing – it was truly an experience I won’t forget. Working and being surrounded by the Camerata team also made this a special concert, especially as I got to learn more about them individually.

Outside of work, and as a French horn player, I wasn’t sure how many playing opportunities I would have; but being in such a thriving city has offered me so much. I’ve played in brass bands, ensembles in the Manchester University Music Society and more recently in the Society’s production of A New Brain, a musical by James Lapine!

As I look back on this year, before I head back to my studies in Leeds, I’m proud of myself and everything I have accomplished. I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone I have worked with and for everything you have taught me. Here’s to the next chapter!

Liz sending out Covid tests to our musicians’ peak pandemic
Our Wigmore Hall Concert
Steph and Lavender on our Hidden Histories project
Our Hidden Histories project
Lavender as part of our Hidden Histories project

Stephanie Boon – Community Team placement

My Student Placement Experience at Manchester Camerata

I spent my February and March travelling round Cheshire East to deliver a series of creative composition workshops to four high schools, alongside composer Lavender Rodriguez and musicians Sarah Nixon and Jenny Cox.

Called Hidden Histories, this project explores composers from underrepresented backgrounds and uses their music to inspire students to embark on their own composition journeys. We looked at composers who were overlooked due to their gender, ethnicity, and sexuality. Since its conception during lockdown in early 2021, this project has had a lot of significance and naturally we wanted it to do just as well this time around!

Since starting my placement year with Manchester Camerata, Hidden Histories has got to be one of the biggest projects I undertook as a project lead, and with that came a lot of nerves as well as challenges: what might work well online might not have done so in person, for example. So it’s safe to say that there was a sense of responsibility with all the expectations surrounding it.  It almost felt like I was walking through a dark tunnel with only candlelight guiding me as I hoped that I would reach the end of it and discover something incredible. And we did.

Firstly, it was through this project that I got the chance to work alongside the greatest people I could’ve asked for. They were always supportive and together, we were up for the challenge. I got along really well with Lavender, what with both of us being University students (and sharing similar interests in Nintendo Switch games), and we also worked really well together during the workshops and behind the scenes.

Secondly, as a music student, I’ve seen first-hand how the curriculum can be Eurocentric, focusing on Western Art Music, and so it was great to be part of something that aims to break those barriers. It’s important that students are exposed to composers, musicians and artists who come from different backgrounds. We’ve missed out on so much great work done by composers who’ve gone unrecognised for years and years that I think it’s time we break the cycle. Expose students of today to composers they can relate to, so that they know that no matter who they are or where they come from, they have a voice that should be heard.

Throughout all the workshops, I was able to watch the students grow in confidence. A lot of them started the project saying that they would never call themselves a composer and that writing music was something they wouldn’t even dare to try, but by the end of it all, they all had written their own rhythms, melodies, and harmonies, and were always so eager to share their ideas with their classmates. 

At the culmination concert, whilst I would normally have my eyes fixed on the musicians performing, I took the chance to look around me and just watch the faces of the students. There were smiles, goosebumps, glimmers in eyes when they recognised a motif or rhythmic pattern they themselves wrote, and even a couple of tears. It was almost like an unsaid but shared sentiment of ‘wow, we did it…we did that’ and I could not have felt prouder!

I don’t think there’s a better way to sum up this project than what a student shared, ‘It doesn’t matter where you’re from or where your backgrounds are from, or the colour of your skin or ethnicity…if you like music, then it’s a great starting point.’

I guess my personal takeaway from this project, just like the students, is a growth in confidence and that sometimes, there’s only so much in your control or that you can plan for, but that’s okay because figuring things out along the way and being able to adapt quickly to changing situations and environments is all you need at times. 

And now I’m back at my desk, I can’t help but feel a little bittersweet about it all ending as I reflect on this project. A year ago, I was back in Leeds (probably pulling my hair out on yet another assignment) and I would have never thought that I would be able to have such an amazing project under my name.

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