Final recitals give students musical freedom

Well, lessons are over, and students now have to put themselves on show for end of year assessments. These are full-on for four weeks. As Head of Department I chair most assessment panels for the Wind, Brass and Percussion (WBP) Department. Hard work as it is, I enjoy it immensely as it is a chance to hear pretty well the whole department perform, and see how far each student has progressed throughout the year, or throughout the whole course if it’s a final recital. Sometimes I can still remember someone’s entrance audition from almost five years before, and seeing how far a player has travelled in their four years as an undergraduate makes me feel very proud of them. A final recital can be quite an event, an exciting culmination of four years of undergraduate study: adventurous repertoire; additional players joining for some items creating colourful ensembles; new pieces specially written for the occasion; mum, dad, brother, sister, granny and granddad, boyfriend, girlfriend, chums, all there to support. There can be quite an atmosphere. As Roger Argente, bass trombone teacher, said to me, the final recital is probably the one opportunity a student will ever have in their life to ‘really do their thing’. Rarely, if ever, do such opportunities come along once you have left Trinity Laban. WBP students are adept at taking the opportunity to really put on a memorable show.

Then it is all over. Well, not quite, as there are three weeks of term left after assessments filled with all sorts of performance projects, which involve as many of the students as possible – from opera and symphony orchestras to chamber groups we are building this slot in the year into a veritable festival of varied activities.

Then it is all over. Well, not quite! For those returning next year there could be summer courses to attend (some students go far and wide around the world to attend these); a well earned holiday; practice (of course) to keep in trim and possibly even get on top of those scales and orchestral extracts that will come up next year (hm, I wonder…); and/or a summer job to help boost the finances. Busy, busy for most.

For those students leaving there is the excitement and the nervousness of either going out into the big wide musical world or going on to study somewhere else. Many of our students get involved in a stimulating variety of musical activities during their careers; performing, teaching, workshop leading, organising, arranging, fixing, all sorts…there is much that can be generated by the person themself, which becomes highly satisfying especially if it is developing something that is a special interest to them.

We always wish our students well, and do ask them to keep in touch with us, letting us know what they are doing, where they are, if they can help someone. As a Head of Department it always seems sad at this time of year to see people you have known for quite a few years move away; but then again there is the anticipation of the next generation waiting in the wings to join us in September all bright eyed and bushy tailed. The life cycle forever turning…

Ian Mitchell

Head, Wind, Brass and Percussion

Trinity Laban Symphony Orchestra – breaking down Berlioz for schools

Blackheath Halls hosted a special lunchtime performance of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique to a group of 80 local KS3 pupils on 4 February 2014.

Trinity Laban’s Learning and Participation team has been collaborating closely with the conservatoire’s music administration on the project. Patrick Bailey, an experienced music animateur and educator, has been working with the orchestra and our Junior Conducting Fellow James Ham to devise the concert. This has offered them a unique insight into how to deliver concerts for a younger age group.

Performing to and devising work for schools and families now forms an important part of most UK orchestras.

Looking after yourself in the work place

Working at a desk for a prolonged period, often a necessity for many of us at work, can put your body at risk of pain and injury. This can cause lots of problems such as; repetitive strain injury, carpel tunnel syndrome, bad posture, tennis elbow, localised and global stiffness as well as tension. Staring at a computer for hours on end can affect your energy levels, cause a loss in concentration and can often leave you feeling irritable and sluggish.

So what can you do?

In this series Trinity Laban Health will provide you with some top tips and a range of stretches you can do at your desk to help stave off those aches and pains.

This month’s top tips:

  • Take regular breaks – throughout the day you should take time away from your desk to help those tight muscles relax.
  • Stand up or take a walk – standing up at least once an hour will help improve your concentration and help to prevent pain or discomfort in your muscles and joints. If you need to talk to a colleague stand up and talk to them at their desk/ in their office instead of a phone call or through email communication.
  • Drink plenty of water – this will keep you hydrated and feeling refreshed in order for you to function clearly and perform to the best of your ability. Dehydration, however slight, can lead to a loss in concentration, cause fatigue, migraines and leave you with a sluggish feeling. Also remember drinking multiple cups of tea and coffee a day is not replacing the natural water we lose in the body, this can also lead to dehydration.
  • Keep in mind your posture – making sure you are in the correct alignment will help reduce any tight muscles in your body.  If you slouch your muscles will actually need to work harder. Your head is forced forwards and out of alignment causing your muscles to become overworked just to keep your head up. Staying  in a slouched position can lead to on-going tension in your shoulders, neck and puts a lot of pressure on your spine. While you sit at your desk remember to regularly check you are sitting in an upright position.
  • Add in regular stretch breaks to relieve tightness and tension in the body.


So how can you ensure you have the correct posture?

  • You should sit with your bottom at the back of your seat and rest against the back of your chair for support
  • Place your forearms on your desk with your elbows at a 90 degree angle
  • Relax your shoulders, don’t allow them to rise or hunch.
  • Make sure both of your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are level with your hips
  • Adjust your chair so you are not looking up or down at your computer. Make sure you use a footstool, wrist rest, a memory foam mouse mat with a built-in wrist rest, or any other support, if needed.
  • Keep your head tall and upright.
  • If you are worried, or experiencing any discomfort or pain at work due to your chair, desk, or the height of the  computer make sure you speak to your employer to arrange a risk assessment.

In the next instalment we will be providing some more top tips and stretch routines.