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Archives for July 2012

Be our guest: What it's like to host a Fellow

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Francesca Tortora | 10:50 UK time, Thursday, 26 July 2012

On the 13th August, the next round of this year’s funding will be on offer through our Music Fellowships scheme. This scheme will be open to organisations who hope to host a Fellow in the early stages of their career.

Music companies, organisations, venues and festivals from across the UK will need to have a Fellow in mind when they apply so we asked Marie McCluskey MBE, the Artistic Director at Swindon Dance, what her experience has been since receiving a Dance Fellowship in 2011.


Marie McCluskey smiling with choreographer Fellow James Wilton

Marie McCluskey smiling with choreographer Fellow James Wilton. Photographer: Jeremy Freedman

How did you go about finding your Dance Fellow, James Wilton?
It was quite an organic process; Swindon Dance is always on the lookout for new dance talent, especially choreographers and companies. I had started to pick up on James’ name and reputation from various sources and partner producers and finally met him through a meeting set up by Ron McAlistair at South Hill Park to explore the possibility of a joined up approach to nurturing James’ work and company development. The runes were stacking up and so by the time the opportunity to apply for the Dance Fellowship came along it seemed like a fortuitous next step and I approached James with a view to nominating him.

How did you come to decide on the structure of the Fellowship?
Swindon Dance has for many years offered a range of Associate Artist opportunities of varying lengths to choreographers – the PAF application process and guidelines encouraged me to revisit previous frameworks and, following initial discussions with James, to rework one to suit Swindon Dance, James and the Fund’s requirements.

How collaborative was the process? How much involvement did you have will your Fellow?
I think we had just the right amount of time and collaborative working together. James is at an exciting point in his development as a choreographer and of James Wilton Dance Company; his work is generating a real demand. In addition he is proactively developing new links all the time and so we worked in a flexible way in order for him to fulfil his commitments at Swindon Dance whilst also responding to new opportunities .We used a mentoring process to agree upon these choices – both myself and Sue Davies (freelance dance consultant) are working with James as mentors.

What is the plan for the final performance or experience?
James has created a 15 minute solo as part of his Fellowship and this will be performed on November 30th in Swindon Dance Studio Theatre.  This will be part of an evening called Simply Solo – which will present solos created by four different choreographers and followed by a facilitated Q&A which will look at the solo form in dance and how and why each choreographer has been inspired to make and develop their solo.

Have you had to adapt parts of the original plan?
Yes – that was the realisation / discovery that we made – The PAF funding gave James and Swindon Dance the opportunity to respond flexibly to certain new opportunities or changes in creative ideas. For example, James initially thought he would make a new group piece as part of his Fellowship. In the end he realised he wanted to work in a more reflective and rigorous way with a solo performer and the time and space he had (a luxury for a choreographer) meant that he could engage in meaningful research and development  as opposed to meeting a deadline for a finished piece e.g. process led versus product led. Also we changed some initial planned activity in Swindon to enable James to take up exciting opportunities e.g. performance in Dies De Danza in Barcelona.

What has been the highlight of working with James so far?
The fresh energy and ideas he has brought to Swindon Dance – a ‘get up and go now’ attitude and sharing risks. For example he decided at quite short notice to change the layout of his performance at Swindon Dance – the right decision which resulted in a fantastic evening of dynamic dance – and threw a complete new perspective on his work. It is refreshing to witness his ‘nothing is a problem’ approach to his work and to solving problems through a creative approach. James also encouraged (politely) that we engage more fully in social networking and was confident in making suggestions to us too.

Any final bits of advice for an organisation thinking of taking on a Fellow?
Make time to listen to your Fellow – they have the fingers on the pulse of the future! Build in some flexibility to respond to creative twists and turns as they emerge. Do have an agreement and budget and make sure you review them both during the placement.

Would you apply for the scheme again?
Yes it has been an amazing scheme for dance – commissions for chorographers and the time to enable a rigorous period of process driven research and development are a luxury in today’s world, especially time for reflection!  I sense that the PAF Fellowship provided James with the space and funding to begin planning his future pathways and for personal and choreographic reflection and growth.

Thank you Marie for the insight!

More information about the Music Fellowship scheme is nowavailable  on our website where you can read the Terms and Conditions and FAQs. And you can also  learn more about the Dance Fellowship scheme here.

Enjoy the Ride: Commissioning Music Part 3

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Francesca Tortora | 10:01 UK time, Friday, 6 July 2012

Ed McKeon, Co-Director of ‘Third Ear Music’, finishes off his series of blogs on commissioning music with some tips on how to capitalise on the process – and comes to the end of his mystery tour.

"Getting the most out of the process
Whilst commissioning can happen in a ‘vacuum’, remote from the life of the group, this doesn’t have to be the case. The process of building a relationship with the composer can apply not just to the group, but also to your audience and potential audience. Ask your members to write a blog about the workshop process, or get the music director to write about the choosing of the composer. Invite the composer to meet with and talk to your audience from the outset. Your audience will never get the chance to meet JS Bach, but they can meet your composer and find out what makes her tick.

Be clear about your expectations for different parts of the process. The composer may want to try things out, asking the group to do things you haven’t done before. This part of a process doesn’t have to be about success or failure, but about discovery. The only failure here is if the group is not open-minded about the process. Make sure to build in evaluation as you go along, especially through close contact between the music director and your chosen composer.

With the launch of the BBC Performing Arts Fund’s Community Music scheme, there’s never been a better time to commission music tailor-made for your group. Nevertheless, this isn’t the only means of financing your new piece. Commissioning funds are available from the PRS for Music Foundation, from Arts Council England, and from several trusts and foundations. Equally, you could invite your audience, members and past members to contribute using one of the ‘crowd funding’ websites, or you could commission a piece jointly with one or more other similar groups. This is a journey with fares to meet most budgets.

Now we’ve covered the basics, I can let you in on the most precious secret of this magical mystery tour. It’s not a round trip, or at least it shouldn’t be. When you’ve finished the process and given the premiere, you should find that you don’t end up where you started from: those returning from an adventure listen to their world with new ears."

Ed McKeon, Co-Director of Third Ear Music, whose symposium ‘Commissioning and Patronage in a Digital Age’ runs at Southbank Centre, London, on 13 July 2012.

Useful links

PRS for Music Foundation
Information on funding and on composers

Meet the Composer (USA)
(USA) guide to commissioning

Enjoy the Ride: Commissioning Music Part 2

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Francesca Tortora | 09:00 UK time, Thursday, 5 July 2012

In yesterday's blog, Ed McKeon, Co-Director of ‘Third Ear’, shared with us some motives for commissioning music, and now he contributes further knowledge on how to go about the process.

"Key Principles
The key relationship is that between the music director and the composer. S/he has to be both a champion for the commission within your group and a critical friend for the composer. The music director should reflect the group’s self-awareness, understanding what’s going on underneath the bonnet and openly acknowledging weaknesses as well as strengths. If possible, you should include workshops as part of the creative process for the composer to try out ideas with the group, and invite them to join in rehearsals with the group. This is an opportunity to get to know, to acknowledge and even to love the group’s quirks and idiosyncrasies.

For all the notes of caution and moments of stress, the process should be great fun. This begins with finding your composer. ‘New music’ sometimes has an aura of danger about it, but only in the same way any space that doesn’t receive much positive light can seem dark and forbidding. An hour spent online will reveal the wealth and diversity of music being made today, both by early career and established composers. There are some links at the end of this blog article giving places that you can begin your search.

It’s worth doing your research first so you have an idea of what you like, and what kind of experience you need from the composer. You might not feel safe with someone driving your coach if they’ve only ever driven a family car (unless, perhaps, it’s Lewis Hamilton), though they might be fine if they’ve got a HGV licence.

Whilst research can help find a good match, you always have to bear in mind that you are commissioning the composer’s next work, not re-commissioning their last piece. This is a mystery tour and the final destination will remain secret – possibly to you and to the composer – until the journey has begun.


Commissioning music should be creative and surprising. At the same time, it’s also a practical process: it’s important to define these issues in the commissioning brief and separate them from stylistic and aesthetic preferences. Practical issues include: duration; line-up; pitch range; ability level; the workshop and rehearsal process and time available; the timeframe for completing the piece; how the piece should be provided (in score, as audio file etc.); and the context for the first performance.

Other details in the brief should include:

•    The agreed fee and payment schedule (commonly 50% up front and 50% on completion, with copying and printing costs added separately);

•    Details of any other obligations (e.g. meeting your audience, providing photographs and copy for promotion, or being available for press and media interviews);

•    Clarification of rights and responsibilities (e.g. if the composer chooses to use a text, the rights for this need to be cleared, and the group’s exclusive rights to the first performance etc.);

•    Ownership of the score, parts and/or recording (usually stays with the composer);

•    The form of credits and acknowledgements in the score or recording; and

•    The means of resolving any disagreements.

There are no guidelines to fees as each piece is unique, so you will need to negotiate the cost of the commission with the composer. Composing is a professional job, and artists need to be paid fairly. Nevertheless, you will find that most fees are quite modest in relation to comparable services.

Useful Links

NMC Recordings
Soon to launch their innovative music map, this has the most comprehensive guide to new British music and composers.

Sound and Music
Profiles of composers and experimental musicians, and pages on featured composers (link is below)

Ed will be rounding off his series of blogs with Part 3 centred on how to get the most out of the commissioning process.

Enjoy the Ride of Commissioning Music

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Francesca Tortora | 08:17 UK time, Wednesday, 4 July 2012

In our year of music, we thought it fitting to provide some more information on how to go about commissioning. Ed McKeon, Co-Director of ‘Third Ear’, shares his experience and expertise of music production with the help of a mystery tour, some second hand clothes… and a country pub.

Ed from third ear sat on a wall outside


"In the north-west town where I grew up there was a small travel agent that used to advertise ‘mystery tours’ by coach. People would book without knowing the destination, ready to enjoy the ride, the company, and the surprise. Of course, the travel agent knew his market, and the tour was sure to end somewhere they would enjoy. The tours worked because they were built on trust; this is what good commissioning is like.

Why Commission?

There are many reasons why the journey is worth the effort:

·          Your group may benefit from the adventure, a departure from the still waters of regular habits and routine. If you never leave home, all you know of the world may be what you hear on the radio, see on TV, or hear told by others who have ventured out.

·          A commission builds a special sense of anticipation, with the premiere as an opportunity to show off your group to its best: a new work should play to your strengths, and unlike standard repertoire there is no benchmark performance for it other than the one you give. Local media – as well as your audiences – can pick up on the buzz and excitement.

·          If you have an unusual line-up, you may find playing a piece tailored for you – rather than an arrangement of something else – much more satisfying. There’s a limit to how good you can look in second-hand clothes.

·          Working with a composer opens up windows into their creative process that can give fresh insights into your regular repertoire. What’s more, you can be part of that creative process. You may not drive the bus, but you could help decorate it, and you might specify a stop off at a country pub with a good view.

As with any adventure, this is a journey you have to want to take. There’s no point asking to get off half way through. Above all, you have to build trust with the composer: as with a road trip, there’s nothing worse than backseat drivers and multiple map-readers!"

Part 2 of Ed’s three-part blog series on commissioning music will be focusing on the key principles and practicalities of the process, so watch this space!


Corali Dance: Bethan's experience

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Francesca Tortora | 15:20 UK time, Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Corali Dance Company – one of our Community Dance Scheme winners – put the funding they had won in 2011 towards a stimulating opportunity for some of its dancers. Members of their Company were able to undertake an intensive personal development workshop with a host of professional performing artists.

Picture of Bethan during dance performance with balloons

Photographer - Samuel Dore

Bethan Kendrick, one of the company dancers who participated in the project, shares her story:

“For the workshop we worked with Luke Pell. He was from Candoco Dance Company and the workshop was based on photographs. It was interesting and I enjoyed it. We had to close our eyes to think about our dreams and we had to say how it felt inside yourself. Then we had to hold something and say what it feels like. Then we looked at photographs and described our photos and we had to use different journeys to describe our stories and by travelling from one side of the room to the other. We had to use torches with our journey to describe our story.

For the next workshop we worked with a choreographer called Rosemary Butcher and it was based on printing your bodies into the floor. It was interesting and it was good. We lied down on the floor thinking about how you roll, and rolled back into place. We then printed our body into the floor using different levels and also by connecting with another person. Then we did drawings. We had to draw the view from our own bedroom windows and we used it in the space and did improvisations. We used different journeys.

For the clowning workshop we worked with Jaya and the workshop was based on clowning ideas. It was very interesting and very funny. We walked around when using our voices and we used different activities like using hula hoops and buckets and we had to wear red noses - that was funny.

In another workshop, we worked with Daniel Weaver and the workshop was based on music and he likes music and it was good. I enjoyed it. We warmed up our voices and played a game of Chinese whispers and then we looked at different sounds and we looked at different technology objects and we listened to them and then we started to improvise with the objects, it was good.

I liked working with Samuel Dore the filmmaker, he is brilliant. I liked being on camera and I thought it was good. The lighting was nice and it helped me focus a lot. I liked working with Samuel, he is very good at filming and he is fantastic.

I found filming interesting and it was good. I felt happy and confident. I enjoyed filming - it was a great experience for me. I thought filming was brilliant. And I am glad I did it. Filming was a great success and it was fantastic.”



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