A blog post by RWCMD Arts Management student Dani Hackett, who has been on a professional placement with us over the last ten weeks. Thanks for all your hard work Dani and good luck in your next venture!

Over the last 10 weeks I have been working at Sinfonia Cymru for a professional placement as part of my masters’ degree in Arts Management at RWCMD.

My placement has ended and I wanted to write a post at this point to look back at the experience and give followers a glimpse of life in the office, where the on-stage magic is organised.

Even though I had a job description and objectives at the start of my placement, I didn’t really know what to expect. I needn’t have worried though – I was quickly swept up in the whirlwind of concerts and projects, helping James to set up the stage, meet musicians, organise music and the all-important refreshments. Who would have guessed that tea and caramel digestives were the key to a happy orchestra!

Meanwhile in the office I have been involved in all aspects of running concerts, from fixing musicians through to paying them, plus some marketing work towards the autumn season. I also established the sheet music library, involving a huge set of shelves, a lot of music and a rather large catalogue. Everyone has been so welcoming, and it has been refreshing to get out of the ‘student bubble’ every day, hearing about wedding plans and accounts of kids’ antics!

So what have I learned in the last 10 weeks? There is so much, both about the classical music industry and also practical things. A nice way to sum it up is in the ‘hacks’ for different parts of the job, and here are three of the best:

Orchestra management hack: Outdoor concert? Take lots of clothes pegs to keep music on stands!

Library hack:
Gusset envelopes and sticky dots are critical. It’s just so TIDY.
Marketing hack:
Get to know your web designer, as websites are never perfect.

Finally this placement reinforced that orchestras are all about people: musicians, managers, venue staff, music suppliers, journalists, schools, supporters and of course the audiences.

I have learned such a lot and this has been an amazing opportunity to try my hand at so many areas of work, reaffirming that this is really what I want to do.

It’s all about those moments when you’ve spent a whole day taking an education project around schools, carrying stands, music and anything else, and then run around making sure that everyone is happy – the teachers, the musicians, the children. You finally sit down in the last school and watch the musicians run the project.

You notice a kid sat right at the back, away from everyone else and sprawled on the floor in a bad mood. But halfway through the session he sits up. By the time some of his class have a go at conducting he is transfixed and looks like he would quite like to join in. It’s unlikely that this kid will suddenly be a convert to classical music, but maybe that session will have made a little bit of difference to his outlook because, although he didn’t get involved, we certainly got his attention.

Between this and the boy who did the most impressive conductor’s bow I have ever seen, that school in Llanelli made the whole project really memorable.

It is these moments, when a project or performance really comes together, that make all of the hours spent in the office emailing, calling, filing and sorting worthwhile. Thanks to everyone at Sinfonia Cymru for all of the opportunities I have had over the all-too-short 10 weeks, it’s been fun.