Aedin Donnelly recently completed her traineeship as orchestra assistant. In this blog she explains what she got up to and the experience she gained whilst with Britten Sinfonia.
My traineeship with Britten Sinfonia has been enjoyable, insightful, challenging, and extremely rewarding. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive and creative environment for me to learn and grow, to discover my strengths and passions, and to experience, first-hand, the inner-workings of a world-class chamber orchestra.
I spent about two thirds of my time in the Concerts Department of the Britten Sinfonia office next to James, Hazel, Nikola, and Hannah, the extremely knowledgeable, good-humoured and helpful Concerts Team. While sitting in an office all day may seem like the least interesting part of the job, it was far from dull. The work was extremely varied, the banter was great, and there was so much to learn and soak up from those around me that I didn’t have a minute to be bored. I found myself doing everything from researching and booking rehearsal venues, to checking orchestrations, hiring and sending back music, creating parts in Sibelius and bowing and padding before concert. Not only did I vastly improve my general office administration skills – Microsoft excel, Outlook, OPAS etc. – but I learned so much about orchestral management and all of the work that is involved in the preparation for a concert.
Not Your Average Traineeship!
The other side to my traineeship, that perhaps makes it more varied, exciting, and rewarding than your average internship, was getting out and helping on the ground at rehearsals and concerts. I helped with concert and stage management at the Barbican, Milton Court, Brighton Dome, Peasmarsh Chamber Music Festival, St Andrews’ Hall in Norwich, Saffron Hall, and West Road Concert Hall and King’s College Chapel in Cambridge. I also attended and/or managed rehearsals at King’s College Chapel, London, the Amadeus Centre, BBC Maida Vale Studios and the Warehouse Studios. Not only did I get to see such a variety of venues, but I also had the opportunity to work on a diverse range of programmes from Bach’s St John Passion to Jeff Mills’ Light From the Outside World to the opening of Britten Sinfonia’s Beethoven Symphony Cycle with Thomas Adès and Gerald Barry. Concert days are very busy, extremely varied, and highly rewarding. I found myself doing everything from driving the van up a steep and windy cobbled road in Rye, to setting up the stage and performing stage moves, to page-turning for soloists and making sure no audience members had their heads blown off by horns performing a fanfare from the balcony! Although those days are often long and tiring, they are undoubtedly extremely rewarding; there’s nothing quite like experiencing Adams’ Harmonium from underneath the choir at Brighton Dome.
I also had the opportunity to delve into the Creative Learning Department. In fact, the first project that I was involved in with Britten Sinfonia was the Max the Brave family concert; a project which saw me doing everything from building a sculpture out of music stands and instruments, to setting up a projector screen, to managing bubble machines and waving ribbons. In addition, I helped with both administration and course days with Britten Sinfonia Academy, and got to go to an SEND music workshop with children in a school in Norwich. The Learning Department is such a creative and inspiring environment and I have to say that I got a huge amount out of being involved with these projects.
I can honestly say that this traineeship was the most informative, enjoyable, exciting job I’ve ever had. Not only did I learn more about the classical music industry, the business of orchestral management, and the workings of a small, well-knit team, but I also discovered my own ways of working, my passion for live orchestral music, and my desire to build a career in this industry. The Orchestra Assistant Traineeship was the ideal platform for me to develop my skills and to really find my passions, and it has opened up a world of exciting possibilities in an industry that I would otherwise never have encountered. Thank you, Britten Sinfonia!