My suggestions for improvement at the Centre for Wessex Young Musicians

(Post added at 0825 UK time on 18 May 2017. Most of this content is originally from a Facebook post I made on 12 May 2017, but now added here because it is relevant to improving the culture of both CWYM and SWYM).

This post is made on a personal basis, as a member – and until early February 2017 Chairman -of SWYM because of my significant concerns about some aspects of the running of the otherwise excellent Wessex Youth Orchestra, and about recent aspects of the governance of SWYM. Please see https://musicmattersandculture.blogspot.co.uk/2016/12/welcome-disclosure-of-interests-terms.html for important background and disclosure of interests).

I understand that Centre for Wessex Young Musicians parents (again except us, which is improper) have been sent an email with a feedback form asking for suggestions for improvements. So here are mine:

  1. [this para slightly reworded 1622 UK time 13 May 2017] Beverley (or someone else suitable) should replace Susanna as Director of the Centre. Susanna to carry on as WYO Director, but with very close supervision by Centre Director.
  2. The SWYM Committee to be allowed to set its own agenda (without a veto by WYO or CWYM Director) as per its current Constitution.
  3. WYO Director’s manager to make sure that she consults properly with WSS / WMS Conductor and Fanfare conductor rather than imposing by dictat.
  4. Honest, regular communication with schools by publishing the schedule of extra WYO rehearsals on the website
  5. All staff (not just the WYO Director) to be able to make suggestions to SWYM Committee and to get a fairer share of the funding. Parents to be able to make suggestions to SWYM Committee too.
  6. All significant expenditure items that need to be paid by SWYM to be approved in advance by the SWYM Committee.
  7. SWYM Committee and Centre staff to look into whether the gap between WYF/WMS and WYO has become too high? If so why? Eg has the increasing number of extra rehearsals that the WYO has been getting contributed to this? With a view to working out how to either reduce the gap or to fill it, so that players who feel that they have outgrown WYF/WMS have somewhere to go and we don’t lose them from the Centre. (If we lose them, then they might miss the opportunity to develop their music playing to the stage where they are good enough to have near lifelong enjoyment from it). If an intermediate orchestra is needed to fill the gap, then SWYM to work out how to finance it.
  8. Closer relations with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) to be developed (we’ve got this fantastic resource nearby, let’s make the most of it) to allow: [titles corrected 0901 19 May 2017] BSO Young Conductor In Association to rehearse WYO at least once a term, and ideally BSO Chief Conductor to rehearse WYO (update 06 Jun 2017: or even better: conduct  in concert) at least once a year, so that they benefit from a variety of conductors.
  9. Similarly, arrangements to be made at least once a year for (possibly selected) WYO players to sit in (and play) on a BSO rehearsal.
  10. The Apprentice Orchestra (with associated Mentors) to be resurrected – it has not happened for too long (2 years).
  11. Young Soloists Concerts, and Trios/Quartets concerts to be resurrected – they have not happened for too long, in particular the Trios/Quartets etc concert which last happened 2 years ago and was a great success but “S isn’t keen on it” so it hasn’t happened since – another example of her vetoing something that was actually very worthwhile.
  12. Regularly, at the start of each term, have selected WYO players sitting in with younger groups to help them learn the music quicker. Towards the end of each term, have selected WMS and WYF players sit in (after consulting with WMS and WYF conductors: in autumn 2016, two key players were pulled out of WMS rehearsals by the WYO Director, without even informing the WMS conductor – the week before their concert!) for part of WYO rehearsals.
  13. WYO to provide regular opportunities for solos for its players (as Susanna’s website claims that she does, yet she hasn’t for several years).
  14. The CWYM to consider having at least one Saturday off during half term (at the moment, attendance – I don’t know about other groups  – in WSS/WMS is usually slightly lower during half term anyway because families quite naturally may want to go away on holiday or on family visits). Contrary to what I’ve been told, the College does have half term breaks, see https://www.thecollege.co.uk/…/college…/term-dates#
  15. [Added 0905 UK time 19 May 2017]. Avoid clashes with the finale concert of the Bournemouth Music Festival.  In 2017 (and very frequently in recent years), the WYO/CWYM summer concert clashes with the showcase concert (of winners etc.) from the Bournemouth Music Festival.  I know this depends on whether the WYO venue (the Lighthouse in Poole) is available, but I’m not aware of any communication explaining why clashes have occurred and why they were unavoidable.
  16. [Added 1654 UK time 21 May 2017] Put the fees up from their very low current level (£175 for the full year, or £65 per term if paid termly), and pay all staff much nearer the market rate. Yes staff love the Centre/WYO, but if the fees aren’t regularly incremented in line with inflation or market rates, eventually they will need a huge increase to catch up.  (E.g. I expressed concern several times last year to the SWYM Committee and College that it would be very hard to replace the Coordinator at current rates if she left or retired).   This would also make it easier to implement improvement 8. 
  17. [Added 0745 UK time 07 Jun 2017] The College to have a review (probably with independent  external input) into how it managed to get its oversight of the WYO so wrong for so long and to make necessary improvements/changes to its senior management structure and culture.

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