(Post made at 0910 UK time on 03 Jun 2017. This post is made on a personal basis, as a member – and until 4 February 2017 Chairman -of SWYM because of my significant concerns about some aspects of the running of the musically excellent Wessex Youth Orchestra, and about recent aspects of the governance of SWYM and the management of the College. Please see https://musicmattersandculture.blogspot.co.uk/2016/12/welcome-disclosure-of-interests-terms.html for important background and disclosure of interests).
I wish I’d known earlier what I now know. In which case, as SWYM Chairman I would have raised concerns and blown the whistle much earlier. A teacher took me aside a couple of years ago and said s/he was concerned that some, possibly many, WYO players were being put under too much pressure. As this was the first time any concerns had been put to me, and I believed what I had been told when I became Chairman (namely that WYO players were always told that school must come first) I defended the WYO and told the teacher that this (“school comes first”) was the WYO’s policy.
Late last year, I began to realise that things have not been as they should have been. But I was met with stonewalling and hostility when I tried to raise concerns internally. This seemed bizarre and suspicious, so I carried on investigating.
I now know (with detailed evidence) that in several cases, WYO players were put under excessive pressure, and it seems that the College failed to remedy this.
So I apologise to you all: with hindsight, I should have been much firmer when I first started being fobbed off late last year. I trusted that the College’s procedures, which looked so good on paper, would come into action and put things right.
I don’t think that has happened so far.
But I am determined that it will, even if I have to go above the College to the appropriate authorities.
I know most (perhaps all) of you love the WYO, and yes, it does produce wonderful music. But that does not mean that the way it has been run is the way it *has* to be run. It does not have to be high pressure to produce wonderful music. It does not have to have so many rehearsals, with such a high time commitment. It is possible to produce wonderful music in a better atmosphere.
It is possible to produce wonderful music without keeping rehearsal schedules secret, and without doing it at the expense of other musical groups and school productions. And without bringing in so many extra players on concert days, sometimes at the expense of Centre members.
It is possible to produce wonderful music without having to have successive Thursday/Friday/Saturday (and the latter morning and afternoon) rehearsals. Without having to choose between WYO rehearsals and other things in your life. Like GCSE or A Level Revision. Like dancing. Theatre. Sport. Whatever else you have in your life beside music. (Don’t get me wrong, I love music, it is a major part of my life. And I could have gone to music college or studied music at university. But it wasn’t the only thing in my life. I played chess, I played non classical piano in a dance school, I played squash – and snooker, pool – and poker – and Space Invaders – and read a lot. And still had time to do 10 O Levels and 6 A Levels. I believe, particularly for those of you – perhaps the majority – who are not planning on going to music college or to do music at university, you deserve to have plenty of other time to do your thing.
If anyone tells you that the current way is the only way, I seriously challenge that. It is surely poor management to need so many extra rehearsals, when you already have at least 10 regular 3 hour rehearsals per term.
Things will improve. They have to.