Over the coming days, LSO St Luke's will be awash talented young brass players who have traveled from across the country to participate in the LSO Brass Academy. Alex Edmundson, LSO Co-Principal Horn and one of the Academy's tutors, sat down with Liam Hennebry to discuss his own experience of the Academy and the importance of developing the next generation of players.
Hi Alex, thanks for joining us. Could you explain for someone who perhaps doesn’t know, what the LSO Academy is?
The LSO Academy is a week-long intensive course of tuition and coaching for young players between the ages of 14 and 24, held every year at LSO St Luke's. We rotate the Academy each year between the LSO's four orchestral sections (Strings, Wind, Brass and Percussion), and this year it's the turn of our Brass Section to host the Academy.
How is the week structured?
'Most importantly, we structure the course in order that the players may blossom and develop their orchestral musicianship.'
Well after an initial welcome, the participants will have the opportunity to work with various members of the LSO brass section over the course of the Academy. We will cover all aspects of what it is to be an orchestral brass player, through various types of classes and in-depth tuition. Most importantly, we structure the course in order that the players may blossom and develop their orchestral musicianship.
The mainstay of the work that we do with the participants is leading towards a final concert, where they will perform together for each other and the public. This year's concert will be at LSO St Luke's on Tuesday 19th July, starting at 7pm.
What will the participants be doing?
The Academy offers a diverse range of classes to the participants. They'll each have to chance to play in a solo masterclass with their relevant section principal, in order for them to develop their own technical and solo performing skills. Half way through the course we'll have an informal concert with the students, which provides them a platform to present pieces they've been working on individually or on the course itself.
Across the week, we'll see them working together in various sizes of ensembles, working on core pieces from the brass chamber music repertoire, and also some new works. This is a great way for them to interact musically, but also to get to know each other's playing more intimately. It's always a pleasure to watch these musicians bounce off each other and in that way learn as much from one another as they might from the tutors.
Finally, we'll be offering intensive orchestral brass coaching, focusing on some of the great works in the LSO's repertoire. We'll also allow them to experience a mock film soundtrack recording session, so we'll be covering different aspects of what it's like to be in our orchestra. This is arguably, and certainly in my opinion, the most important aspect of the course for the future of these young players. Hopefully they can use the skills they'll learn from these classes for years to come as part of successful orchestral careers!
Thinking back to when you participated in the Academy, what did you most enjoy the most?
For me, the most exciting part of participating in LSO Brass Academy 2012 was having the opportunity to study with and learn from great musicians that I'd grown up admiring, listening to and seeing on the Barbican stage. A particular highlight was learning an Ewald Brass Quintet with the late Rod Franks coaching us. His raw passion (and blunt honesty!) was a real force to be reckoned with, and truly inspiring for us as students. When I first started playing with the LSO, Rod was really very kind to me, and I remember those coaching sessions very fondly.
What in particular did you get out of the experience?
Other than a great number of invaluable tips on orchestral musicianship and brass playing, one of the best things about the Academy was meeting and interacting with other enthusiastic young brass players from around the UK. I'm still regularly in touch with many of them, and have now played together professionally with a number of them also. It's always easier to work with people you know, and also a lovely surprise when you might bump into someone who's been through that experience with you.
I made a decision following the Brass Academy to study with Principal Horn Timothy Jones, at the Royal College of Music. I guess you could say that decision led me towards the LSO and my current job as Co-Principal Horn.
What are you looking forward to about this year’s event?
Our Principal Trombone, Dudley Bright, is a fantastic composer and arranger of brass ensemble music. He wrote a brilliant and colourful piece for the Brass Academy in 2012, which celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. I'm looking forward to hearing his piece 'Reach for the Sky' at our showcase concert, which has been written especially for this year's LSO Brass Academy participants.
I guess on a personal level, I'm excited to be 'on the other side' as a tutor on the course, and to have the opportunity to work with these young musicians. I'm looking forward to hearing them perform and seeing how they might develop as players over the course of the week.
Several LSO Brass players actually went through the academy, how important is it for the LSO to develop young talent?
'The educational work that LSO does is absolutely vital to the continuation of quality youth music development in the UK.'
The Brass Academy specifically provides opportunities to talented young brass players, many of whom might have no quality access or opportunity to regular brass ensemble or orchestral playing. In that sense, these courses play a crucial role in breeding young musicians for our profession. As a product of that system myself, I certainly feel a responsibility to continue offering opportunities to the new generation of enthusiastic and talented performers. It's the most rewarding part of the work we do.
The Academy participants will be showcasing the work they've done during the course of the week, specifically in the form of various size brass ensembles, with their tutors conducting. They'll be a few pieces for all twenty-eight players (including Dudley's piece), a horn ensemble, and also some pieces for 10-piece brass ensemble – so quite a bit of variety. It’s going to be such an enjoyable event, I really hope that people are able to join us.