Your Turn Collective sprang from a conversation in late 2020. As we discussed our own experiences of piloting independent projects, we came to realise that the wider needs of music-creators from under-represented backgrounds were not being met by the current classical music ecosystem.
In the spring of 2021, we widened the discussion to include peers and colleagues from across the classical music sector. From those conversations, we learned:
- There is a strong need for a research and development collective meeting the needs of music-creators from under-represented backgrounds and connecting them with partner organisations in classical music. While some existing development schemes embrace an inclusive approach and have been helpful in this area, they are often limited to those who are already regarded as an established composer or creator, or who fit a recognisable mould of who is entitled to consider themselves as such. These schemes do not negate the need for Your Turn Collective and its inclusion-driven approach – the entire sector needs more research and development opportunities, and a plurality of approaches is beneficial to all;
- That not all producers, directors or composers from under-represented groups think of themselves as such. Many are primarily performers, who produce, direct and write music as a secondary practice and therefore fall outside of existing support schemes;
- There is an untapped cohort of music-creators, curators and producers from under-represented backgrounds, whose main work lies within other music genres, but who want ways to engage with classical musicians and ensembles. Given how keen the classical music is to find ways to contextualise and reimagine canonic works for broader and more diverse audiences, and the industry-wide mission to bring to the concert platform the works of composers from under-represented backgrounds, they are an overlooked source of creative input;
- There are outstanding schemes for younger, “emerging-career” classical musicians to develop their practice in participatory music-making in community, criminal justice, education, and healthcare settings, but we are not aware of a specific pathway for producers and/or musicians from under-represented backgrounds at any stage of their career in this field – this is something which we view as essential if we are to better engage with the many diverse audiences that we meet in community, criminal justice, education and healthcare settings.
- Classical music cannot go back to pre-2020 ‘as was’ (always worth stating the obvious!)
In considering these points, we established a code of practice to bear in mind as we develop the scheme. The following points are specific, and salient:
- Some music creators from under-represented backgrounds do not follow traditional pathways into classical music. From the predominant route of specialist school -> conservatoire -> emerging-career scheme -> profession (which both underpins the musical development of most professional artists and furnishes them with a network of influential teachers, peers and experiences), to pervasive assumptions around age and specialism which favour those who have unbroken pathways into the profession, atypical access points are limited. Of those we spoke to who had navigated their way to the profession via traditional routes, many said they felt alienated at conservatoire, and some only returned to professional music later in life, after working in different fields or in different music genres. Our work should take account of these life-experiences and allow for different routes into professional classical music;
- Partner organisations from outside classical music might be as important as those from within – many music-creators from under-represented backgrounds have found a home for their work in theatre or visual art before they have done so in classical music;
- Some music-creators may ultimately choose to self-produce – where this is felt to be the right path, we will ensure they have support networks around them to realise their creative vision without jeopardising their independence;
- Location should not be a barrier to accessing our work. To this end we aim to have partners who can support with in-kind space for research and development across all areas of the UK;
- 2020 highlighted the lack of agency that many freelance music creators have, compared to music organisations. A central tenet of our mission is to change that power-dynamic and allow music-creators to realise their vision on their own terms;
- In bringing new music-creators to the fore, we need to accept and embrace that the resulting work might not always look like our traditional idea of success, and that there will inevitably be some mistakes. What matters is that we and they learn from the experience, that we expand our own conception of “successful work”, and that we support the music-creator’s ongoing development holistically;
- Inclusivity across all points of engagement is important, from extending an invitation to different forms of application (for example, video or audio submissions), to how we communicate clearly with all music-creators and partner organisations.
- Legacy should be considered in all projects– we need to develop long-term, sustainable creative relationships between music-creators and partners;
- Long-term inclusivity in classical music will require structural change in our partner organisations in order for them to properly realise our music-creators’ vision – while this is not something that Your Turn Collective would seek to deliver itself, we will work with others who can provide the support to effect that structural change.