London Calling

London Calling

(Note: This post is by Gretchen Nielsen, the LA Phil's Director of Educational Initiatives. These are her thoughts on a rehearsal led by Gustavo Dudamel for an orchestra of young musicians involved in community music projects in east London, alongside several members of the LA Phil and the LSO. These students participate in programs similar to the LA Phil’s own Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and the El Sistema program in Venezuela.)

I write this post from the Eurostar on the way to Paris…

Gustavo Dudamel
Gustavo demonstrates the technique he wants to see from the young musicians while they play the last movement of Beethtoven's Seventh Symphony.

On Friday, Jan. 29, Gustavo, five LA Phil musicians and LA Phil staff were at St. Luke’s in London for an open rehearsal of an orchestra comprised of mixed-level musicians. The orchestra included students ages 7 to 25 from diverse neighborhoods throughout London, as well as a handful of professional musicians from the London Symphony Orchestra and the LA Phil. For the Barbican, this event was a unique coming together of the participants of their Creative Learning work with the LSO and Guild Hall. For the Barbican and the LA Phil, it was our first chance to work together to design an education and community project that utilized both organizations’ resources and expertise.

Here are some things I noticed yesterday:
- St. Luke’s/LSO Center was so beautiful – a former church turned into a light and warm rehearsal space.
- There was an immediate energy between Gustavo and the group, and that energy grew into a palpable joy over the hour.
- The mix of young musicians was remarkable. There were very young musicians sitting among Guildhall Conservatory students and they were all able to play the final movement of Beethoven 7 because we arranged simpler parts for some, while others utilized the standard score. - There were quick responses and rise in playing with each one of Gustavo’s juicy metaphors.
- The values and sense of El Sistema and YOLA were in the room, reflected in the peer-to-peer mentorship, high expectations mixed with love and fun, and the coming together of musicians with different backgrounds.
- New friendships were beginning to emerge among LA Phil and LSO musicians.

Upon reflection, this event was more than a unique and exciting learning experience for all of the participants. It was also a statement of partnerships of all kinds and a catalyst for future work together. I left London feeling grateful for the creative leaders this international work has allowed me to tap and for the opportunity to look at my work through a new lens.

For additional descriptions of the event, you can read the coverage from The Guardian and the LA Times, as well as from KUSC's Brian Lauritzen, who was kind enough to provide several of the photos of the event used here. You can also hear the entire first London concert on NPR.