The “play” button has finally been hit on rehearsals for Nord Anglia Education’s very first Global Orchestra, as students from Nord Anglia Education schools around the world converge on the United States' cultural capital, New York City. The first full rehearsal saw the Di Menna Center overflowing with talent and musicality produced by an extremely diverse international group of musicians.
Giving us the inside scoop on how the young musicians have gelled on the first day and goals for the rest of the week are Global Orchestra Music Director Paul Wright and Choir Master Peter Sinclair.
Q: The Global Orchestra sees students from around the world coming together and rehearsing for just five days, before they perform in a final concert. What range of abilities and experience are you working with?
PW: I think we’re in the region of Grade 3 and Grade 6; some of them are in the range of Grade 7 and 8. I don’t think anyone in that orchestra is out of their depth, and that was what I was hoping for and what the audition videos indicated, but until you actually hear people in the environment, then you’re not totally sure. I’m very pleased, as I wouldn’t want anyone struggling. There are individuals who have the strength to lead. Not just leading the section, but leading the orchestra with all the tricky stuff.
PS: The children who are attending the Global Orchestra have already auditioned and there is an expectation that the end result will be of a high standard. Working in an ensemble will be great experience for many of them who usually have tuition on their own, either at home or at school.
Q: The students do come from many different backgrounds. How do you accommodate the musicians with different native languages?
PW: It’s a cliché but music is the only universal language, and there were a few moments today when I gave an instruction and people didn’t understand and I had to re-explain. That is no problem if it happens. If there’s confusion, I want it to be an environment where if people make mistakes, then it’s absolutely fine and we’ll collaborate together to fix them.
PS: Obviously, different students come from different backgrounds and that might make understanding certain things difficult, but nothing has really come up so far. I guess we’ll see as the week progresses, but I don’t think communication will be an issue.
Q: How difficult is it to bring such a group together to play cohesively in less than one week?
PW: There are a few people who need to do a little bit of work on their own individual part to make sure it’s on par, and I think this rehearsal has done a few things; it's built people’s confidence, it's made people aware that they are very much deserving of the place in the orchestra, and I think it has scared a few people. Not in a negative way, but just in a way that they think, "Ah that bit is tricky, I need to work on that." Everyone has auditioned as a soloist, but now having them all together as a group, running their pieces, their eyes have been opened to that. It doesn’t matter how good you are as an individual, it’s all about working as a group, and I think everyone is onboard with that.
PS: Obviously it’s going to be challenging, but any musical performance requires discipline, communication, team work, engagement and focus. I think having the DiMenna Centre here as a place to work and perform…obviously it is a professional venue; it already creates that environment where students want to perform well. And also having the opportunity to perform at the New York school is great because it means we’ll be able to break off into groups and really work on the sectional rehearsals that need to be figured out before we all come together for a mass performance.
Q: What do you do to help break the ice, and get the best out of the students?
PW: One of the things I like to do, it’s natural for my personality, is to include humour. I like to have a giggle with people. I’m very willing to take the mickey out of myself. I would never make anyone feel uncomfortable or awkward; it’s always done with a sense of friendliness and humour. I think it’s the best way as it keeps people relaxed.
PS: This morning we had some ice breaker games and team building exercises, and also just sitting down and eating with the students has been really good, particularly for my students who can be a little shy. I’ve already seen them coming out of their shells and starting to interact with people more.
Q: What is your goal for the week?
PW: The main goal is literally to get the standard as high as we possibly can for the concert on Tuesday. That is the end game and it is the reason we’re all here. We want to keep the students focused to get to the highest possible standard they can.
PS: I’m a vocal specialist, so for me it’s an opportunity come to the Global Orchestra and lead rehearsals and work on a particular piece, and also to work with students from across the globe who I haven’t worked with before. Plus, I’m a Primary teacher, so it’s quite refreshing for me to work with the older students.
By Hannah Leigh, student journalist