Imogen Hancock: Reflections on Oslo

Trumpeter Imogen Hancock recounts her two months spent studying in Oslo on her RPS Julius Isserlis Scholarship.

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One month after returning from Oslo, I thought I’d take some time to reflect on my trip. The first night that I arrived in early January, I sat in my apartment looking at the calendar on my phone and saw that it was day 1/49. I was excited to finally be in Oslo, but 7 weeks was already starting to feel like a very long time… In reality, the weeks absolutely flew by!

I was out there to study privately with a number of different teachers – primarily soloist Tine Thing Helseth, Brynjar Kolsbergsrud (Oslo Philharmonic) and Roeland Henkens (Den Norske Opera/Ballet). During my 7 week stay, I had a total of 17 trumpet lessons and found each one inspiring.

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I was given much food for thought about my future. One lesson I had was with American trumpeter and composer Tony Plog. Tony’s advice is to “follow your bliss” – to do what really inspires you and what makes you happy… “a career will usually follow!” As a new freelancer, I am enjoying taking on all sorts of opportunities, as I never know what they’ll lead to or who I’ll meet. However Tony’s motto has also made me more conscious of where I want to invest my energy.

There was a lot to process from the many lessons and discussions I had and I found that I loved the independence and freedom of living in my own apartment. It was about 10 minutes by bus from the centre of  Oslo and I enjoyed hosting friends for dinner and exploring many parts of the city. I was fortunate enough to be given access to Oslo’s English Church (St Edmund’s) where I practised every day and also played in a couple of their services.

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A recent United Nations report shows Norway as officially being the happiest place on Earth… and I can totally believe it. Oslo is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to and I didn’t come across one unfriendly Norwegian person during my entire trip. The sunrises and sunsets were picture perfect and the snowy scenes and cityscapes could have been from postcards. I didn’t learn much of the language in the end (since almost everyone there speaks impeccable English) but, being blonde, I was very often spoken to in Norwegian!

I’m so grateful to the Royal Philharmonic Society for supporting me and my trip – both financially and personally. I originally received the Julius Isserlis Award towards studies in Germany but I ended up taking a different route and was supported by the RPS throughout. It’s been a perfect example of one door closing and a better one opening, and I couldn’t imagine a more wonderful experience than my trip to Oslo.

by Imogen Hancock – 2015 RPS Julius Isserlis Scholar

www.imogenhancock.com

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Clare Stevens: Essential Marketing Tips

 

It’s neClare Stevens2ver too late to learn another essential skill for the professional musician: how to deal with concert promoters. Whether you are taking part in a fund-raising concert in a village church or making your debut at the Wigmore Hall, it will be somebody’s job to market the event and to make all the practical arrangements. To do that they will need help from you – and they may need it much sooner than you expect.

Let’s say you’ve been booked for a date in February 2017 – more than a year away, so no need to think about it for months, you might imagine. But the concert may be part of a 2016/17 season with a booking brochure that is published in April or May. This means it will need to go to the printer in March, and the marketing manager for the series will need to start collating all the lists of artists, repertoire information, and images in January at the latest. Uploading it all to the venue’s website in time for the season launch is another lengthy task which will need to be started early in the year.

Then there’s the concert programme – again possibly spanning a season in one glossy brochure, but even if it’s just a sheet of A4 paper that can be printed off on the day, someone will need all the details of what you’re going to perform, a biography and a photo.

The same information may be needed for press releases, ideally with some sort of thread or ‘hook’ that can turn a list of pieces and performers into an interesting story that will catch the attention of a journalist and then engage their readers – your potential audience.

And of course there’s social media. The marketing team for your concert should be keen to build up a buzz about it, but that’s a two-way process that works best if you’re also using your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts to interact and update your friends and followers about the forthcoming gig.

All this may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many musicians and even some artists’ agents seem unprepared to meet the needs of the organisations that have booked them.

Most frustrating of all are the students and young performers who don’t reply to emails requesting photographs, biographies and repertoire details, nor to follow-up emails, answerphone messages or texts. They may have been given an opportunity to perform at a prestigious venue as a result of winning a scholarship award or prize – a vital showcase at an early stage of their career. The essential quid pro quo is that they have the necessary promotional materials ready; that they check emails and voicemail and respond promptly to requests, even if they are in the middle of exams or on the road giving performances.

Providing downloadable resources from a website is a very user-friendly option and these days that’s fairly easy to do, though it has to be kept up to date.  But if you’re not ready to set up your own website, it’s fine to have an information pack ready on your laptop to send out to promoters or press. You’ll need long and short versions of your biography – bearing in mind that ‘short’ really does mean just a couple of hundred words – and a sequence of high-resolution photos.

Ah yes – photos. For the performer, these are not an indulgence but an essential tool of the trade. If you can possibly afford it, a session with a professional photographer is a worthwhile investment, and may not cost as much as you think. But modern digital cameras and even phone cameras will produce publishable results if the correct settings are used – there’s no excuse for providing a fuzzy shot taken from five rows back as you took your bow at your prizewinning concert. You might get away with it at postage-stamp size in a printed brochure, but it will almost certainly be published online as well and you’ll look as though you’ve been photographed in the Hall of Mirrors at a funfair.

Lastly, I’d like to make a plea to established artists and their agents to have new photos taken more frequently, and to include a wider variety of shots in each session. It’s bad enough to see the same images cropping up in the brochures of every festival and concert hall for a year – even worse to request an image for a new brochure and receive the same shot that was supplied the year before. Photos should be labelled with the artist’s name and a photographer’s credit so that the recipient can easily file them – having to rename endless downloads of ‘P00065341.jpg’ is the sort of chore hard-pressed administrators could certainly do without.

Clare Stevens

Written as part of Ensemble Philharmonic