The methods used by the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) in their music-making workshops, which aim to make music accessible to anyone and encourage creativity, have been shared with Japanese musicians through the British Council’s programmes delivered in partnership with the LSO which started in 2018. Through the programmes, the LSO have delivered music-making workshops at Japanese elementary and junior high schools, care homes for older people, and facilities for disabled young people. Unfortunately, LSO members have not been able to visit Japan for the past two years. But in 2021, Japanese musicians who had received LSO training were able to run workshops with schools that have an active interest in music workshops. Alongside these workshops, in keeping with the LSO's proactive use of digital technology, including their online resource LSO Play, they also delivered online workshops for musicians and teachers.

To reflect on these projects with the LSO since 2018, and to provide an opportunity to exchange ideas for the future, the British Council organised an online forum via Zoom: "The evolving relationships between orchestras and their local communities – with reflections from our collaboration with the London Symphony Orchestra". The event was held on 3 September 2021. A wide range of people from orchestras, music halls, and educational institutions participated in the forum.

The speakers were Andra East (Head of LSO Discovery, London Symphony Orchestra), Yuki Imai (Music teacher, Uehara Junior High School, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo), Naoko Kaji (Director of Business Planning, Tokyo Bunka Kaikan), Megumi Takeuchi (Music Therapist, Roken Sumida Shukoen) and Yuko Muramatsu (Double bass player, New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra). Chika Sudo of the British Council facilitated the presentations and conversations.

The Aim of LSO Discovery

The first half of the forum started with a presentation by Andra East. It introduced the purpose of the ‘LSO Discovery’ programmes - educational programmes developed by the LSO, contents and outcomes of the programmes, new initiatives introduced during the pandemic, motivations of the musicians involved in the programme, and an overview of LSO Play and its objectives. The presentation, which included slides and videos, lasted approximately 30 minutes. Below is a brief outline of the presentation.

  • Discovery involves community outreach and education programmes.
  • It was initiated and is led by the LSO musicians.
  • It delivers a diverse range of community programmes and workshops,  engaging with a total of 60,000 participants and over 1,000 events pre-pandemic. 

East stressed that the aim of Discovery is to experiment with different ways of making the orchestral and classical music experience accessible to those of all ages and backgrounds, removing barriers to music, and to provide support and training for the next generation of musicians.

Discovery has also brought a strong sense of fulfilment and happiness to the musicians, as they have been able to strengthen their connection with the community, bond with people and contribute to the development of the next generation in a way that is not possible by simply performing on stage. During the lockdown in London, the orchestra successfully launched a new online project with composer Ayana Witter-Johnson, where she and a group of young students collaborated online to create new original work.

Following East's talk, the British Council’s Chika Sudo gave a presentation reflecting on the programmes delivered in Japan with the LSO since 2018. The project aimed to share the legacy from London 2012 in which LSO engaged and performed with young musicians in East London to access inspirational music making opportunities to stakeholders in Japan looking towards Tokyo 2020, hoping to see an increased number of Japanese musicians who can engage diverse members of the community in the creation of music. Below is a snapshot of the project.

  • A total of 46 Japanese musicians participated in skills training to enable them to lead workshops that bring out the creativity in people of various backgrounds and abilities.
  • A total of 200 people participated in workshops at institutions for disabled people, older people, junior orchestras and after-school clubs.
  • In 2021, LSO members conducted online workshops for Japanese music educators on the use of digital tools.

Animator Rachel Leach, who has been an important part of the LSO's education programmes, left some video comments on her experience with Japan. She expressed her delight at the increased number of opportunities to work with Japanese musicians and the wider public, both face-to-face and online, through her projects in Japan since 2018.

"We want more people to love music" -  Working toward further collaborations

The second half of the forum included feedback and discussions from the Japanese stakeholders involved in the project. Below are some of the most memorable comments from each speaker.

  • Yuko Muramatsu (Double bass player, New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra)

I had always thought that playing well was the only mission of a musician, but my experience with Rachel's workshop was a turning point in my musical life. I learned that music can be shared and communicated with people of all backgrounds, with or without instruments. Rachel taught me how to do this. I want more people to know and love music. It takes more than just a musician’s enthusiasm to run a workshop. Administrative support and having the opportunity to run them are a big part of it. I feel that the challenge in Japan is to increase the number of public and orchestral institutions with which we can collaborate and to create a foundation for musicians to be able to work together.

  •  Yuki Imai (Music teacher, Uehara Junior High School, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo)

In this year's workshop, the children seemed to be greatly inspired by the Japanese musicians, and they even suggested some ideas for what they would like to do next. It is very important for teachers to collaborate with musicians and composers as it broadens their horizons, and thus should be encouraged. However, it is also important for teachers to think carefully and devise ways to integrate workshops into their daily teaching. Having pre-event discussions to ensure that it does not become a simple one-off event is critical. I think it would also be helpful to have more in-depth meetings, not only to confirm the details of the programme but also to communicate the school's requests. LSO Play, which we used to prepare for the workshop, is an amazing online resource. Again, it is up to us to find a way to incorporate it into our Japanese lessons, which follow the national curriculum guidelines, but it would be great if we could do so. 

  • Megumi Takeuchi (Music Therapist, Roken Sumida Shukoen Nursing Home)

It has been a surprise and a pleasure to have Rachel and other LSO members running the workshops since 2018. We had 28 people participate over the three years. Surprisingly, the health of those who took the music workshops improved and some of them were able to return home immediately or were quickly accepted into other care facilities. Through music, they were able to feel respected and needed as human beings, despite their advanced age. We saw positive actions both before and after the workshops. The participants eagerly participated in making decorations to warmly greet the musicians, and the participants created an illustration as a token appreciation afterward. They were motivated to stay healthy until the next workshop, and the staff received letters of thanks from the families. 

  • Naoko Kaji (Business Planning Director, Tokyo Bunka Kaikan)

Tokyo Bunka Kaikan's international involvement in educational programmes and workshops began in 2013. We collaborated with a music institution based in Portugal, focusing on communication training. As the pandemic brought up the challenge of creating emotional bonds whilst not being able to hold in-person activities, we had to work with other institutions to find, through trial and error, new ways of doing things which at times meant making bold changes to our previous methods. Although it has become more difficult to visit care homes for older people, we have been able to make the switch to digital for special needs schools. When conducting workshops with international stakeholders, it is crucial that cultural institutions do not just implement their usual methods but adapt it to the Japanese context. A solid budget, as well as public support, are also important in order to see progress. Eventually, we hope that the cultural institutions we work with will be able to take the lead in creating local community-based workshops.

Finally, East stressed the importance of building partnerships with organisations. The LSO has prioritised taking the time to build relationships that are mutually beneficial, as well as with those that have something that the LSO is missing and could utilise. This forum reaffirmed the importance of further UK-Japan partnerships that produce opportunities such as those created in the partnership with the LSO. The groundwork has been laid for the approaches and methodology developed through LSO Discovery programmes, and digital tools such as LSO Play, to be adapted by Japanese facilitators and participants, allowing activities in Japan to blossom in their own way over time. 

(Text by Arisa Iida)

Organised by: British Council
Special Cooperation: London Symphony Orchestra
Supported by: Arts Council Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture

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