Transforming Communities

Julian West: Head of Open Academy, Royal Academy of Music

One of the most important and enriching experiences I have had in my career has been my time as a musician working with Live Music Now. The experiences I had while working on the scheme showed me ways of being, and possibilities for myself as a musician that continue to have an impact on me on a daily basis. They have led me to a new understanding of my role as a musician, my relationship with my instrument, and with music as an art form that continues to grow and develop.

What I learned through working with Live Music Now is that it isn’t what I’m doing when I play the oboe that matters so much as who I am being. That includes being the best possible musician I can be, getting all the notes the right and playing music that would be appropriate on any concert platform; it also brings into the equation however the question of my own identity, and who I choose to be. What possibilities are opened up by my being with this group of people – for them and for me.

My work now is mostly focussed on creative learning and participation, and I am Head of Open Academy, the Royal Academy’s creative learning and participation initiative. Live Music Now offer our students an excellent opportunity for experience in working as musicians in a context which is different from, and hugely complimentary to much of the experience they gain during their studies here. It is an opportunity for them to continue their development as musicians, and this process is supported by Live Music Now, who offer support and advice throughout a musician’s career with them. This enables musicians to find ways in which to connect with all kinds of audiences, without any compromise of artistic quality.

One of the things which has always impressed me about Live Music Now is their desire to grow and learn as an organisation, adapting to changing circumstances with new and original initiatives. For example, just this week I have been working with the organisation to look at ways for the musicians to approach the idea of residencies and longer term projects in residential care homes, focussing particularly on working with people living with dementia. Live Music Now has also been working with musicians from non-western classical backgrounds for many years, which has broadened and informed the work hugely.

I have no hesitation in fully endorsing the work of Live Music Now. My involvement with them has been fundamental in bringing me to the place where I am in my career, and for that I am hugely grateful to them.