Welcome to the first instalment of Passing The Baton – a brand new series of interviews between members of the RBC community.
Each week, a member of RBC staff or a student will interview a colleague to gain some insight into how the Coronavirus crisis has affected their life, both professionally and personally. The interviewer will then “pass the baton” to the interviewee who will go on to present their questions to the next person along, until finally closing the loop with an interview with our first interrogator.
Given the title of this series, we thought it would be most appropriate to begin with a conductor. Therefore RBC Resident Conductor Daniele Rosina gets us started by speaking to RBC Head of Guitar, Mark Ashford.
Daniele Rosina (DR)
I hope all is good and you and your family have kept healthy well since all this started.
So here are my questions...
Can you tell us what you do to stay positive and optimistic at this time?
Mark Ashford (MA)
In my ‘normal’ life I like training for endurance events like triathlons so I have a desire to still exercise each day, which keeps me positive. Every morning (well nearly) has started with Joe Wicks PE class on YouTube although I’m now the only one in my family continuing with this!
I’m optimistic that we will all learn something positive from this whole experience and appreciate many more things we have become quite complacent about, ie going to live concerts and spending quality time with family and friends.
What is the best meal you have had since the 'lockdown' began?
Has to be a meal we had for Mothering Sunday although technically it was just before the total lockdown. Our friends run a very good restaurant in our local town called Ascough’s and they were doing takeaway three course meals for a short period. All I had to do was shove it in the oven and hey presto a beautiful Sunday roast appeared! Definitely scored me lots of brownie points.
How have you found teaching since the isolation began? Have you had to adapt your approach at all?
Absolutely. You have to listen even more intently and it has made me even more picky in the detail I focus on. It’s also quite good because the students can’t talk over you and vice versa!
Many people have set themselves tasks to complete whilst staying at home like writing a novel, learning a language or memorising Pi to 100 digits! Have you done anything like this or is this time to unwind and relax?
I have had wish lists of this but in reality it hasn’t happened yet. I have an 11-year-old daughter so the tasks have up till now been related to Lego and trying to be creative. Oh, I did defrost the freezer the other day. Does that count? Seriously though, I do want to get on with some big arranging projects for my guitar quartet and to clear the garage out!
Whilst the effect of the virus has been devastating to the cultural life of countries worldwide, is there anything we can do now that will increase the relevance of classical music in anticipation of the isolation restrictions ending?
Tough question and I actually pondered this one the most out of all your questions. ‘Sharing’ seems to the word I keep coming back to. With all the videos and live streaming at the moment it would be great to share some of this with friends that don’t normally associate themselves with ‘liking’ classical music. Some of whom say to me ‘I don’t even know what’s good and what’s not’. Well now is a great opportunity to point them in the right direction and with many of these non-musician friends being furloughed perhaps they have time to watch that special Proms programme or listen to Composer of the Week or stream that concert from the Berlin Phil. Who knows it may bring them to some of the magnificent concerts I for one am looking forward to once we return to the Conservatoire.
What books have you read or tv/films have you watched whilst at home?
We’ve been tuning in to watch some of the productions from the Opera House and the National Theatre, which have been wonderful. It’s been great to do a bit of binge watching as well. The series The Nest on the BBC was incredibly gripping. Oh, I did have to watch the new Trolls film too!
Has your relationship to music or your guitar playing changed in the last few weeks?
In some ways. I have obviously more time to practice so it has been less in focusing on specific repertoire I ‘need’ to learn and more on a holistic approach. This has been in terms of stripping back my technique but also with regard to reading through a huge amount of repertoire that is still on my ‘hit list’. It’s also given us all a chance to ‘breathe’ and jump off the ever-turning wheel of a musical career, which is a good thing. A chance to take stock.
Have you got a good joke that will cheer us up?!
What do you call a man under a pile of leaves?
Next in this series: Mark Ashford interviews composer Andy Ingamells.