Spotlight on the CBSO Orchestral Training Scheme

CBSO orchestra

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) is the flagship of musical life in Birmingham and the West Midlands – and one of the world’s great orchestras. Under the leadership of Sir Simon Rattle, Sakari Oramo, Andris Nelsons and now Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, the orchestra has maintained a growing relationship with Birmingham Conservatoire and offers students the unique opportunity to take part in the CBSO Orchestral Training Scheme.

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Based in the magnificent Symphony Hall, the CBSO gives over 130 concerts each year in Birmingham, the UK and around the world.  At its centre is a team of 90 superb professional musicians who play music ranging from contemporary to classic, film music and even symphonic disco, and a 95-year tradition of making the world’s greatest music, right here in the heart of Birmingham.

The Training Scheme provides the opportunity for selected students from the Strings, Woodwind, Brass and Percussion departments to gain first-hand professional experience by observing and playing in CBSO rehearsals. Students on the Scheme also have the opportunity to perform in CBSO masterclasses and receive orchestral audition training and mentoring from orchestra principals.

Matt Johnstone, a BMus (Hons) Music student, had the chance to play with the CBSO in rehearsals and concerts at Symphony Hall through the Scheme. He had eight sessions throughout the year, each with different conductors and repertoires, and was paired up with Liz Fryer, a tutti viola player from CBSO. Speaking about his mentor he said:

Auditions for the scheme reflect professional orchestral audition procedures, thus enhance students’ employability skills. Matt’s audition panel consisted of his soon-to-be mentor Liz, and CBSO Viola Section Leader, Chris Yates. He prepared several excerpts and a concerto movement for the audition and was able to attend a feedback session after the audition. He praised the feedback session for providing the opportunity to receive advice on his performance and reflecting on the experience he said:

Alongside the CBSO Training Scheme, the CBSO works as Partners in Orchestral Development with the Conservatoire, including: research, conductor and ensemble workshops, unique performance opportunities and a bespoke Master’s award in Orchestral Performance specifically for String players.

All of these endeavours aim to support the emerging professional talents of our students, and for those looking for an orchestral career and to play in a Symphony Orchestra, they couldn’t possibly have better training!

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