Though I’m not sure the British weather has realised it, the Summer holidays have well and truly arrived, bringing with them the strange ebb and flow of work that combines the end of the summer term, the start of holiday activities and preparations for the new academic year. With the task of pulling together my university project report and life at Opera North remaining as varied as ever, I still find that I am learning new things every week as a fellow, just as Blaire talked about last month.

As I head towards the final weeks of my Fellowship, here are some of my highlights from the summer months.

Life is a circus…

…at least Richmond Hill Academy’s Summer In Harmony concerts were! We organised for a 15m circus tent to be set up on the school field and the excitement of a whole school is pretty infectious. Seeing weeks (if not months) of logistical planning and event sheets come to life is always a joy. Year 6 students went from watching the Orchestra of Opera North perform in their school hall in September to playing alongside Opera North’s brass players; Year 5 children played solo improvisations in front of an audience of over 150 parents and students; and Year 3 and 4 string players showed off the impressive progression they have made since their very first performance at Christmas. We also held the final Community Sing of the year after a whole day of choral performances. It has been fantastic to see the school community’s continuing enthusiasm and it’s been really exciting to establish the events at Richmond Hill Academy this year as my University Diploma project, a key part of my Fellowship.

However, my favourite moment of the week was a little more low-key. Since March I have been team-teaching music sessions in Rainbow Base, Richmond Hill Academy’s SEN provision, and on the Monday Vanessa and I moved our music sessions into the circus tent. Having the opportunity to work with the children and staff in Rainbow Base has been a complete privilege. It’s been so exciting to see the children’s progression from the first week Vanessa and I worked with them to their joint sessions in the circus tent. It is a moment I will truly treasure from my time with Opera North In Harmony.

A luminous green caterpillar

Something I love about working in Opera North Education is that there is always something exciting going on to see or to help out with. Assisting on some of the Big Sing: Wonderland Restored dates gave me the opportunity to gain more experience of working on large scale events (that involved around 200 different school children each time!) in unfamiliar venues. After a day of helping ensure large groups of children were in the right place at the right time, it was inspiring to sit in the audience and watch a production that gave so many school children the chance to sing with members of the Chorus of Opera North and the orchestra of Opera North in such a professional setting. In addition, seeing members of the Chorus dress up and dance as the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland was certainly an extraordinary experience!

A (slightly) slower pace

University lectures finished in May, which allowed for a little more breathing space, especially after two assignment deadlines in the space of one week. However, I still have my final project hand-in coming up, so I am still taking time to immerse myself in academic research and understanding how theory and practice both compliment and contrast with each other. Having my studies continuously underpin my practical experiences at Opera North adds a whole new level of depth to my own professional development and though balancing assignment deadlines with everything else hasn’t been easy, it helps that the research was so relevant and interesting.

With the slight slowing of pace in the Summer holidays, I’ve also had the chance to simply observe other bits of activity: Opera North Youth Chorus’ Summer project based on Chilcott’s Aesop’s Fables, the Alice in Wonderland inspired Little Big Sing, the Children’s Chorus and Young Voice’s summer concert and the Orchestra of Opera North’s Back to Basics concert in the pouring rain at Millennium Square!

Finally, the sun came out…

…and stayed out for our Opera North Education Away Day at the end of July. We stayed at a camp in Yorkshire for two days: one was filled with rounders, quad biking and BBQing, the other filled with planning ideas and projects for the future. Having meetings that involved the whole Education team thinking and building ideas together really highlighted what an amazing team there is at Opera North and it was so exciting to see how the different strands may develop, especially when the Music Works project is completed and the team will have the Education Hub.

I will be forever grateful for the generosity of Mrs Maureen Pettman and her late husband Professor Barrie Pettman, as without their belief in the sector this opportunity wouldn’t even exist. Thanks to their support, not only financially but through Maureen’s interest and encouragement, I’ve had a whole year of learning, developing and experiencing working within a sector that is so exciting and inspiring. Equally, being a DARE fellow would not be the amazing experience it is without the wonderful team of people both at Opera North and the University of Leeds, who have guided, encouraged and supported me for the whole year. I cannot thank them enough.

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