Feedback from some of our previous apprenticeship schemes

In 2005, apprentices Matthew Watts and Aled Philips were selected to work respectively with Janet Lince/Reading Festival Chorus and Keith Orrell/Liverpool Welsh Choral.

I still remember the excitement I felt the moment I found out that I was to be conducting apprentice with the Reading Festival Chorus and their M.D., Janet Lincé, during 2006. After all, how many of us get the chance to work with a hundred strong choir on a regular basis? .... my only time with large choirs had been during auditions for M.D. positions, hardly the ideal learning environment. For many of us there is a big gap to bridge between our regular job - in my case the 45 voices of the New Essex Choral Society - and a large choir. Not only do I now feel confident in front of a large group, but I know that the experience is one that I enjoy. Matthew Watts

It was felt that there was a positive outcome for both the choir and the apprentice at the end of his year's apprenticeship. Matthew obtained a significant amount of regular conducting and choir training experience in a supportive yet challenging environment, with the added advantage of receiving regular feedback and guidance designed to develop and extend his choral conducting abilities. The experience he received in aspects of choir management, interaction with choir members and working with other professional musicians was enormously valuable. The choir too gained much from having an apprentice conductor regularly in attendance. They gained an insight into the experience required by an intending professional conductor and the opportunity to receive a different view-point of the principles involved in choir training. Janet Lince

While Aled willingly and regularly observed my work with the choir, I quickly realised that it would be advantageous if he were able to have short but frequent rehearsal slots focusing on specific repertoire. I was in a good position to apportion a few works to him. Indeed he was so well prepared that he delivered confident direction in these concerts... During this time, he experienced opportunities to learn the skills required to work effectively as a Chorus Master... Conductors get little opportunity to work alongside more experienced colleagues for a sustained length of time. Usually the contact is fleeting. This conductor apprentice scheme, for both Aled and myself, has proved to be a truly enriching experience, one indeed which I would gladly repeat. Keith Orrell

In 2008 the success of the scheme continued with apprentice Helen Smith mentored by David Lawrence with City of Birmingham Young Voices and Christopher Chan mentored by Nicholas Cleobury and Oxford Bach Choir.

Although I was familiar with the community based youth choir ... here was the opportunity to be involved with a well-respected choir, and a top class conductor in their music director David Lawrence. The weekly rehearsals gave me the chance to observe David in action, and for me to lead warm ups, take sectional rehearsals, and to utilize my teaching skills to act as a vocal tutor to individuals in the group... Being able to observe and learn from respected professionals has been very informative, and has given me many practical points and nuggets of information that will serve me well through my own conducting career. Helen Smith

As a choir we have welcomed assistants, associates, shadowees, etc., for a number of years, so the young people were quite accustomed to a new member of staff joining them for a while.... We held meetings ... to review progress as I was particularly keen that she felt she was getting enough rehearsal time and performance opportunity. Her rehearsals were well planned, and on the whole well executed... Thank you for giving her and CBSO Young Voices this opportunity. David Lawrence

In 2010 Christopher Barr was placed with Alan Tavener and Strathclyde University Chamber Choirs in Scotland and Michelle Sampson was placed with Neil Ferris and Wimbledon Choral Society, London.

I am having a wonderful time in Glasgow with the University of Strathclyde Chamber Choir and Music Society. Alan Tavener has been an inspirational mentor and he has really given me the most amazing opportunities to work with the students at the University of Strathclyde. Although I have been working on a weekly basis with the University Chamber Choir, Alan has expanded my apprenticeship and I have been working with the University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra. The abcd apprenticeship has been an opportunity of a life time and I am so grateful for this unique opportunity to work with Alan Tavener and the University of Strathclyde Chamber Choir and Music Society. Christopher Barr

I am delighted to report that Christopher Barr continued to build a genuine working relationship with Strathclyde University Chamber Choir by encouraging a serious work ethic coupled with enjoyment and underpinned by a good sense of humour. During the Springtime, he was also afforded the opportunity of working with the University Chorus (an open access choir) and Symphony Orchestra in order to be able to conduct a public performance of Vaughan Williams's Five Mystical Songs featuring all three groups at the end of April. He discharged this task with calm confidence and clarity, which was particularly commendable in view of the limited time that could be made available to him to rehearse with these additional groups. He also conducted two a cappella pieces in the end-of-season performance in June.

... In summary, being associated with an abcd Apprentice Conductor has been an enriching experience not only for Christopher himself, but also for all the participants, and including his Mentor! We are grateful for being afforded this opportunity. Alan Tavener

Through feedback on my work with the choir, and in separate tutorials, Neil has supported my learning in rehearsal technique, conducting technique and choral repertoire. Over the year, I've experienced a varied programme of work as both conductor and singer, including Bach's Magnificat in D, Fauré's Requiem, Poulenc's Gloria and Will's Todd's Mass in Blue (accompanied by Will Todd's trio). I was also able to get a flavour of the work behind the scenes at committee level, including issues of budgeting and artistic direction, and other factors that influence concert programming. Michelle Sampson

Michelle has been an excellent apprentice, and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with her. She has always been very well prepared, interested and engaged in the whole scheme of rehearsing, learning, revising, and gained a good understanding the running of a choir from an administrative and artistic view point. Neil Ferris

Find out more about the next apprenticeship placement by clicking here.