2018 British Composer Awards
Music thrives when we share it with each other. From the lullabies and nursery rhymes that we learn in early childhood to the song that we choose for the first dance at our wedding, the joy and power of music is multiplied when we share it with our families and communities.
I love living and working in London, where amateur music-making is such a big part of community life, from community choirs to music in offices, from karaoke nights to community amateur music festivals, and of course teaching within the LCSP community. As a piano teacher, it’s an enormous privilege to work with so many pianists and help them unlock their musical voice.
We all have something unique to communicate through our music, regardless of how many years (or days!) we’ve been playing the piano.
The importance of music
The importance of music as a shared experience was one of the central themes of the 2018 British Composer Awards, which I attended as a member of Wild Plum Arts, a British organisation that supports the composition and performance of new works. British Composer Awards is an annual event sponsored by BASCA, PRS for Music and BBC Radio 3. Composers, music promoters, artistic directors and performers converged on the British Museum after hours for drinks and bowl food, lots of industry schmoozing and an awards ceremony to honour those who have written incredible new works this year.
The Awards Event
The event was a celebration of new music in a wide variety of genres – not just contemporary classical music for various instrumental and vocal ensembles, but also jazz, sonic art, community/educational projects and works specifically written for amateur/young performers. For every award, three composers were shortlisted from a much larger pool of nominations. Awards were given for innovation and inspiration. With a number of nominated composers in their 20s or 30s and nominated for the first time, we can look forward to future decades of brilliant new music in the UK.
What I loved most about the evening was that no one really seemed to care who won each category. Everyone was much more interested in the broader theme of celebrating all of the new music and the performances that had brought these works to life. The winners thanked their collaborators, those who commissioned and performed the works and those who inspired and supported their careers. I was delighted to see none other than LCSP head coach and incredibly talented contemporary classical pianist Siwan Rhys performing a piece by Laura Bowler who was nominated for an award. New music depends on performers like Siwan, and the audiences whose ticket purchases ensure that small venues and alternative performing spaces stay open.
Challenge in the music industry
Many of the composers spoke about the enormous challenge the music industry is currently facing in the drastic cuts to music education in state schools. It was so heartening to hear some of the most elite British musicians voicing their belief that music is a central part of community life, that every child deserves the opportunity to learn, that we all have a musical voice that is worth celebrating, regardless of socioeconomic status or postcode lottery. We’re in danger of losing an entire generation of musical voices if we don’t reverse this educational policy.
Whether amateur or professional, complete beginner or seasoned player, singer or pianist, we all have a role to play in keeping music alive in society by sharing it with our friends and family. Practise without your headphones, perform at LCSP student concerts and open mic nights, and buy tickets to a concert in a venue you’ve not visited before. I wish everyone a music-filled Christmas, and a new year in which we all discover new works and encourage new voices emerge.