Musician Development

A key part of any Nevis Ensemble musician’s time with the organisation is training and professional development. Throughout the year Nevis offers musicians development opportunities that cover various aspects of performing and freelance life skills.

We provide some musicians opportunities to be involved in the running of the organisation to gain experience in arts management, and offer placements on focused aspects of working in the arts that give musicians paid experience, training and mentorship.

As musicians in Nevis we are continuing to expand our skills as musicians in terms of playing different genres, learning to engage with audiences and other musicians, and seeing first-hand how we are musicians actually can make a difference to the people to whom we are playing. I believe I am always continuing to grow as a musician as a member of the orchestra. I am pushed and inspired by the other members to continue to improve my skills as a musician, and to continue to grow as a leader and advocate of music.’
Heidi van der Swaagh, cello

Performing and project work

Being part of Nevis Ensemble offers incredible opportunities for musicians to develop all aspects of their professional skills. Musicians are offered the chance to develop:

  • Presenting skills (Nevis musicians present each performance, tailored for each context)
  • Programming skills (musicians programme each performance, guided by the Artistic Directors)
  • Playing different musical styles (we play all musical genres!)
  • Communication skills (our musicians are expected to chat and engage with audience members before, during and after concerts)
  • Ability to adapt to different situations (outdoors, indoors, small space, boomy hall, noisy background – all in a day’s work)
  • Performing skills (nowhere else will you play so many concerts in such a short space of time!)

Much of the development takes place informally – where else would you go for lunch in a hotel restaurant and before you’ve finished your food be dragged up to improvise – as an orchestra – in a jam session with the resident ceilidh band!?

Musicians also get the chance to form chamber groups, and during the COVID-19 pandemic there have been numerous paid opportunities for small-scale performances in community spaces.

Some musicians also lead our on-going projects working with community groups and participants in a range of contexts including those experiencing homelessness, survivors of domestic violence, young carers, and older people living with dementia.

It’s a place I feel I can be the best musician I can be, but I’m also allowed to make mistakes and try new things. I’ve been pushed to do stuff I’d never do before Nevis.’
Guro Bergseng Skullerud, trumpet

‘I feel my musical skills are always improved by being part of Nevis. It gives me a chance to work on my reading music/timing skills (something I’m really not great at, as a dyslexic musician!) and I learn a lot from talking to/observing other players.’
Aimée Laws, violin

Player Committee

Every Nevis Ensemble musician has the opportunity to stand for the orchestra’s Player Committee, which represents the musicians’ interests to management and the Board of Trustees.

The committee is run like a Board with its own Constitution, a rolling Chair, a Secretary.

Members get experience in what it’s like to sit on a Board of Trustees, writing and producing Minutes, insight into how organisations operate from ‘within’ and how decision-making processes can happen.

Player Committee members are also invited to attend Nevis Ensemble Board meetings, and report to the Trustees on musician thoughts, ideas and concerns, getting further insight into the ‘backroom’ of an arts organisation.

We would hope this opportunity not only has a tangible benefit for all of our musicians in general, but gives members the insight to think about applying to sit on the boards for other organisations.

Practical help

Those first few years as a freelance musician are tough, and we aim to provide some of those more tangible, practical things to help people ‘on their way’.

This ranges from being available to our musicians if they need advice on how to register as Self Employed, how to refine their CVs, how to approach auditions and interviews, or writing a biography, to providing help and advice on setting up websites, and branding for chamber groups.

We also offer a limited number of players headshot sessions with our regular photographer, Tommy Ga-Ken Wan – a simple but invaluable addition to every musician’s tool-bag.

Placements

Since 2020, we have offered musicians the chance to undertake placements that run for a number of months focussing on particular areas of arts management giving paid experience, training and mentorship.

From November 2020, Nevis trumpeter, Isaac Boothman undertook a Marketing and PR Placement, receiving training sessions from Carol Fleming (Head of Marketing, RSNO), Christopher Glasgow (PR, Cryptic), Andy Saunders, and Hannah Fiddy (Alternative Classical), and mentored by Victoria Taylor. You can read more about his experience here.

In 2021, thanks to support from the Witherby Publishing Group Charitable Trust, we are able to offer similar placements looking at Fundraising and Development, and Finance.

Nevis Ensemble has also hosted placements from students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland as part of their Musicians as Entrepreneur course, as from the Robertson Trust.

Training

On larger tours musicians receive sectional rehearsals from experienced musicians, alongside sessions including Traditional playing styles and Mindfulness for Musicians. In 2020/21, we ran a series of weekly online workshops for musicians on the following topics:

Building Creative Music Workshops, Catherine Arlidge MBE
Life as a Freelance Musician, Su-a Lee
Improvisation, Richard Ingham
Funding I – Basics of Fundraising, Jo Buckley
Being a Sustainable Musician, Caro Overy
Working in Additional Support Needs (ASN) Environments, Rachel Drury
Funding II – Creative Scotland/Arts Council England funding, Jo Buckley
Diversity in Programming, Uchenna Nwege
PR and the Arts, Victoria Taylor
Marketing for Musicians, Andy Saunders
Traditional Scottish playing for Classical Musicians, Donald Grant
An Introduction to Bookkeeping, Kae Sukari
CV Surgery

Thanks to support from the Scottish Music Centre’s YMI CPD Fund, in early 2021 four of our musicians undertook further, more intensive training on working with children and young people with sessions including:

Introduction to Child Protection and Safeguarding
Drake Music Scotland – Approach
Drake Music Scotland – Figurenotes
Workshops in Additional Support Needs settings
Performing in Additional Support Needs settings
(with Live Music Now Scotland)

In the past, Nevis musicians have also had the opportunity to shadow and perform with musicians from Live Music Now Scotland in settings for children and young people with Additional Support Needs, gaining valuable in-situ experience.

An orchestra like Nevis is exactly the one thing that will separate you from all the other musicians, since it gives you an actual chance to grow. You want to present? Go ahead. You want to do a solo? Go ahead. I’ve developed skills which I never knew I had, and I think this applies to a lot of other musicians.
Maxje de Witt, violin