Hannah Kendall – encouraging inclusivity

London Music Masters (LMM) awards director and composer Hannah Kendall writes for IAM on a new type of award for artists, and reflects on her own journey towards a more inclusive approach to classical music.

As I look back over the experiences of the young artists LMM has supported through the LMM Awards what encourages me most are the accounts from the artists themselves. The awards, they say, have enhanced their overall development – and not just in relation to musicianship or artistry. Yes, our award holders receive substantial financial support and high profile performing opportunities, but the LMM Awards are also designed to encourage young professional musicians to grow as individuals.

This is achieved by having our artists work closely with primary school children in our inner-city schools music programme, LMM Learning. They visit the children regularly, give masterclasses, create new music together and share performance platforms. LMM believes that music should be shared with everyone, and we aim to give LMM award holders the tools and experience to do just that. We hope once they leave the LMM Award programme they will go out and actively seek to work with communities in this way all over the world.

Another element of our work is new music – and I promise it’s not just because I’m a composer. By doing this we provide our artists with their first ever opportunity to work with living composers, and to perform a brand new piece of music composed especially for them. We believe that it’s vital for all musicians, of any age, to engage with and perform music of their own time. Over the years we’ve commissioned a number of works for our award holders by composers including Charlotte Bray, Mark Bowden, Edmund Finnis and Martin Suckling.

With one of our most recent commissions, we challenged Gavin Higgins to create a work of exceptional artistic quality with parts suitable for both professional and amateur musicians. The result was Tänze, premiered by London Philharmonic Orchestra and 70 of our LMM Learning students in a spectacular concert at the Royal Festival Hall on 23 October 2015.

Looking forward, in 2016 we are working with violinist Marc Bouchkov. His first LMM experience will be with our oldest LMM Learning students ahead of their graduation performance and ceremony at Wigmore Hall in July. Marc will go into the schools to work with the children on their repertoire, before sharing the stage with them, prior to his own Wigmore Hall recital debut on 18 October.

We’ve also launched a new award for talented composers, building on our commissioning work of previous years. Shiva Feshareki and Jack White are the inaugural recipients, and are very much enjoying creating projects that reflect their individuality, personal aspirations and achievements.

Says Shiva: ‘I have spent the last few years working in experimentation and as a collaborative composer; meeting loads of different people, experimenting in a whole host of settings, in different disciplines and different worlds, and constantly re-shaping and re-defining what I do. Thanks to LMM I now have the resources to refine my practice, and come back to my classical routes to compose a purely orchestral piece for the London Contemporary Orchestra, with a fresh new perspective due to all my explorations in other contexts.’

Jack commented: ‘The LMM Learning programme provides a unique platform for young musicians and composers alike, all of whom are able to develop their skills in a positive and supportive artistic environment.’

I like what Jack says about developing skills in a ‘positive and supportive artistic environment’ – I think that’s exactly it. By providing a setting that isn’t just about winning prizes, but about putting in place an encouraging network for young artists at a crucial stage of their careers, we hope they flourish into dynamic, bold and well-rounded musicians.

LMM award holder Alexandra Soumm, for example, has gone on to establish her own charity, Esperanz’Arts, which aims to promote inclusion in the arts. Esperanz’Arts makes all art forms accessible to people who might not otherwise engage by taking musicians, artists, and dancers into schools, hospitals, prisons and care homes.

Artists like Alexandra, Jack, Marc and Shiva challenge and motivate me to achieve more. Like them, I too want to reach new audiences, inspire new generations, and ensure that the classical music world of tomorrow is even more welcoming to artists and audiences from diverse backgrounds. I count myself extremely fortunate that whether I’m sitting at the piano working on my latest commission, or sitting at my desk creating new opportunities for LMM award holders, I’m deeply involved in a cause close to my heart: outstanding music for everyone.

Hannah Kendall is a composer and awards director for LMM. Her work has been performed by London Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Singers, and Philharmonia Orchestra, and she was featured as Composer of the Week on BBC Radio in March 2015. You can read Hannah’s IAM article on the role of race in classical music here.