Hi Hermione! Thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Could you tell us about what you’ve been up to since leaving the Academy in 2012?
It has been, and continues to be, an unexpected and wonderful adventure! I didn’t leave with a fixed idea of what I wanted to do - instead I decided to say yes to things that challenge or excite me. I try to align myself wherever possible with people, projects and organisations that inspire me. I have been a support musician, workshop leader and project manager on a wide range of music projects in a variety of settings. The majority of my work after graduating was managing projects with people in prison, as well as with ex-prisoners and young people in challenging circumstances. In more recent years the focus has been on developing and managing projects for people living with dementia and their families, friends and carers.
Could you tell us a bit more about the Music for Life programme at Wigmore Hall?
Music for Life is a pioneering programme for people living with dementia and their families, friends and carers. It was founded by Linda Rose in 1993 and has been led by Wigmore Hall since 2009. Over the years, the programme has continued to develop from working primarily in care settings to incorporating a growing number of projects and events in community settings and at the Hall itself.
During my time as Programme Manager, I have witnessed some of the most breathtaking musical conversations, and the real beauty is that it would be impossible to recreate them. These experiences continue to enrich me through appreciating and cherishing the connections we can share in the present moment.
What have been the standout moments of your career so far?
There are so many moments that have changed me as a person, and I would say those are the ones that standout the most. There are two occasions that have really stuck with me.
The first was while I was playing on a project in a care home. There was a resident in the session who appeared to be asleep, yet when one of the musicians offered her the conductor’s baton she took it, sat upright and gestured to me across the circle with my cello. As I followed her movements and facial expressions, the beauty of what we were creating together was transformative. The same woman who had been sitting quietly in her chair moments before now had her arms high above her head, almost standing, and the focus and intent was incredibly powerful. After bringing the piece to a close, someone asked her what she had been thinking as the music was playing. She recited Wordsworth’s Daffodils: ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud…’, and the music made complete sense - together we had found it.
The second encounter was also in a care home, but this time without my cello. The previous week a resident had asked me to remind her how much she enjoyed the music sessions, as she was sure she would forget and refuse to come. As I entered the lounge she was sitting alone in a corner, the TV was on and a CD player was blasting out a rendition of ‘Grease’. I sat next to her and, after introducing myself and explaining a little about the music project, asked if she might like to join us. She looked straight at me and said ‘Darling, people here, they come and go, they come in, they go out, the TV is on, the music is playing. I sit here and pretend to be asleep, but the thing is… the world is round and I am a human being. I am a human being and I have music inside me.’
What inspired you to use music to help others?
The initial motivation came from a need to find something to fill the gaps I perceived in my own existence. I found myself increasingly drawn to people who were misrepresented, misunderstood or whose voices weren’t being heard. To me, these interactions are the most meaningful and authentic. They require you to give something of yourself and to be aware of and explore your own vulnerabilities. So in that sense, I benefit hugely from being able to do this work. Sometimes the connection is through music, sometimes it is through conversation, body language or a combination of some or all of these things. It’s all improvisation, a constant exploration of the unknown, and that’s what can make it so exciting and rewarding for everyone involved.
Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
What excites me most about every project is always the people. Getting to know individuals, but also seeing relationships developing and a sense of group forming. In that way, each project is different and presents new rewards and challenges. I am particularly looking forward to a two-year residency we have just launched in a care home. It will be a unique opportunity to work alongside musicians, staff, residents, family members and friends on an ongoing basis. As a result, I feel this will open up new possibilities for co-creation and collaboration. Devising a programme together is a really creative, refreshing and empowering way of working. It feels authentic and equal - anything is possible.
What is your advice for new graduates from the Academy?
I think the best I can do is address my former self and hope that it might resonate with others. I would say that you are more than your chosen medium of expression. It is a powerful relationship and very much intertwined with your identity, but you are more than that alone. If that were taken away and you were no longer able to do the thing you have so far dedicated yourself to, you can still find meaning and experience profound beauty. You may even find forms of connecting and communicating that energise you in ways you could never have imagined.
Each platform of expression is equally valid. It is through a mutual respect and understanding that we can collectively create an environment in which everyone is able to engage meaningfully, and be celebrated for what it is that makes us unique. Some of these platforms may not exist yet, and that’s where it becomes our responsibility as a society to create new ones.
Read more about the Music for Life programme here: https://wigmore-hall.org.uk/le...