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Orchestra 360 - a parent's perspective

A Parent's Perspective

Kathryn Green and her son Michael are members of o360. Here Kathryn tells us about their experience of taking part.

When I begin to talk about our experience with Orchestra 360 (o360) I am always overly effusive and emotive in my description of the participation. Our enthusiasm and important sense of belonging to a wonderful arts organisation is right there to see. We absolutely love music and to actually make music yourself, playing an instrument is something we never dreamed of doing.

People often ask about our involvement in music when they visit our home, because of the instruments piled up on furniture and music stands in the middle of the room - always ready to pick up for a practice! Conrad, one of the professional teachers, advised me to have the instrument to hand where it's easy to pick up and play rather than put away in a cupboard. This easy picking up of the instrument is followed through in the orchestra.

The practice sessions before a performance are focused on picking up your part of the piece which is improvised and shaped as the weeks go on and are a completely collaborative process. Each person, be they professionally trained, a complete amateur or having particularly individual difficulties which might have ordinarily meant they never dreamed of taking part, make a whole final piece of music in which no one person is the star, each has an equal part and are hugely important. Everyone knows it, and it makes for music full of emotion and the joy that is genuinely felt from each person.

o360 is like no other orchestra in that the players don't merely turn up to practise and perform, they are part of an immersive experience difficult to describe in words alone. I don't know whether it's the warm ups James, the conductor who leads at the start of each session which makes us all feel very much part of a completely collective, fun, joyous experience. In these moments the technical difficulties and pressure often associated with the discipline of learning an instrument give way to pure joy and a huge sense of achievement.

Making a composition, all the way through from the first notes to a full orchestral piece is an amazing process to be part of. Every person playing the piece, whether professional, amateur, played in their youth, learning at school or with the bare minimum of musical proficiency, gives an equal effort. Whatever they can give, and all the time knowing they will go on from practice to perform the piece in front of a live audience.

Having the experience is like no other - the audience's rapt silence as you are centre stage and in a wonderful process of simultaneously giving of your artistic efforts whilst receiving the wonderful reaction of the people listening. Especially great when it was Christmas time, a wonderful festival atmosphere with hundreds of young choir children in the best venue you could wish for. We simply can't wait for the practice and performance to start again this year.

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