Over the last four months, two Royal Birmingham Conservatoire students, Chen Yung-li (陳詠莉) from Yilan City in Taiwan, and Connor Wilcox from Burntisland in Fife, have been experiencing the working life of a professional ballet pianist as the first students in the Conservatoire and Elmhurst Ballet School’s Placement for Pianists Programme.
The programme provides a rare opportunity for music students to explore the highly specialised artistry and technique of ballet pianism during mentoring, observational and practical sessions with pianists working full-time at Elmhurst Ballet School, the associate school of Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Interest to take part in the inaugural placement was large. After an audition process, piano students Connor and Yung-li were selected to take part in the scheme, which marks the first collaboration between the two Birmingham based educational establishments.
Connor and Yung-li have attended programme sessions at the Edgbaston-based ballet school, have observed and played for ballet classes, have observed pianists at Birmingham Royal Ballet and have benefitted from one-to-one tutorials with Elmhurst pianists Mikael Petersson and Elaine Li, both also graduates of the renowned Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
Julian Lloyd Webber, principal of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, expressed his delight at the success of the partnership with Elmhurst. He said, “The combination of some of the country’s best young dancers and pianists working together is simply electrifying and exemplifies our joint ethos of wanting to further embed ourselves within the city we serve. It is fantastic that the placement will continue next year and I am excited to see in which other directions our partnership follows.”
Mikael Petersson, Elmhurst’s music planning coordinator and pianist, added that, “As a former Conservatoire student, I realised during my student years the importance of establishing a professional network well before the completion of the degree. Finding work is increasingly dependent on an individual’s ability to take initiative and reach out to work places. This scheme facilitates taking those first steps so entering the profession is a little easier. I hope by working together in this way, two of the world’s leading conservatoires and their talented students will continue to inspire each other.”
More good news is that following its successful first year, the Placement for Pianists Programme is to continue with a second cohort in the 2018-2019 academic year.