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The Classical Music Industry Gathers For The 2021 ABO Conference This Week

Centred on the theme of 'Aftershock', the three-day online forum will bring together delegates from all areas of the classical music industry.

The 2021 Association of British Orchestras Conference is to take place online from Wednesday to Friday (10-12 March), hosted in partnership with Classic FM, Help Musicians, Classical Music and the British Council, and featuring speakers and panellists including Caroline Dinenage MP, Minister of State for Digital & Culture and Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England.

Centred on the theme of 'Aftershock', the three-day online forum will bring together delegates from all areas of the classical music industry, both within the UK and beyond, to examine the seismic issues that have sent shockwaves through the sector over the past twelve months - from the devastating impact of the global pandemic to the reignited call for action on diversity and inclusion in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. It will also be an opportunity to champion the invention and resilience shown by so many orchestras and musicians during this unprecedented year and to discuss how the sector can continue to adapt to the new post-Covid and Brexit landscape and build recovery. Presented in partnership with the ABO's Principal Media Partner Classic FM and Online Media Partner Classical Music, the recipients of the 2021 ABO/Classical Music Awards and ABO Award will also be announced.

Mark Pemberton, Director, Association of British Orchestras (ABO): This past year has seen the classical music industry buffeted by storm winds as never before, but through it all our members have shown resilience and ingenuity. But it's by no means plain sailing from here on, with the challenge of Brexit added to continued Covid-19 restrictions. The conference provides a chance to pause and reflect, embed an action plan for recovery and diversity, and emerge ready to return to business.

The ABO's Charity Partner Help Musicians, with additional support from the Musicians' Union, will open the conference on Wednesday with sessions free to attend for managers and musicians. Topics include a discussion chaired by Roger Wilson, Director of Operations, Black Lives in Music, on the efforts being made to address racial inequity in UK orchestras today, where he will be joined by Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE, founder and Artistic & Executive Director, Chineke! Orchestra, Victoria Sayles, violinist, London Mozart Players, and Linton Stephens, bassoonist and Chair, Musicians Union EDI Committee. In another session, Alex Laing, senior consultant at Hillombo LLC and principal clarinet, The Phoenix Symphony, and Justin Laing, founder and principal of Hillombo LLC, will share ideas on antiracist Adaptive Leadership, the ways in which orchestras participate in systemic racism and what musicians might do to disrupt this participation.

During the conference, Help Musicians along with Susanna Eastburn MBE and Jane Williams will lead a session to discuss the findings of Help Musicians research project 'The Future of Classical Music: building a sustainable career in classical music', and a fundraising quiz will also take place to raise proceeds for the charity.

Hosted by the ABO's Principal Media Partner and the UK's most popular classical music station, Classic FM, the Minister for Digital & Culture, Caroline Dinenage MP, will open Thursday's sessions with a keynote speech followed by a Q&A facilitated by Classic FM presenter Anne-Marie Minhall, before Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, shares his vision for rebuilding the arts and delivering on ACE's 10 year strategy Let's Create. Other sessions include a discussion on the economic and political landscape post-Covid and Brexit with Katy Balls, Deputy Political Editor, The Spectator, Chris Giles, Economics Editor, Financial Times and Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, Chief Executive, UK Music, as well as a conversation between Cathy Graham OBE, Director of Music, British Council, Juan Antonio Cuéllar, Manager, Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Colombia, Nathaly Ossa, Spanish Association of Symphony Orchestras and Simon Woods, President and Chief Executive, League of American Orchestras examining how other countries and their orchestras have coped with the pandemic. Delegates will also hear from colleagues in the USA about the steps American orchestras are taking to embed change for improved diversity in a session chaired by Simon Woods with Sakurako Fisher, former Chair, San Francisco Symphony, Aaron Flagg, DMA Chair, Associate Director, Juilliard Jazz Studies Program, and Anthony McGill, Principal Clarinet, New York Philharmonic.

Following the recently published 'Orchestras in Healthcare' report from the ABO, Orchestras Live and City of London Sinfonia - the first comprehensive survey of UK orchestras' work in the health and social care sectors - a session led by Sarah Derbyshire MBE, Chief Executive, Orchestras Live and Matthew Swann, Chief Executive, City of London Sinfonia, will explore the implications for the 'social prescribing' agenda and the role orchestras can play to restore the health and wellbeing of the nation with panellists Natalie Ellis, Head of Arts, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Gay Palmer, Link Worker, Tessa Jowell Health Centre, NHS South East London Clinical Commissioning Group, James Sanderson, Director of Personalised Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement and CEO, National Academy of Social Prescribing, and Katherine Spencer, Principal Clarinet, City of London Sinfonia.

Alan Davey CBE, Controller of BBC Radio 3 and Classical Music, opens the final day of the conference to give his take on what recovery looks like to the BBC in a post-Covid world in conversation with journalist and BBC Radio 3 presenter Kate Molleson before BBC Radio 3 presenter Georgia Mann leads a session featuring Angela Dixon, Chief Executive, Saffron Hall, Kathryn McDowell CBE, Managing Director, London Symphony Orchestra and John Summers, former Chief Executive, The Hallé, to discuss the financial and environmental sustainability of orchestras' reliance on international touring. Delegates will also hear from the ABO's 2020-21 Find Your Way cohort who will reflect on the innovations that have inspired them over the past year whilst a session chaired by Ellen Gallagher, Associate, Hamlins LLP, will tackle the topic of contracts in the wake of the pandemic with Lorna Aizlewood, Chief Operating Officer & General Counsel, Harrison Parrott, Donagh Collins, Chief Executive, Askonas Holt and Stephen Maddock OBE, Chief Executive, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. The opportunities and challenges of digital performance will be explored by Susannah Simons, Director of Partnerships, Marquee TV, digital consultant David Taylor and Crispin Woodhead, Chief Executive, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in a session chaired by James Murphy, Chief Executive, Royal Philharmonic Society, and the future of orchestral programming and repertoire will be debated in a discussion chaired by Vanessa Reed, President & CEO, New Music USA with composer and flautist Valerie Coleman, composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón and Matías Tarnopolsky, President and Chief Executive Officer, Philadelphia Orchestra.

The British Council, in its role as ABO's International Partner, will also host networking meetings for delegates throughout the conference, and is supporting attendance by delegates from developing countries.

Bringing the 2021 Conference to a close, the recipients of the ABO/Classical Music Awards will be announced by Classic FM presenter Margherita Taylor. An opportunity to celebrate colleagues' vital contribution to UK orchestral life, the awards will champion those who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to bring music to audiences and into our communities over the past year whilst navigating the unprecedented and critical impact of the pandemic. The recipient of the annual ABO Award will also be announced by Chair of the ABO, Simon Webb.

For further information about the ABO and the 2021 ABO Conference, visit

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