Rhinegold Photo credit: © Benjamin Ealovega
Foundation course: The September 2015 intake of young artists

Kimon Daltas

City Lights

11:32, 24th August 2016

A project instigated by a musicophile lord mayor has grown and taken on a life of its own by giving young soloists not just exposure but a strong line in business sense. Kimon Daltas reports

Clare Taylor, managing director of the City Music Foundation, postpones our first attempt at meeting because one of her young artists has ended up in hospital – nothing too serious as it turns out – but they have no family in London to look after them. And if you think a hospital is an unusual place for the boss of a music charity to end up in the course of duty, for Taylor, until recently a consultant haematologist, it is rather the other way round.

‘It started because Roger Gifford, who also happens to be my husband, was going to be lord mayor,’ says Taylor, when the emergency has been dealt with and the meeting rescheduled.

Both are music lovers and have been involved in music making all their lives, so Taylor decided to take a career break to make the most of the opportunities the mayoralty offered. ‘All lord mayors have a charitable appeal, and most choose an existing charity to be the recipient of the appeal monies raised, but we were very keen to do something musical.

‘So we set it all up in the summer of 2012 as a charity, called it City Music Foundation, appointed a managing director, and then Roger became lord mayor in November 2012. We raised a big chunk of money for it during that year and selected our first CMF artists in the summer of 2013.’

Taylor was a trustee at first but when the vacancy for managing director arose last year, she decided to take the mantle and make her break from haematology permanent.

‘Apart from the actual nitty gritty of knowledge that you need for medicine, all of the rest of it is dealing with people, dealing with teams, dealing with budgets, making things happen, says Taylor. ‘It’s all the same. And doctors are taught to be educators – and education is an essential part what CMF offers,’ she continues, admitting however that dealing with musicians makes for a more pleasant life.

Over time the CMF has evolved its mission from being just a platform for young talent to offering much more in the way of mentoring and career training.

‘We chose people who we absolutely believe have got what it takes to make it as a soloist or an ensemble, not as an orchestral player, but the top level. We try to stop them from falling between the cracks by teaching them the business of music.’

So the musical talent is not in doubt: a rigorous audition process is in place, and often the candidates are singled out and put forward by conservatoires. ‘But what we feel happens – we know happens – is that however brilliant you are, and however many gold medals and prizes you may have won, you can just not make it for other, non-musical reasons,’ says Taylor.

‘We want them to learn how the world really works, how the music industry works, and some of them are really not very well informed about that when they come out of music college. So the business mentoring is one of the core things that we do.’

From the basics of keeping their receipts, registering with HMRC and paying national insurance to the more subtle arts of networking and communicating with bookers, festivals, agents, or the press, the CMF aims to turn out ‘self-sufficient business units’, Taylor says. ‘It’s not a very attractive phrase, but they actually need to know, if you’re going to survive playing and making money from playing, you have to be a small business. They haven’t always thought of it like that when they start.’

The CMF also kits them out with all the promotional tools, making sure there’s a professional website, videos, CDs, photoshoots. There’s also an in-house artist manager, Tabitha McGrath, who brings experience of IMG and HarrisonParrott to play in getting paid gigs – as well as putting them in front of managers in the hope of securing long-term representation in the future.
A welcome development has been that the CMF artists become a network of their own where both friendships and professional partnerships are made. ‘They get to know each other, and they’re all dealing with the same kind of issues, the same problems, so they can make friends and talk about that. But also they end up doing music together, which is great.

‘A good example is the group of them that decided to do the Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time – cellist Yelian He, who is in CMF as part of a duo, then Joseph Shiner, clarinet, and Michael Foyle and Maksim Štšura, who are usually the Foyle-Štšura Duo.

A first performance in the CMF concert series at St Lawrence Jewry (step forward CMF events manager Yasmin Arbee) has led to a number of other engagements in festivals.

Among a number of other collaborative projects, percussionist Eusebio Sánchez’s new CD features fellow CMF artist Emma Halnan, while soprano Raphaela Papadakis – whose appearances so far suggest a full-fledged operatic career on the cards – will be joining the Gildas Quartet for a couple of Oxford Lieder Festival recitals.

The organisation’s home in the City is something Taylor hopes to capitalise on in the future, as the new concert hall at the Barbican – an inevitability now, she reckons – becomes the centre of a new ‘cultural hub’.

Simon Rattle is on his way to take up his LSO post officially in September 2017 of course, bringing his ferocious energy for education and outreach with him, while Crossrail will begin operating around a year later, making the entire area more accessible than ever. The Guildhall School, St Luke’s, St Paul’s, the Charterhouse, the Museum of London, the Tower of London – it’s all linked and, says Taylor, ‘we’ll be a small but perfectly formed part of the jigsaw’.

INSIDE VIEW – CMF Young Artists

Raphaela Papadakis ‘CMF has placed me at the centre of an emerging professional network comprised of the brightest and best musicians of my generation, who I hope will be my colleagues and friends for years to come. As a direct result of the CMF platform, the Gildas Quartet and I will be collaborating on a wonderful lieder programme for soprano and string quartet which we are performing in several festivals around the country, and Cordelia Williams and I will be performing together in a Messiaen Festival at the Royal Welsh College in November.’

Samson Tsoy ‘There are many different foundations around the world helping young musicians to develop their artistic careers. What makes CMF different from almost every other organisation is the unique combination of a “made to measure” individual plan and lots of essential general advice aiming to help maintain the life of musicians outside from their performance activities. As a performer, I dedicate my whole self, my whole being to my art. My time with CMF gave me a very deep insight into the other sides of classical music business.’

Andrey Lebedev ‘They are realistic about the opportunities and challenges available in the concert music industry and provide a great foundation of knowledge on which one can build any variety of projects. In particular, the workshops on strategic planning have been brilliant and continue to help me make decisions as to what work to take and why. The organisation as a whole, artists and staff, feels like a family that genuinely looks out for one another.’

Foyle-Štšura Duo ‘CMF’s fresh and proactive approach has really helped us to engage with the changing demands of the profession. The highlight of our time with CMF so far has been the creation of two promotional videos, featuring works by Brahms and Lutosławski, that we filmed with a fantastic team at LSO St Luke’s. These are perfect for sharing with promoters and audience alike, and give a taste of what can be expected from a Foyle-Štšura Duo performance.

Gildas Quartet ‘CMF has encouraged us to really consider what we want to say as a quartet. It has been brilliant to be forced to consider ourselves from a more audience-centred perspective, not only from a musical but also business point of view. Having such a fantastic network of support has been completely life-changing for us as an ensemble, but perhaps even more special are the musical friendships we have been able to forge.’

Emma Halnan ‘It has been completely invaluable to have support from CMF just after graduating from my formal studies at the Royal Academy of Music. CMF has helped me a great deal with promoting myself and helping me generate my own freelance work as a soloist and ensemble musician.’

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