Inspired of the article in The Times about how to get kids to fall in love with classical music, we wanted to introduce to the man, who was a pioneer in developing education programmes in the UK: Richard McNicol.
He began his career as a professional flute player and member of the London Philharmonic during the Seventies. Whilst working there, McNicol saw a need for music education and persued the goal to link children with the world of professional music. He began pioneering work with orchestras and young people, forming the Apollo Trust in 1977. The Trust’s aim was to bring professional orchestras into the field of education – an idea which was seen as radical in those days, but thanks to such initiatives, educational work is now accepted as central to the role of classical ensembles.
From 1993 to 2006 McNicol held the position of Music Animateur to the London Symphony Orchestra. In 2002 he was invited by Simon Rattle to create an education programme for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. This project was accompanied by a film crew and the result was recorded in the ground-breaking movie Rhythm is it!. McNicol described it as follows: “It is a project that revolves around Stravinsky’s great masterpiece The Rite Of Spring and it was quite obvious to us that we should treat it as a dance project since it’s a piece of Ballet music. I discussed it with Simon and we were both very taken by the idea of bringing together East and West, the favoured areas and the less favoured areas. People who perhaps might never meet each other, to work together to evolve dance with a really good choreographer.” As you can see in the movie, in the beginning most of the children weren’t really excited about the idea of focussing on a classical music piece, but the result was fascinating. The more the children practised, the more they got thrilled by the music. You can see a short clip of the brilliant performance here: