Conservatoires, Covid-19 and cracking on with it

Lloyd Pearce is the Chair of the Conservatoires UK Student Network

Who would have thought that after a year since the Prime Minister told us to stay home, we’d still be here?

For some, months of solitude and confinement lay ahead. For others, disruption on a monumental scale was to come – and for all, a year riding the wildest rollercoaster we will ever ride in our lifetimes.

It’s been a year in which you would not hear the orchestra tune up or be taken through a whirlwind of emotion whilst you witness a life changing performance. Instead the doors were closed and the band did not play on… or did it?

A life at a conservatoire is not a quiet one and can provide a vast amount of opportunities throughout the degree. The emphasis is on vocational training and getting ready to enter the industry. Don’t get me wrong, there is room for academic work of course but should you wish to enter as a performer, it’s the place to go.

Conservatoires pride themselves on being connected to the industry with many students getting professional opportunities before graduating. Having this connection and building up contacts during this time is a crucial learning experience of any student. It’s one that has not been able to be taken full advantage of this past year.

Diminished experience

Many of the positives about studying at a conservatoire have not been experienced this year, and this has had a negative effect not just for the students but for the industry. I’m not suggesting that these relationships have disappeared, merely put on ice whilst the country felt it’s way through the pandemic.

There is an element of trust and connection that can only be created through in person interaction. As artists, this aspect of our work is crucial for without it, the process can be hindered and everyone can be affected.

With the news of a lockdown coming fast, students faced a level of uncertainty which hasn’t been faced before. How long would this last? When will we perform again? When can I see my friends? This is where you would expect everything to grind to a halt and wait for everything to blow over.

One thing that I firmly believe is that students haven’t been given enough credit during this time. Instead of laying down tools, our students combined their incredible creativeness with determination and took to the internet. Without guidance or orders, it wasn’t long until our social media feeds turned into an online festival of the arts.

With new performances, new artists and professional level material being produced, our students took our industry into the 21st century. This wasn’t for course credit, nor was it for profit. This was a generation of students standing in defiance against an establishment who frankly, weren’t doing a great deal to help us out.

From education to profession

The further on you get into your conservatoire life, the smaller the gap becomes between education and profession. Our conservatoires in the UK provide a constant production line of talent which feeds into all aspects of the professional industry. When conservatoire training began, the world was a very different place, yet the support now has arguably remained the same.

It’s down to the institutions themselves to change society’s view of them. To take us away from the stereotypes of old and bring us in line with what we stand for today. Support is crucial to continue this work. I bet that during the lockdown, you have turned to box sets or your favourite albums for comfort during uncomfortable time. Well, our students are in those films, those series, on stage and behind the scenes at those shows. They are on your radios, you stream their music and you go to their gigs. You marvel at their designs, get lost in their words and lose your words when you witness that life changing performance I mentioned at the start.

During this time, we have seen closures, we’ve experienced loneliness and we have felt loss. This pandemic has provided a life changing experience for us all. However, through all of this, the band did play on. Our students adapted to their surroundings, they produced a whole new world of creativity and why? Not for profit, fame or glory but because they love what they do. It’s not just a qualification, it’s a way of life. We are patiently waiting in the wings for our five minute call and we are ready to take it back.

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