Stephanie Pitts; Karen Burland; Tom Spurgin

Published On


Page Range

pp. 103–126


  • English

Print Length

24 pages

6. Becoming a Classical Musician of the Future

The Effects of Training and Experience on Performer Attitudes to Innovation

This chapter draws upon 26 survey responses and four interviews with musicians from our two partner orchestras, in which the musicians reflect on their training and the extent to which this prepared them for professional orchestral playing. These exploratory findings raise questions about the role of conservatoires in supporting or inhibiting innovation in the profession, highlight the challenges of work-life balance that were altered by the pandemic, and show how musicians themselves can be agents for change. The second half of the chapter will report on a conversation between musicians and directors at the two orchestras, in which they respond to the findings and help set the agenda for future research and innovation. Little research has so far focused on the impact of innovation in classical music on performers’ experience and wellbeing, or upon the resultant changes that might be needed in conservatoire and university music education to equip performers for this new age (Burland & Bennett, 2022). In our collaboration between the Sheffield Performer and Audience Research Centre (SPARC), Manchester Collective and the Philharmonia Orchestra, we are raising questions about how performers in heritage and alternative classical music organisations are adapting to changing circumstances.


Stephanie Pitts

Professor in the Department of Music at University of Sheffield

Stephanie Pitts is a Professor in the Department of Music, University of Sheffield, and director of the Sheffield Performer and Audience Research Centre (SPARC). She has research interests in musical participation, arts audiences, and lifelong learning, and is the author of books including Chances and Choices: Exploring the Impact of Music Education (OUP, 2012), Music and Mind in Everyday Life (Clarke, Dibben & Pitts, OUP, 2010), and a co-edited volume on audience experience, Coughing and Clapping (Burland & Pitts, Ashgate, 2014). Her recent AHRC-funded project working with arts sector partners across four UK cities led to a new book, Understanding Audience Engagement in the Contemporary Arts (Pitts & Price, Routledge, 2021), and a downloadable handbook for arts practitioners:

Karen Burland

Professor of Applied Music Psychology in the School of Music at University of Leeds

Karen Burland is Professor of Applied Music Psychology in the School of Music, University of Leeds. She is University Academic Lead for Surfacing Skills and Student Futures and Faculty Lead for Employability, Opportunity and Ambition (Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures). She researches musical identities and their role in musical participation in a variety of contexts. She is investigating the ways in which musicians create and support their work in music, and researching the role of music for wellbeing. She has recently been Academic in Residence at Opera North, working on an ethnographic study of the organisation, looking particularly at aspects of artistry, community, and identity. Her book Coughing and Clapping: Investigating Audience Experience, edited with Stephanie Pitts, was published in December 2014.

Tom Spurgin

Director of Learning and Engagement at City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Tom Spurgin is the Director of Learning and Engagement at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), where he oversees all work related to participation, talent development, and community engagement. Prior to this, he was the Audience Development Manager at the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. With funding from AHRC, awarded via the White Rose College of Arts & Humanities (WRoCAH), Tom is undertaking a part-time Collaborative Doctoral Award with University of Sheffield, University of Leeds, and Manchester Collective. The study aims to analyse Manchester Collective’s alternative methods of audience development and offer a road map to a more relevant, sustainable, and socially engaged classical music sector in the UK.