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Katrina Marzella-Wheeler leads inclusive support for conductors

Katrina Marzella-Wheeler recently spearheaded a conducting workshop aimed at getting everyone playing together under a baton.

Katrina Marzella-Wheeler recently led an innovative conducting workshop in York aimed at inspiring young conductors.

The project, spearheaded and funded by AMP (formerly NYMAZ), offered an opportunity for new and existing conductors to develop their skills in a supportive and encouraging environment. 

Inclusive ethos

An inclusive ethos saw spaces for ‘Generators’ - more experienced musicians who had conducted before and wished to enhance their abilities - as well as ‘Take up the Baton’ participants wishing to take the first steps in conducting an ensemble.

The day was a complimentary enterprise to the current AMP Generators mentorship project, where two young women and non-binary conductors were offered a six month paid placement to work with the Shepherd Band Group and receive mentorship from Katrina.

The two successful applicants, Annie Wilkins and Becky Lund, have enjoyed varied musical experiences since January this year. This event also allowed other applicants an opportunity to develop their skills under the same umbrella.

Trends of participation

Speaking about the project and the opportunities that have arrisen, Sarah McWatt of AMP told 4BR: “We are thrilled to be supporting this partnership with Brass Bands England – one that has successfully grown over five years co-delivering strategic work with young people in brass banding. 

During this time, we’ve noticed trends of participation and leadership, and devised a programme in response to the gap that exists for women and non-binary brass musicians in leadership positions.” 

During this time, we’ve noticed trends of participation and leadership, and devised a programme in response to the gap that exists for women and non-binary brass musicians in leadership positions.” 

She added: “This is the second phase of this project (phase one focussed on composition) and we couldn't be more proud of the young people that have come forwards in response to our call to diversify.”

Key objectives

As Sarah explained, one of the key objectives has been to widen the range of conducting opportunities, as well as focussing on improving fair and equitable representation in banding.

The day was therefore a celebration of talent, and we thank all the fantastic people that created such a warm and supportive atmosphere to allow the participants to take a leap, push themselves out of their comfort zone, and rise to the challenge

“We believe that the gap is so significant that we need a targeted approach that creates space for more women and non-binary leaders.

The day was therefore a celebration of talent, and we thank all the fantastic people that created such a warm and supportive atmosphere to allow the participants to take a leap, push themselves out of their comfort zone, and rise to the challenge.” 

Shared values

Sarah added: “Shepherd Group and Femmes Fortissimo have been so generous with the time and support.

Katrina has brought a zest and energy to the project that is essential to push this important work forward - her rapport with the participants is the perfect balance of encouragement and challenge.”

Sarah added that the shared values identified has meant that Brass Bands England have been the perfect partner to shape this project.

Sarah added that the shared values identified has meant that Brass Bands England have been the perfect partner to shape this project.

She added: “We very much wish to continue to inspire the next generation and make space for future leaders and can't wait to see what our AMP Generators do next!"

Very proud

Speaking about her involvement, Katrina Marzella-Wheeler said that she was “very proud” of being able to be part of making the project a reality. 

She told 4BR: “The support and drive AMP has shown in this project has been unreal, with BBE and Shepherd Group helping in many different and important ways: everything from PR to providing a fantastic rehearsal space.

Femmes Fortissimo were a delight - endlessly patient and supportive of each new conductor who stepped up to the podium, over and over again.”

Participant plaudits

It was the participants though that Katrina reserved the plaudits for.

“What amazing young conductors took part and embraced this challenge with such energy and hunger. They just went for it! 

“What amazing young conductors took part and embraced this challenge with such energy and hunger. They just went for it! 

The fact that they travelled from across the UK is not only testament to their dedication and ambition, but also points to the fact that conducting workshops in community music are something for a rarity for young people - indeed, new conductors in general. 

I was so pleased to offer advice to them all, and hopefully help them grow and develop as conductors and leaders of the future.” 

Under represented passion

Katrina revealed that giving opportunities to those who continue to be under represented in the banding movement is something she is passionate about.

I am proud to try to directly address this under representation. We had an awesome group of applicants on the day, from all walks of life and musical background, each bringing their own unique history and musical story.

“Our workshop was open to all,” she added. “But we especially welcomed applicants from woman and non-binary conductors.

I am proud to try to directly address this under representation.

We had an awesome group of applicants on the day, from all walks of life and musical background, each bringing their own unique history and musical story.”

Communal, inclusive support

Katrina said that was certainly shown in the communal, inclusive support shown. 

“It was lovely to see the participants connecting and supporting each other on the day. 

It was great to see young conductors taking the lead and fantastic to see their confidence grow from Katrina's encouragement and expertise.

Annie and Becky generously shared their advice and experiences. It is important as a young conductor to have some allies and fellow conductors to bounce ideas off.

I was delighted to hear the group formed some lovely friendships on the day and already have sorted an Insta Group to keep in touch after the event!”

That was an ethos and outcome celebrated by Tracey McGuire of Femmes Fortissimo, who added: “We were honoured to be asked to play at this event. All the players loved it and learned a lot too. 

It was great to see young conductors taking the lead and fantastic to see their confidence grow from Katrina's encouragement and expertise. Congratulations and well done to everyone involved.”

Iwan Fox


Images: Copyright of Matthew Cooper (MSC1. Photography)

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