My experience: LPO Junior Artist Meera Patel

Now in its third season, the LPO Junior Artists programme offers experience and insight to exceptional musicians from backgrounds under-represented in professional UK orchestras. Violinist Meera Patel reflects on her experiences as one of our 2017/18 participants ...

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It was my school music teacher who originally suggested I apply for the LPO Junior Artists programme. Music has been my passion for a long time, but I was unsure whether a future in it might be possible – partly because I was the first in my family to even consider the prospect, and I was also conscious that I had very little knowledge about what music as a profession would really be like.

When I first read about what the LPO Junior Artists programme entailed, I was immediately excited, as the opportunities mentioned sounded like nothing I’d ever done before. I was also excited by the concept behind the scheme – I’d never heard of a programme like this, where people from under-represented backgrounds in classical music were actively being sought to gain an insight into the industry. It felt like the most perfect and incredible opportunity and so I applied without a doubt, and now, looking back, have found throughout the year that it has been exactly that!

I’ve met such inspiring people through the scheme. It’s been great fun getting to know the seven other LPO Junior Artists and sharing the experience. Although some elements of the scheme were on an individual basis, many activities were as a group and encouraged us to work as a team – for example the skills-building workshops, which will all be useful in the future regardless of what careers we decide to pursue. We also had great fun playing chamber music together, and having a go at conducting the others – something that I’d never tried before but now would definitely like to do more of!

Getting to know our LPO player mentors throughout the year has been another highlight. Our individual sessions with them have been so helpful – from working on orchestral excerpts and solo pieces, to just chatting about their experiences and our aspirations. I was lucky to be mentored on the violin (but really in all sorts of aspects) by Kevin Lin (LPO Co-Leader), with support from First Violin Tina Gruenberg, and am so grateful to them both for such interesting sessions. I also thoroughly enjoyed playing alongside LPO musicians including Kevin and Tina several times, including on stage at a Royal Festival Hall FUNharmonics concert – another really exciting opportunity!

The scheme offered such a wide range of experiences that I felt I gained a comprehensive insight into the world of professional music. Aside from the playing opportunities, what I also found really eye-opening were the ‘behind-the-scenes’ activities, including spending two days in the LPO offices. This gave me a new appreciation of the complexity of running a large arts organisation – something that I definitely took for granted before. It made me realise how many different ways there are to engage with music professionally, and in such rewarding ways! 

What’s also fantastic is that we were able to explore other musical interests alongside the main focus of orchestral playing. Personally, I love composing, and wondered if I’d be able to do anything related to this passion while on the programme. On hearing this, the LPO Education team arranged for me to sit in a rehearsal during which participants on the LPO Young Composers scheme had their newly completed pieces rehearsed by the Orchestra, conducted by Sir James MacMillan. I found it so exciting and intriguing to watch the process of the composers’ pieces being physically transformed from paper into live sounds, and how the composers worked with the Orchestra to achieve the sounds and feelings they had in mind.

Having now completed my year as an LPO Junior Artist, I appreciate just what an exciting opportunity it was. It has provided me with a confidence and reassurance that music is definitely what I want to do in the future. I plan to study music at university, although it was interesting to see the various pathways emerging between the eight of us. While some also aspire to university, others are set on applying to a conservatoire, while others may study something completely different! Nevertheless, I’m sure the experiences and skills we’ve gained through the year will be invaluable. It’s been amazing meeting and getting to know the other LPO Junior Artists and the whole LPO team, and I am very grateful to everyone who made it possible.

Click here
to find out more about the Junior Artists scheme. 

The 2017/18 LPO Junior Artists Programme is generously funded by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation with additional support from The London Stock Exchange Group Foundation, The Austin and Hope Pilkington Trust, Virginia Gabbertas, Kirby Laing Foundation, the UK Friends of the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Foundation and donors to the Chairman’s Appeal at the LPO’s 2017 Gala Dinner.