When we set out creating the RSL Classical Violin syllabus, we wanted to feature a collection of repertoire that truly celebrates the diverse backgrounds of the classical music industries...
We caught up with the wonderful musicians of Her Ensemble to discuss how, collectively, we can make the industry as accessible as possible for all future generations of musicians. If you read Part 1 of our blog series with Her Ensemble, you’ll have read a fantastic quote from ensemble violinist Natalia, who said:
“Finding out that learning ‘classically’ doesn’t mean you have to always play classical music has made it a much better and meaningful journey to being the musician that I am today”.
This got us all reflecting on what it would have been like to grow up with a syllabus like RSL Classical Violin, and how that might have changed our perceptions of a ‘classical’ education, from the attitudes and expectations right down to the composers whose works we played.
Of course, we had to put the question to the wonderful ensemble. Here’s what they thought!
Would you have liked a syllabus like RSL Classical when you first started learning your instrument? Would it have changed your learning experience?
Natalia | she/her | violin | @thetaliasb
100%! I didn't grow up in a classical music household, so learning it was very foreign and sometimes felt alienating to me. I love classical music now, but I think if I'd had more of a diverse syllabus with more representation for my exams as RSL does now, I probably would have looked forward to practicing for my exams and felt less pressure instead of sometimes dreading them!
Lizzie | she/her | harp | @elizabethbassharp
I would have loved a syllabus like this! Sadly, I don’t think I even considered the fact that all the composers I was studying were white males until a few years ago. Being a harpist, I did play a couple of pieces written by women who were incredible harpists who also composed but ashamedly, like many people, when thinking of composers and also conductors, the image of a white man always came to mind. It would have been really empowering and inspiring to see a syllabus like this when I was growing up. I think it might have encouraged me to think more seriously about creating my own music and to research more music beyond the very narrow famous cannon of classical composers.
Lucía | she/her | double bass | @luciapolo
When I was younger I never questioned any of the things I was learning, I just assumed that things had to be done in a certain way and never questioned why. Looking back, all of the pieces I played were composed by white men, and performed by white men. No wonder I felt so out of place.
I think if I had had the opportunity to play more diverse repertoire, it would have given me a completely different picture and I would have been able to relate to the composers and to the performers. I would have loved to have seen a female double bassist or a female bass composer. I think I would have felt more confident and thought hey, it is possible for me to make it too!
Ellie | she/her | violin | @ellieconsta
I would have loved a syllabus like this. It makes me so happy knowing that generations to come will be able to just take it as a given that there have been (and still are) thousands of female composers, and composers of all different ethnicities. I also just love that there’s classical, jazz and pop music all mixed together and not segregated. I remember at school and music college people would look down on pop gigs. It gives me so much hope seeing how the industry is progressing - we’re even starting to see renowned orchestras working with massive pop artists.
We hope that the diversity of the composers in the RSL Classical Violin syllabus can become the norm, and like Ellie said, we’re excited that future generations of violin players will get to experience the wealth of incredible music out there in the world, by composers of all genders and ethnicities!