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> > > Arts Council green lights a project looking at a new way of conducting

Young disabled conductor/composer, James Rose who conducts using a head-baton developed in partnership with Drake Music, has been awarded Arts Council Funding to do a Conducting Development Week at The Royal Academy of Music this Spring The project will be documented and edited into a short film scheduled for release on YouTube in August this year.

A black and white photograph of composer and conductor James Rose, in profile, with his specially designed head baton attached to his glasses. He is set against a brick wall

James Rose with his specially designed head baton.

Rose will work with a string a quartet consisting of Academy students.  They will rehearse two pieces during the week. One will be composed by him and will be included in an end-of-project performance at the Academy on Friday 6th May this year.

Rose will conduct under the mentorship of two well-known conductors, John Lubbock and Sian Edwards. This is the first-known project in the world to research how one conducts music primarily using one’s head.

Sian Edwards, Head of Conducting, The Royal Academy of Music said:

“Playing and performing music is all about communication, and the conductor is central to this process. The project with James Rose will offer a fascinating insight into how musical ideas can be expressed and shared with a group of players, and how even the tiniest gesture can impart meaning. I am hugely looking forward to working with James on this project.”

“I am absolutely thrilled that funding has been forthcoming to support this wonderful, and in my experience, unique project,” said John Lubbock, Musical Director, Orchestra of St. John’s.

When asked for his reaction to the funding being awarded, Rose said:

“I have been working towards this project for over three years, and I am ecstatic that it’s finally coming together. It’s an opportunity for me to develop and demonstrate my ability to conduct. Starting out as a conductor is challenging enough for anyone. You need the opportunities to demonstrate and develop. It has been especially challenging for me just because of the way I conduct – with my head! People have previously thought that I was a little loopy which has been the main barrier to opportunities to progress. I have aspirations, big ones, but if I divulge, people are likely to not believe in the possibilities…so I’ll wait! Music is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful art forms to unite people regardless of any perceived divisions.”

The project is being supported through Open Academy – the community outreach department at The Royal Academy of Music.  Head of Open Academy, Julian West commented “I'm delighted that James has chosen the Royal Academy Of Music to work with for this project. It will be, I'm sure, extremely interesting and fruitful for all involved, and a great learning opportunity for the Academy.”

Central to the project is a custom-made baton developed with Drake music – one of the main leading organisations specialising in music, disability and technology. Gawain Hewitt, Associate National Manager - Research and Development at Drake Music said:

“James Rose is a visionary. His commitment and passion for conducting are contagious. It's truly an honour to be working with him to develop a new conducting baton and be a part of his creative journey”.

Rose initially developed two prototypes based on the design of his head pointer which he uses to operate his mobile and computer.  Drake Music have continued the development of a conducting baton for Rose that is more sensitive and discreet. This is being achieved through the development of a subtle clamping system for Rose’s glasses, allowing the fixing of a baton to the right arm of his glasses. Carien Meijer, Chief Executive of Drake Music, said “It goes without saying that DM is thrilled that James has been awarded ACE funding for this project and that we’re very excited to be involved.”

Rose will document the progress of the project as it develops on his blog on Disability Arts Online.

The evaluation will be published online and promoted by the project partners, including conductor Charles Hazlewood who commented “It is a thrilling proposition to see James develop as a conductor, and the process will teach us all a great deal about what is truly possible!”

Further details on the project, including a list of project partners, can be found on Rose's website.