Leeds Conservatoire and Opera North celebrate three years of successful partnership

By Katharine Hartley


Leeds Conservatoire and Opera North have celebrated three years of successful partnership with a celebratory event at the Howard Assembly Room. The event, which took place on Wednesday 8 December, saw the two organisations reflect on the impact of their work together to date, and set out their plans for the future.

The partnership began in 2019 in a bid to formalise how the region’s leading opera company could support the next generation of performers in training at Leeds Conservatoire, enhancing the conservatoire’s student experience and contributing to the city’s collaborative cultural activity.


Photography: Samantha Toolsie

Pictured left to right: Jessica Shears (ON), Tristan Watson (LC), Patsy Gilbert (LC), Phil Boughton (ON), Joe Wilson (LC), Lesley Patrick (ON), Caroline Hallam (LC).

Over the past three years, students on the conservatoire’s Classical programme have had the opportunity to work with industry professionals in a number of ways, including performing side-by-side with members of the company; having one-to-one conversations with company members about how to take their careers further; taking part in Opera North’s In Harmony Community Music initiative; and working on a composition project, which has seen third year composers have their pieces workshopped by an ensemble from Opera North.


Photography: Samantha Toolsie

Furthermore, students have had access to masterclasses and have been able to attend dress rehearsals and performances at Opera North. Over the duration of the partnership, more than 50 Opera North players, singers, technicians and arts administrators have connected with more than 650 students to talk, teach, and listen.

Patsy Gilbert, Vice Principal and Head of School of Performance, said: This partnership with Opera North is part of the conservatoire’s commitment to put student experience at the heart of what we do. The access students have to Opera North and all the team is invaluable. But also creates a dialogues between the next generation of artists and makers which can help both organisations in supporting the future of Classical music.

The celebration event marked the culmination of the three year partnership with side-by-side performances from students and company members, and a panel discussion which reflected on the experience for all involved to date.

Flora Taylor, a Classical student at Leeds Conservatoire, took part in a one-to-one conversation with Opera North Bassoonist David Baker. Flora said; I found it so inspiring talking to David; he gave me so much time and answered all my questions so thoughtfully. He gave me excellent recommendations and so much helpful advice. I now feel so much more knowledgeable about potential career paths I might want to take as a performer, as well as ones that I hadn't even considered before.


Photography: Samantha Toolsie

The organisations plan to renew the partnership for a further three years until 2025, and in addition to the existing activities, aim to develop their collaboration further. This will include working together on key initiatives to promote equality, diversity and inclusion, investigating new ways of working together on curriculum development, and looking at how student voices from the conservatoire can help Opera North’s future programming and development.

For Opera North, our collaboration ensures that the excellence, experience and expertise within the Company can galvanise and enthuse future generations of performers, technicians and administrators, says Phil Boughton, Opera North’s Director of Orchestra and Chorus.

Whilst the pandemic may have increased an appreciation of the role of music and culture in our lives, the arts are still struggling for recognition in terms of education and funding. It’s only by working together to bridge these gaps that major organisations can shape the future of the cultural ecology of the region and wider world, and provide more opportunities to experience, and be part of, live performance.

By Katharine Hartley

This weekend our graduates Alana Middleton and Amy Clark will be performing at a very exciting event at Open Source… https://t.co/Nqk4wczrJV
UoH-Logo.png (2) QAA logo Conservatoires UK logo Partner_1.png AEC logo Roland logo prs-keychange-logo_red-blue_pantone-c (fine to use).png Luminate_Education_Group_Logo (small).png