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MU Orchestras Department Run Back to Work Events Series

Looking back at the series of events recently put on by the MU Orchestras Department, developed specifically to help orchestral players on the road back to work – from physical health and coping with pressure, to presentation skills.

Published: 02 July 2021 | 12:52 PM Updated: 05 July 2021 | 3:21 PM
Photograph of a collection of young people rehearsing in an orchestra, the photo focuses on a young woman on the cello.
A series of three Back to Work training events, given online and developed specifically for orchestral players. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Over the last few months, the MU Orchestras Department ran a series of three Back to Work training events, given online and developed specifically for orchestral players. They were presented by Dr Sarah Upjohn, Amy Littlewood and Catherine Arlidge. There were also two courses on Mental Health First Aid.

Positive feedback from the sessions

We had some really positive feedback from members who attended these sessions:

“Can I just say a big thank you for the chance to be involved in the Presentation Skills session this morning. I really enjoyed it and took a lot from it.”

“Fantastic – great session – and thanks MU for setting this up”

“Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed that presentation and how quickly time went with Catherine’s superb delivery”

“Thank you for organising this Zoom session. Please would you kindly pass on my thanks to Catherine – I found the session very useful and greatly value her helpful advice and gentle encouragement.”

“Thanks so much for organising the sessions. It’s just what I need. I’ve been to Sarah Upjohn’s talks before and she’s superb.”

Physical Health for a return to work

This session presented by Dr Sarah Upjohn focused on the challenges that the Pandemic has created and provided tips for ensuring you are at your best physically.

  • How to return to playing after a long break
  • Building up physical health
  • Nutrition
  • Posture
  • Championing wellbeing at work

Coping with the pressures of returning to work

Presenter Amy Littlewood became particularly interested in the area of performance psychology whilst at music college.

Noticing a negative shift in her mind, from being in the practice room, to being on stage, she realised that in order to perform as she wanted, a lot of her preparation needed to happen mentally. The combination of technical and mental preparation is the key to a successful performance.

  • What is performance anxiety and why does it manifest?
  • Possible treatment options, covering how they work for different people
  • Stigmas attached to stress and anxiety
  • Returning to work whilst Covid still exists and the stress this creates
  • How to deal with the pressure of playing socially distanced and a changed environment
  • How to raise and talk about issues The session is still available to watch via this link

This session is still available to watch through Crowdcast.

Presentation Skills for Musicians

Catherine Arlidge designed this programme specially to support musicians to communicate effectively with audiences in person and in the digital world.

Exploring the 5 P’s of presenting well: Pitch, Prepare, Practice, Pace and Perform, to draw out confidence and the individuality in the participants.

  • How to be natural, be you, be personal
  • Your body language and eye contact
  • How to use your skills as a musician to help - planning, preparation, breathing, rehearsing, allowing spontaneity
  • How to understand what audiences need from you
  • The introverted public speaker
  • How to interview
  • How to pace a short speech/conversation
  • How to become aware of habits and ticks that might be off-putting
  • How to use humour or not
  • Who do we admire/who can we learn from

Mental Health First Aid Training

As well as the Back To Work series, there were two courses of Mental Health First Aid online training for our section members given by Music Support.

Learning took place through live training sessions, with self-learning activities in between providing:

  • An in-depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing
  • Practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues
  • Confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress
  • Enhanced interpersonal skills such as non-judgemental listening
  • Knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them to further support, whether that’s self-help resources, through their employer, the NHS, or a mix

There was high demand for this training and as we couldn’t accommodate everyone, we will look to run more sessions in the future.

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