‘Behind the scenes: The Coordinator’ interview with Anna Rodrigues
‘Behind the scenes: The Coordinator’ interview with Anna Rodrigues
Anna Rodrigues, Artist Coordinator, joined HarrisonParrott in October 2018. She answers questions about her job and offers advice to students who are interested in working in classical music
What is your musical background?
My Mum studied the piano and encouraged me to pursue music, and my Dad grew up in India and had almost no experience of Western classical music, although he enjoys singing. I learnt piano and violin as a child, but my musical journey really started when I became a girl chorister at Winchester Cathedral at 13. I fell in love with singing and I went on to study Music at university, thinking I might pursue singing professionally. I soon realised that I enjoy performing more when it’s a hobby rather than a competitive career, so I decided to explore other paths.
What did you do before coming to HP?
I had just graduated from King’s College, London. I had worked part time as an usher at St John’s Smith Square for two years, which I loved, and volunteered in the production team at Dartington International Summer School and Festival, where I looked after artists and stage managed their concerts.
What does an Artist Coordinator actually do?
Working alongside the artist managers, who find concerts for artists and help shape their careers, my role is to organise the logistics around each engagement, liaising with the promoters. It’s important to visualise how each date will run from start to finish and to imagine yourself in the artists’ shoes, so you don’t forget something crucial. My responsibilities include negotiating contract terms, applying for visas, booking travel and accommodation, making sure everything is in place for rehearsals and concerts (such as scores, rehearsal orders, concert dress, comp tickets and backstage requests), reserving practice facilities, and coordinating meetings and press interviews. The goal is that the artist only has to think about their performance, although we consult them on their preferences.
With so much happening, how do you keep your eye on the ball?
I write out a list of all the engagements for the next two months on a big post-it note and cross them out as they happen. I also have a paper diary, a daily to-do list and a comprehensive email filing system to make sure nothing can slip through the gaps. We are trying to be as eco-friendly as possible in the office and to use as little paper as possible, but I prefer to use paper for lists, as the process of writing helps me keep everything in my head.
What are the challenges of the job?
The biggest challenge is time – it just runs away. We try to have in our minds everything that’s happening from now until two months ahead. On top of that we have to think of the whole of the current season and the next, and whether there are any visas required or any logistics that need to be dealt with immediately. But while you are focusing on the future, time moves on and suddenly something that you had plenty of time to organise becomes urgent.
What is your favourite part of the job?
The highlight is going to artists’ concerts. Even though the office is full of music-lovers and we are working with musicians, we are so focussed on our screens and telephones that it’s easy to forget why we’re doing it. You get caught up in visas, finance and tax, but then you go to a concert and it reminds you exactly why we’re here. It’s great to meet HP artists in person and to attend concerts I’ve had a part in organising. I enjoy it when there’s time to chat on the phone with artists without discussing logistics, and it’s extremely satisfying to send off a schedule that has been particularly tricky to organise.
What are your three favourite memories?
The first is recent – one of our artists stepped in for a cancellation at the BBC Proms in July 2019. I only found out on the day that he was flying in, so in the morning I had no idea that in the evening I would be in a front-row seat at the Proms, hearing him play live for the first time.
I also had great fun working backstage at the HP50 concerts on 6 October 2019. I spent the day at the Royal Festival Hall overseeing the rehearsals for the evening concert (Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by four conductors: Paavo Järvi, Santtu-Matias Rouvali, Elim Chan and Vladimir Ashkenazy). It was exciting to be a part of the actual concert – a nice change from the desk job.
I’ll never forget the first time I went to a concert in which one of my artists was performing. I had been working at the company for just under three months when Rumon Gamba conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a studio concert with a private audience. It is surreal when the two worlds collide in a performance: my office job and the music itself.
What have you learnt about musicians from working with them?
I’m always impressed at how much they can do and how resilient they are, despite gruelling schedules and travel plans. Yet they’re always prepared and somehow, they can perform concerts having done different repertoire the week before or not having been home for a month. Just organising it all is hard enough, let alone performing in front of thousands of people!
What advice would you give someone choosing a career in music administration?
I always assumed there were limited options when pursuing a career in music – performing, teaching or academia. Studying Music seemed risky when most of my peers went down professional routes such as medicine or law. I’m so glad this didn’t faze me, as there are many different jobs in the music industry – some office-based, some where you are on your feet all day, some small-scale and local, some large and global. Research and explore all the possibilities, get involved as much as possible, and trust that it is possible to forge a career that excites you.
What sort of personality does the artist coordinator role suit?
You have to be very organised – if you love lists you will love this job! It’s also important to be a people person – to enjoy working with different types of people and be interested in getting to know different work cultures.
What is the work culture like at HP?
Everyone is really warm and friendly. It’s a big office but not so big that you feel there are people you don’t know. They all bring their own experience of the music world, and it’s a very welcoming, international and inspiring environment.
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