Case study: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO)

Since the inaugural concert in 1920, conducted by Sir Edward Elgar, the CBSO has grown into a 90-piece ensemble with a worldwide reputation, performing to over 300,000 people a year. As the resident orchestra of Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, the CBSO performs around 130 concerts each year, touring extensively in the UK and internationally, ensuring Birmingham is placed firmly on the map. The CBSO offers the very best in musical performance and education and includes a world-famous family of four choruses, chamber groups, a youth orchestra and an education programme that in total reaches upwards of 82,000 people each year.

In March 2012 changing cultures’ Claire Marshall went to work with the CBSO to help support the development of the Learning and Participation programme (education, community and family activity)

One of our skills is being able to be part of an organisation whilst being independent to provide a new perspective and bring objectivity to bring about change with leadership from within.

Claire took on the role of Learning and Participation Manager part-time in a temporary capacity while the CBSO identified what it needed for a permanent post in the future. At first as a six-month contract Claire’s role was to oversee and develop a large programme of work and it’s team of 3 core staff, 1 freelance project manager and a team of musicians delivering the programme.

From working within the organisation she was able to learn the culture of the company and understand how best to support change. After a successful 6 months the initial contract was extended a number of times and after 2 years of different levels and roles of support there is now a permanent Learning and Participation Manager in post who she supported the training and mentoring of in their first five months and a new post created of Learning and Engagement Director. This later role created from the evidence of what an experienced person can bring to the CBSO – not just a manager of activities but someone who also understands how to develop and manage relationships with partners and able to fundraise from a variety of sources. Direct results of Claire’s time at the CBSO has seen: improved planning, delivery and evaluation of activity; increased participation; increased audience numbers; increased income; a happy and effective team delivering the programme; increased partnerships; greater awareness, understanding and appreciation of the L&P programme internally and externally.

Claire is continuing to provide a role within the CBSO as a Producer leading on some of the L&P’s activity including the relationship with Deutsche Bank and the activity they support in schools.

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