2016/17 Fellows Adam and Mary share a few insights

A Pettman Dare Fellowship provides early career professionals with the opportunity to undertake an intensive year of practice-led research before progressing to the next stage in their career.

Launched in 2010, the seven Pettman Dare Fellows who have completed the programme to date are each enjoying flourishing careers in the arts in New Zealand and the UK, in roles including Music Education, theatre acoustics, music events management, and music performance.

In 2015, in response to an increased demand for skills in the field, Fellowships have been tailored to develop skills in Music Engagement and Education. Over half the time is spent actively involved at the heart of Opera North Education, working with the team on planning and project managing music education initiatives or in developing skills in the choral or instrumental delivery of activity in schools and community settings.  As a post-graduate student at the University of Leeds, Fellows study relevant Masters-level modules, culminating in Post-Graduate Diploma.

After the first seven months of their Fellowship our 2016/17 Fellows, Mary Mulloy and Adam Thompson share a brief glimpse of the experience so far….

Looking forward to the Fellowship journey

Following his graduation with a first-class honours in English, Italian and Performance from the University of Auckland, the year Adam spent assisting in stage and production management with young people at home inspired him to spread his wings and apply for the Fellowships.  HE will complete the final three months of his Fellowship planning and delivering a project with New Zealand Opera.

“I saw the difference music education can make to the lives of children and was ambitious to be one of those who enable that to happen – to learn more about how to bring together creativity, project management and community engagement into such a valuable role was worth travelling to the other side of the world for!”

A first-class Music graduate from the University of Manchester, Mary was keen to explore career opportunities beyond performance.

“Having dipped my toe into music outreach activity through Manchester University Music Society I knew this was a vocation I wanted to explore.  The opportunity to gain experience and make a contribution at a national opera company with a large Education team is exceptional, particularly as it is supported with academic research and an accredited Diploma. My experience so far has strengthened my commitment to a career in music education.” Mary.

Finding their feet, then becoming hands-on

From day one Fellows are part of the Opera North Education team and the University’s student fraternity, and there’s a lot to take in.  It is tempting to want to start doing things straight away, but we’re keen that each Fellow has time to get to know the scale and variety of what we do first.

Over the first month, Adam and Mary got to know colleagues; they began studying Masters-level modules and observed and participated in the full programme of Opera North Education activity – in Leeds and on tour, in schools and in the community. They then began taking on increasing responsibility.

“It’s really important to allow yourself the time to just soak up what’s going on around you at the beginning, not to arrive with pre-conceived ideas for projects, or be too keen to take on responsibility.  That way you will have a much better understanding of the big picture, and with your line manager, you’ll be able to identify the opportunities that are best for you.”  Mary “My advice would be to say yes to everything, whatever it is, inside and outside Opera North and the University.” Adam 

During the initial Opera North induction period, Fellows and line managers begin to identify a ‘main project’ together – something that allows the Fellow to play a core role in planning and delivering a live activity.  In addition to testing and developing multiple skills, it is the case study for the report worth 50% of the Diploma credits.

When describing his role in planning and delivering Opera North’s first Opera Challenge, Adam says…

“This year, Opera North delivered the first Opera Challenge, which took place at the University of Leeds.  The week-long activity, which supported forty children to create and perform their own opera, was an amazing (and exhausting!) experience.  I worked with and learned a lot from Lucy in the Opera North Education Department.   It was great to bring people together to bring our vision to life, including planning the framework for Opera Challenge, recruiting and working with a drama director and vocal delivery artist, liaising with the venue and engaging the Opera North Chorus to do a workshop with the children.  In addition to lots of project management, it was more creative than I had expected.  I prepared promotional material, created resources for parents and participants, and led scenery-making with the children.  It was lovely that Mary was also on the team for the full week.  We were full-on during the week itself – managing the children, leading warm-up games, providing support to the artists, problem-solving.  And afterwards, I was involved in getting feedback from artists and participants and contributing to debrief sessions.  Then I went on holiday!”

“Opera Quest has been another valuable learning experience, which influenced my approach to Opera Challenge.  On the theme of the mainstage production of Hansel and Gretel, these schools workshops included activities that introduce pupils to the plot, characters, music and themes of the opera. By watching and supporting the artists it was interesting to find out how you can create opera with children – making sure their ideas are incorporated and they lead the process of producing their own work.”

And Mary summarises her activity in Hull and on tour: –

 “As time has gone on I have become increasingly responsible for Education activities – the Early Years music and Movement project at The Deep in Hull over Easter for example.  I assisted with much of the project management for this three-day programme, including liaising with The Deep team on logistics, communication and resources. Together we created promotional material, which I used to market the events to children’s centres, tourist information, and through social media.   I then received and monitored bookings, and liaised with the box office.  The day itself was a valuable lesson in good preparation and people management.”

“I have enjoyed being part of Education activities on tour – particularly Sea Shanties, a schools project that culminated in a concert accompanied by members of the Chorus. I helped liaise with venues and schools in diverse locations including Newcastle, Salford, Bridlington and Nottingham.”

“Supporting Adam on Opera Challenge was very different from other activity. I got to know the children much better as I was working with them closely over five days, making materials and helping with rehearsals.  The experience definitely developed my ability to be authoritative, and increased my understanding of child safety and wellbeing.”

“During my Fellowship I have focused mainly on the Early Years programme and have been involved in Little Singers since I started.  I am now much more confident and able to interact with small children – helping to encourage children and parent to participate by singing and playing games. I’m looking forward to working on my main project, the Little Big Sing, a celebratory concert in the Howard Assembly Room for all of Opera North’s Little Singers early years groups.”

Both Mary and Adam found that participating in Switch ON, a weekly music and drama programme based at St George’s Crypt, a venue which supports people who experience or have experienced homelessness, reinforced their ambition to work in Music Education.

“At the Crypt, my role was to support the activity through active participation. I learned first-hand how such activity can really build up people’s confidence, and the importance of this.” Adam

“It was so good to learn that Opera North connects with communities with respect, on equal terms, and with work of uncompromising quality.” Mary

Learning the theory and applying new knowledge

The Pettman Dare Fellowship is the only Post-Graduate Diploma in Music Education. Fellows spend half their time gaining practical experience at Opera North, and the other half participating in taught modules at the University of Leeds, in the Schools of Performance & Cultural Industries, and Music, which can include Arts Management and Cultural Leadership and Audience Engagement and Impact.

The Diploma is assessed through presentations and written reports, most of which are based on their practice-based research at Opera North.

“Having the two elements has given us a more intelligent insight into the bigger picture of the cultural sector, and a context to better understand Opera North’s approach to the challenges it faces.  I would advise future Fellows to investigate the modules in advance and start on the reading list as soon as possible.” Adam and Mary

Testing theory in the real-world 

 “Being able to learn the theory then apply it in practice is so valuable.  For example, studying and writing about issues currently facing the arts, such as diversity, then seeing how it manifests in the real world – when Arts Council England is making diversity monitoring a condition of funding – is revealing.  Diversity is important the Education Department. Academia identifies what the sector is, or isn’t doing – at Opera North I am gaining an understanding of the challenges of influencing change without being patronising or singling people out. It is interesting to identify the gaps between academic theory and live practice. As part of the Audience Engagement module I have identified an arts organisation and am reflecting on how research on the topic can be applied in order that they attract target audiences more successfully.” Mary

Exploring what makes an effective leader in the arts.

“In addition to group work, we undertake individual assignments.  As part of the Arts Management module I have been writing a five thousand-word essay about Leadership and Creativity in the Arts.  It’s been interesting to compare the approach to cultivating a creative workforce of leaders of four different arts organisations in the UK and America – I identified that success factors include excellent communication, distributed leadership and a shared response to organisational challenges.”  Adam

Understanding the issues facing arts organisations

“We have worked together on two group assignments to address issues facing arts organisations.  We opted to explore how companies approach diversity, and the implications of volunteer programmes in the sector.  Our assessed presentations (awarded top marks!), which reflected on academic research in the context of real-world case-studies, have provided useful knowledge we will take with us in our future careers.” Adam and Mary

A back-stage, and front-stage pass

In addition to the full Education programme, Fellows have open access to Opera North’s production rehearsal process and the multiple activities that make up an opera company.

“In my first week I watched multiple rehearsals and saw three operas – I see only three a year in New Zealand!” Adam

“The Education department connects closely with the Chorus, Orchestra and communications teams. I have appreciated getting to know more about the many roles involved in a large arts organisation and am now much more aware of how they interact – from finance and communications to technical and planning.” Mary

Personal and professional development

At Opera North, Fellows are treated as a colleagues within the Education team.  Each has a line manager who enables greater involvement in appropriate projects.  At the University Fellows are part of the student fraternity, with a supervisor who supports research and assessment for the Post-Graduate Diploma.

Each Fellow has a Learning Journal, with a personal development plan, and there are bi-monthly meetings with the full team to monitor progress and plan next-steps.

“Having first-hand experience of high-quality education work in a large organisation has reinforced our ambition to develop a long-term career in the field.” Mary and Adam

“It’s important to appreciate that it’s OK ‘not to know’- that you mustn’t be afraid to ask lots of questions.   As a Fellow you have the support of a large team and you must take advantage of their knowledge and experience. After the first seven months as Fellow I feel more confident and able to interact both with people at all levels at the University and Opera North, and with children and parents.  I feel like a proper member of the team and enjoy contributing to team discussions and representing the organisation externally. ” Mary


Photo: Mary, together with Mrs Maureen Pettman and current and former Ellie Jones, Chris Clark, Callum Blackmore and Davide Levi.

 “It was an exciting moment when I sat down with the Director of Education to discuss my projects. The opportunity to work on Opera Challenge project was spot on for my particular areas of interest and ambitions. The fellowship provides a fantastic opportunity to develop these. I’m glad I approached with an open mind. I now realise I knew little about how arts organisations are structured and how they operate.  I have been able to connect with the many roles and functions at Opera North and I have developed both my project management skills and my ability to connect and work effectively with young people. I look forward to using these skills when I return to New Zealand in June to continue my Fellowship with New Zealand Opera” Adam

Mary and Adam’s Ten Top Tips for future Fellows

“It is great to have a ‘Fellowship Buddy’ – we’re not in each other’s pockets as we are involved in separate activity, but we can share what we’re up to, pick each other’s brains and talk through our challenges.”

Photo: Adam, Mary and 2016 Fellow Davide Levi at Opera Challenge 2017.

  1. Chat to everyone! Tell them why you’re here and what you’re interested in – you’ll receive a warm welcome and great advice.
  2. Relax and come at the experience with a blank sheet and an open mind. Don’t worry that you don’t know much – ask lots of questions, you’re here to learn.
  3. Don’t be in a rush. Take the time to watch, listen and participate in as much as possible before getting stuck in.
  4. Be flexible and use the time when you have few practical tasks to do to explore other things and do your own research.
  5. Get ahead on your university reading.
  6. Don’t arrive with a pre-planned project – be curious about everything – a fitting project will emerge.
  7. Spend some time getting to know the city and where you might like to live – ask Opera North and university colleagues for recommendations.
  8. See as much as you can whilst you’re here – inside and outside Opera North and the University.
  9. New Zealanders – pack light and buy when you get here! You’ll know what I mean when you pop into TK Max… When you’re missing the gorgeous NZ nature, get yourself to the Yorkshire Dales… and seek out the three best coffee shops in Leeds – Laynes, Mrs Atha’s and Opposite.
  10. Enjoy it!


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