Lucy Drever is a successful workshop leader and presenter, who has recently been appointed Associate Artist for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. She starts by explaining the beginning of her musical journey: ‘Looking back on it, I had the opportunity at school to lead choirs. I remember one Christmas time, we looked at two choir pieces and my music teacher, Mr Griffin, (who was massively impactful on my musical journey), let me lead one of the choirs and that was one of the biggest gigs – I just really enjoyed it. I had never really considered myself particularly “musical” in the academic sense.’ Drever emphasises that music is about ‘telling the story and the way it makes you feel’.

’I took a couple of years out after school, before going to conservatoire, where I worked as a carer in various people’s homes. I wanted to combine the two worlds and when I came to London to study singing, I naturally gravitated towards the learning participation side of things at Trinity Laban. It just felt like a place where I really fitted in. I was lucky enough to have amazing lecturers and fantastic workshop leaders. I discovered that the world of creative music making was “a thing” – I didn’t really know that this was possible. I worked on this Trinity Laban project called ‘retired not tired’, where I worked with the older generation (often singing war-time songs). The workshop leader, Natasha Lohan, was doing creative composition with them, so people would bring in poems, objects that they’ve had for years and we’d create the most amazing pieces of music out of that. I just loved it. It was the only time I was super “present” in the moment […] so I put all my energy into that.’

“I was lucky enough to have amazing lecturers and fantastic workshop leaders. I discovered that the world of creative music making was ‘a thing’ – I didn’t really know that this was possible.”

Drever does regular videos and presentations for the Benedetti Foundation

Drever is searingly honest, admitting that she is not an orchestral player or an exceptional singer. As such, she has witnessed how inaccessible some people have made classical music. She explains, ‘I know that feeling of not being good or worthy enough and that’s what has fuelled my passion to tell people that whilst high standards are important, it is more about the feeling and the story behind the music. It’s about having a listen and having that option of not liking it.’ Drever describes her growing confidence as she ‘went to Wigmore Hall to do their ‘Trainee Music Leader Scheme’ and her first big step into the industry – ‘where I learnt that presenting within an educational context was a possibility. I’d always done public speaking, but it never really had any meaning behind it and then all of a sudden, you can stand up in front of 500 kids and be the middle person between the story of the classical music (which can sometimes be presented in quite an inaccessible way) and the musicians / artists. You can be the main communicator in that.’

Drever has also done extensive work at the the Benedetti Foundation and we asked how this shaped her experience within musical education. ’I was approached by Wigmore Hall for an idea for a school’s concert. I’d always wanted to work with Nicky, and I used to work at The Usher Hall in Edinburgh. I used to be an usher for her concerts and she just has that way about her – telling that story to the audience. So, I said to Wigmore Hall quite cockily ‘I want to work with Nicky’ and my amazing colleague made it happen. Nicky and I had a half hour rehearsal before this school’s concert and as soon as we were on stage, it was as if I’d worked with her so many times before. It was so easy, and it is rare to have someone of that talent who just “gets” education and young talent. She’s taught me so much. From there, Nicky and Laura mentioned that they had an idea for a while about starting a Foundation and that they would keep me in the loop. It has just grown from there.

‘Personally speaking, as a freelancer, 2020 has been interesting. They have kept so many Freelancers going with fantastic projects – they’ve kept being so creative when this year has been quite tricky. It’s a really special creation. When that first lockdown occurred, they put the virtual sessions on in May – it felt so exciting – having to record these new videos and think about the best way to communicate on these undiscovered platforms. They are so positive and relentless in their vision that everyone should have access to this great music making and excellent opportunities. They work around the clock and I take my hat off to them both.’

“Nicky and I had a half hour rehearsal before this school’s concert and as soon as we were on stage, it was as if I’d worked with her so many times before.”


Mountain View

In Conversation with Eric Whitacre

We asked Drever about her earlier workshop experiences in spaces such as schools, hospitals and prisons: ‘I’m quite used to working in a variety of different settings and I find that my work is all quite similar regardless of the setting that I am in. It’s all about listening to “that person”. Whether that person is a two-year-old, whether that person has dementia, or whether that person is currently living in prison. Whoever that person is – my role is about really facilitating that idea of collaboration, quality and creativity. I do my prison work through the Irene Taylor Trust – which is this amazing, incredible charity and I’ve learnt so much from their artistic director. It is a real privilege. For that project, I would go in on a Monday and we would write and write and then there would be a gig in the prison on Thursday or Friday. There would be a recording as well, which people could send to their families and friends. It is such a privilege to be in that space with those people and hear their stories while vibing off their creativity. I feel really lucky to be doing that and it has really impacted the way I view future projects. If I were to do a master’s programme, it would definitely be on the theme of criminal justice.’

Drever continues, ‘There was this one track, I was working in a high security prison and the piece was so simple. We basically had a beat going on the piano and then in turn each of the seven men all stood up and freestyled their stories and it was a massive gig. There were 60 people there, which is unheard of in high security, and the room was quiet – at the end there was this emotional and poignant song where everyone stood up and there was cheering. That was the most amazing moment. The beautiful thing about the Irene charity is that it’s not simply about musicians who perform their tracks, it’s about the people writing and performing them – which I think is really important.’

To conclude the interview, Drever gives her advice to students aspiring to the field of music education: Drever recommends ‘getting experience and getting a job, whether that is peripatetic teaching or something else – I personally did whole class teaching for five years whilst I was a student at Trinity – to get experience and learn the job. There are so many courses now. For workshop leading, you don’t need another Masters per se, but you have to observe, you have to assist, you have to develop musical skills. It just takes time. Before I found the work that I really love, I’d been doing it for six or seven years. I didn’t enjoy all of it, but I now know how to keep 300 children engaged and how to do a term of lessons with reception and nursery. It’s really useful to have a foundation.’ Drever also stresses that musicians ‘shouldn’t always agree to doing unpaid stuff’. She adds, ‘what’s the worst that can happen? They can say no – but that’s often because they don’t have the opportunity for you – you’ve just got to ask!’