A day in the life of choir conductor Richard Frostick
Choral conductor Richard Frostick leads a throng of hundreds of children who come together each year to sing river themed tunes in Kids Choir, and has worked on the programme since it began in 2003. As well as this project, he is also Director of Music Centre London and Artistic Director of the British Council's World Voice programme. We caught up with him to find out more about what he gets up to on a daily basis and just why Kids Choir and singing are so important for children.
How did you get to become a Choral Conductor?
I studied singing and piano as joint first studies at the Royal Academy of Music and only studied conducting as part of my general course work. It was only when I left and started to work with choirs that I realised how much I had to learn about it and I still have coaching lessons every now and again. There is always more to learn – that’s what’s so addictive about it.
What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
I am Director of Music Centre London, which comprises of two music centres – one in Islington and one in Southwark. There is plenty of admin to keep me busy, as well as choosing music and planning our programme. I am also Artistic Director of World Voice – a British Council project which works around the world training teachers to lead singing in the classroom. So far we have worked in seventeen countries and reached many thousands of children worldwide.
When I have the capacity I love to work on other projects connected with music and education; Kids Choir is one of my favourite programmes.
What’s the best bit about your job?
Being able to do something I love and pay the rent too. When people sing you see the very best of the human spirit. It’s constantly inspiring.
What’s the worst bit about your job?
I tend to be unrelentingly positive – it’s the only way! But I do get frustrated by the lack of public money for arts education. One of the reasons for this is that the most powerful decision makers don’t understand the full significance of the arts. People get dewy-eyed seeing youngsters sing and play their hearts out but don’t seem to be able to make the connection between that and paying people to teach them!
What do people not know about being a singer/choir leader?
Just how much hard work is involved. It takes hours choosing appropriate songs, learning the music and preparing appropriate teaching strategies. I love it – but it takes time and energy.
What can children learn from singing and performing?
Just about everything! Being expressive with other young musicians is one of the greatest joys. Making music and listening to it helps us to make sense of our experience. On a more practical level, singing can make teaching and learning more lively and enjoyable across the whole curriculum.
What has been your favourite Kids Choir memory?
One year we commissioned composer Jonathan Dove to write a set of pieces about the Thames. Kids Choir asked if it would be possible to raise Tower Bridge at the end of the final song and it actually happened, bang on time! The children and the audience went crazy! How many children can say that their singing had raised Tower Bridge?
With the current climate and funding cuts, why is Kids Choir so important?
Kids Choir is a whole community. It brings children, teachers and parents together to celebrate our great city through music. The children meet pupils from other schools, learn songs from many different cultures and genres, practise over time towards a public performance and gain confidence across the six months of preparation.
Many of the teachers have been with Kids Choir since our first performance 12 years ago. When I meet them for the teachers’ INSET in March it’s like meeting old friends. There are some very experienced and successful practitioners amongst them. It’s a pleasure to work with them as part of the team. And the teachers use the songs right across the school year. It is such an important programme.
What would you say to someone wanting to get into your line of work?
Do it! I get such joy from being involved with music and sharing my passion for it with children and young people. I’m freelance, so sometimes there are some nail-biting moments with cash flow, but if I had my time again I would choose the same occupation – and try and do it better!