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Introduction to the MMSF Instrumental Fellowship Programme

Shani Crawford, director of Learning and Engagement at the Philharmonia, wearing a suit and glasses, smiling

Since 1968 we’ve been providing sector-leading training for some of the most promising young musicians from across the world.

The MMSF Instrumental Fellowship Programme is our flagship project giving emerging orchestral musicians the chance to gain hands-on professional experience with Philharmonia members.

But what can new applicants expect? We spoke to our Director of Learning & Engagement Shani Crawford to find out more.

What can successful applicants expect from the MMSF Instrumental Fellowship Programme?

Successful applicants can expect to be fully supported by the Philharmonia Orchestra to develop their orchestral career.  One of the most important ways in which we do this is through Mentorship, with each Fellow being paired with a member of the orchestra in their section, who will offer advice, guidance and support, as well as coaching on orchestral repertoire, audition and recital preparation.

Of course, we understand that for most young musicians, the opportunity to perform is probably what they look forward to most. Fellows can also expect a range of performance opportunities from solo and chamber recitals linked to the Philharmonia’s concert series in London and across our UK residencies, alongside the opportunity to perform with the Orchestra in our main concerts season, with support and coaching from their Mentors.  Fellows can also expect work experience on our flagship Learning & Engagement programmes to build the portfolio of skills required as a 21st century musician.

How is an orchestral fellowship scheme like this different from other instrumental training schemes for young musicians?

The MMSF Instrumental Fellowship is unique in that the Fellows are fully immersed in the life of the Philharmonia.  One of the key ways in which we are able to do this is through providing paid opportunities to the Fellows, through our Learning & Engagement projects but also through a range of recital platforms across our residencies.

Where possible and as a result of the expert Mentorship provided throughout the scheme, MMSF Instrumental Fellows are offered the opportunity to rehearse and perform within the section at Philharmonia concerts in our main season.

What key qualities do you look for in applicants?

The most important qualities are an interest and a commitment to working in an orchestral setting.

We don’t expect Fellows to immediately be prepared to perform professionally with the orchestra, but the scheme is committed to developing young instrumentalists to be in a position to achieve this.

Photo of MMSF Instrumental Fellow

How did the MMSF Instrumental Fellowship Programme come about?

The programme was formally known as the Martyn Musical Scholarship Awards, a fund dedicated to supporting young musicians since 1968 with a bursary towards their studies and living expenses (including some musicians who are now longstanding members of the Philharmonia Orchestra).

In 2015, we re-designed and expanded the programme to create an enhanced offer for an annual cohort of 14 young musicians, who receive Mentorship, work experience, advice and support from within the orchestra’s membership, as well as a grant towards their studies. The number of applications for the programme has increased year on year since 2015, with several alumni of the scheme now either on trial or appointed as members of the Philharmonia.

A member of the Philharmonia MMSF Instrumental Fellowship Programme plays the harp

As part of the programme, successful Fellows will not only gain experience performing in Philharmonia concerts, but also take an active part in the Learning & Engagement team’s outreach programme. What projects will they be participating in, and how important is it for a 21st-century orchestral musician to have skills in this area of work?

We actively encourage Fellows to participate in our wide range of Learning & Engagement projects, from work with primary and secondary schools, Music Services and grassroots community organisations. To date, Fellows have played a huge part in the facilitation of these projects in London and across our residencies to involve thousands of people in the joy of music-making. We believe that experience outside of the concert hall builds important skills in communication and musicianship, as well as building an understanding of the role of a publicly funded organisation (like the Philharmonia) to connect with communities in our residencies.

For more information on the Learning & Engagement programmes we run, visit the ‘What we do’ section of our website.

Photo of the MMSF Instrumental Fellows

Fellows will be assigned a personal Mentor from the Orchestra, as well as meeting the full membership at concerts. What do the Philharmonia musicians get out of the MMSF Instrumental Fellowship Programme?

Philharmonia musicians are a key component of the MMSF Instrumental Fellowship programme and have been heavily involved since the outset in the design of the scheme to support young musicians. Their expertise of the orchestral sector is vital, and the MMSF programme enables them to give support to and work closely with talented young musicians who are seeking an orchestral career. The Philharmonia as a whole have a vested interest to ensure the legacy and quality of the orchestra in years to come.

How do you hope the scheme will develop and grow in the future?

I would like the scheme to continue to nurture young instrumentalists, preparing them for successful orchestral careers.

The Philharmonia is committed to diversifying our audiences, staff and programmes. I see the MMSF Instrumental Fellowship as being a key part of this and my hope is that the scheme will become a fully inclusive orchestral pipeline for young instrumentalists, that is fully representative of society at large.

Apply to the scheme

Applications for the 2021/22 MMSF Instrumental Fellowships are now open

More info

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