Music: The International Language

Charlotte Groves, a musician and music educator from the UK, joined our EMBA programme in 2023. Charlotte or Lottie, as we all know her, originally from the Midlands, possesses a rich musical background and international performance experience as a cornet and trumpet player. As part of her final degree deliverables, Lottie’s research concentrates on methods to promote classical music to our younger generations. She also encourages a more female participation in executive positions in the Fine Arts and especially, the music industry.

Lottie, tell us about what brought you to Prague and the EMBA?

I was previously working in international education in arts management, I managed an arts department in a school in Shanghai. I mostly liked my job, but I wanted a bit more from it and I was enjoying learning about the management side of the role. It was never my intention to go into management at that time, we needed a new department manager while I was working at the school as a music teacher and I was asked to take the position on. I was just kind of thrown into the deep end, and I think a lot of people experience that when they first get into management. I was looking for some training, especially on some of the hard skills needed to be an effective manager. Also, I noticed a disconnect when working as the manager of an arts department between the musicians and artists that I was working with and the corporate management side. I found that those two groups of people didn’t always see eye to eye, or there were misunderstandings when communicating ideas or procedures. I saw an opportunity, if I have experience on both sides and especially if I get some formal academic training, then I think this combination could open a lot of doors for myself within arts management.

Your voyage to Prague was from the UK but prior, via Shanghai?

I studied at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) in Manchester and I was performing around the UK and internationally as a musician during my studies. I got towards the end of my bachelor’s degree and there were a few options that music students tended to take:  it was either you do your master’s in performance and stay at music college, you try and become a freelance musician, or you do something different. I wanted some stability in my future career, it can be very, very hard to get that stability as a freshly graduated musician and to establish a regular income. It was important for me to do something stable and to start to build a career, and that’s when I decided to do my postgraduate certificate in education. I did a kind of double PGCE in secondary music teaching and specialist instrumental tuition. I was studying for my PGCE, doing my school placements and still performing as a musician. It was maybe two or three months into my PGCE that I was in conversations with a school in China. They wanted me to go over and help to establish the brass department in their school. They had a huge keyboard department, huge strings department, all of these different instrumental departments, but their brass was really, really lacking. They were looking for someone to come over and help to start that up. I finished my PGCE in June and then moved to China in August, where myself and two other brass colleagues started the brass department up in that school. That was in a different city, and then I moved to Shanghai two years later and stayed there until last summer.

What are your aspirations for the future?

Right now, I am settling into the new environment of Prague and I am starting to look for opportunities here. Having personal job satisfaction is very important to me, I want to do something that I believe in and is personally fulfilling. At the moment I can’t say for certainty what that is. I would like to get back into arts management eventually, maybe within professional orchestras in the future. I think that could be a big career goal for me. I think that working with orchestras here in Prague might be a challenge because a lot of the management is in the Czech language, but maybe that’s just motivation for me to improve my Czech skills! That’s why I’m focusing my thesis on this music management and the classical music scene here in Prague. I think it could be a good way for me to start to make connections, make contacts and talk to people working in this industry which could be a way in for me.

We have spoken recently on the topic of your thesis. Share that with us…

I want to focus on the engagement of young audiences in classical music. Firstly, I think that it’s important for me to get a balanced perspective of the situation regarding young people going to concerts. That’s my focus at the moment, I have my own views from my observations when attending concerts, but I want to reach out to a lot of different people to make sure that my research or my ideas aren’t biased by my own opinions and I cover different perspectives. I will start off with contacting people involved in the different orchestras, music schools and music venues. I will use the contacts that I have in secondary education here to talk to some young people. I think that first, I really need to make sure that I have a very broad view of the topic from all sides. That’s my first point of action, to talk to a lot of people and make sure that I have realistic ideas and that there is some substance behind what I want to talk about, that it’s a relevant point. I think so far from what I’ve been reading, there is relevance there, but I need to make sure that it is something worthwhile. If I’m going to be putting months of effort into this work, I want to make sure that it has a real impact and isn’t just an 80- page document that I write and then, it does nothing.

Your thoughts on the EMBA programme to date…

So far, I’ve enjoyed the programme. We are a diverse cohort and we have built a friendly and supportive atmosphere within our classes. It feels like a safe environment for us to learn in, for us to try, and I think that’s very important. Just recently we had managerial skills, and we were trying concepts like negotiation and mediation. You don’t usually have the opportunity to try this in the real world, you just find yourself having to do it one day, so being in a group where we can all try, and we can all have a laugh and a joke together is definitely helping. I’ve really enjoyed studying something that’s completely different to music, I have to say that it has been very refreshing to do something totally different. It has also been good to start to work with numbers and more theoretical and academic subjects again. Maybe you don’t know this, but I almost went to study medicine instead of going to a music conservatoire, so it was great to kind of get back into that technical mindset. I don’t see myself pursuing a career in finance anytime soon, but it was good to try some finance activities and it helped me gain a wider perspective of the different functions within a business. I would also encourage others within the arts to pursue a course like an Executive MBA. Management skills are needed everywhere, including the creative industries, especially in today’s climate where the arts are struggling to stay afloat in some parts of the world.

Lastly, your Czech experience…

I’ve been enjoying the culture here in the Czech Republic being surrounded by history and the arts. Tonight I’m actually going to a concert with the Prague Radio Orchestra, they are playing a new work to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Czech radio, a Greig Piano Concerto and a Sibelius Symphony. I am going to a lot of different concerts and a lot of different events. Having access to nature close by is great as well. Last weekend, my partner and I rented a car and just drove around, we ended up in this small town and there were the ruins of this castle from the 12th century that we just happened across. So just having all of that genuine culture, genuine history on our doorsteps is something that’s really, really great.