European Union Youth Orchestra to move administrative base to Italy

Today’s news regarding the EUYO’s move of its ‘legal operation’ from London to Rome secures the orchestra’s future, but not necessarily that of UK musicians from 2018 onwards. One of many illustrations of the implications of the government’s Brexit Clusterfuck.

Sure, the EUYO has been based in London since its inception in 1976, but from a marketing perspective the EUYO is a European Union initiative. It has a distinctly European mission. It’s even got ‘European Union’ in its name for crying out loud. And even though its CEO – musician, advocate, and educator Marshall Marcus – is British, so too some of the Trustees, it is its activities which define the band.

On its website, the orchestra speaks proudly of its many global destinations this remarkable ensemble has taken its brilliant music-making over the years. An international endeavour – as international in reach as it is European in membership.

Could the move from London to Rome have been part of an underlying strategy anyway, the implementation of which was hastened by Brexit? Or is this announcement a direct consequence of the disastrous referendum? We’ll never really know for sure.

That’s important for me. Because amid the present UK narrative, the real impact of Brexit on the EUYO for the UK will be felt further down the line.

For example, where the band is based is, strictly and artistically speaking, should really be of little consequence, shouldn’t it? Its work is done all over the world. It’s the membership and its activity secures its ongoing reputation.

There are potential losers, of course. We just haven’t quite got to that stage yet. That’s where the real story is.

Of the current membership of 112 musicians, 11 are from the UK, compared to 23 from Spain, 5 from Germany, 8 from France, and 5 from The Netherlands amongst the remaining 101 players.

UK musicians can still apply and will be able to for the 2018 season. But, in the event that the Brexit negotiations go tits up (which it’s looking rather like they will do) there’s a real chance UK musicians can’t apply – a valuable opportunity for an experience to work with international musicians at the top of their game denied to UK talent.

There’s a reason the EUYO sounds consistently as good as it does – because it cherry picks the finest young musicians from across the continent.

There are multiple benefits from the EUYO’s continued existence and specifically for it remaining open to UK musicians: it develops the performers through collaboration; and it provides an opportunity for individuals to trumpet (forgive the pun) its musical prowess. Intangible as those benefits might seem to some, it is vital to underpinning the UK’s continuing relevance on the international cultural scene.

If those Brexit negotiations don’t work out favourably, young developing UK musicians will lose out. What that also means the UK aspect of the EUYO’s strategy is waiting to be shaped, dependent on a whole bunch of politicians getting their act together to deliver something few of them expected they’d really have to follow through on.

The cheerleaders for the UK classical music sector need to get a little louder than they are at the moment. Amid the extended and rather desperate-looking uncertainty, the EUYO’s announcement is a good opportunity exploited well by Marshall Marcus to bang the drum about the impact Brexit will have on the UK’s cultural scene.

More people need to do it though. And they need to shout a hell of a lot louder than they are at present. Forget reassuring one another that the right people are speaking to one another. As a consumer I want to know that the thing I care most about is not going to be adversely impacted.

The EUYO’s administrative changes announced today are merely the overture. The symphony is yet to come. No-one’s quite sure what that’s going to sound like. My hunch is that its going to sound a little shambolic.

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