The phenomenal impact of BSO Resound

Posted on: 21 October 2019


CEO, Dougie Scarfe, spoke to us about the impact of BSO Resound and their journey to make music accessible to all and to challenge attitudes and perceptions about disability.  

Firstly, I want to say a heart-felt thank you to Allianz Musical Insurance for their sponsorship of BSO Resoundthe world’s first disabled-ledensemble. Their support of the ensemble ensures its continuing artistic development and performance throughout the communities of the South and South West.

It seems like just yesterday that the BSO began its journey with the Arts Council England funded Change Makers Programme. We set out to champion the representation of disabled artists, professionally and culturally, and encourage the inclusion of disabled audiences/participants.

Our journey had 3 key components– an intensive 18 month training placement for disabled conductor James Rose to accelerate his development and confidence as an artist, the creation of a six-piece disabled-led professional ensembleBSO Resound, and training for the whole BSO staff to embed an understanding of what it means to be truly inclusive in our working practices.

This work has quite simply been transformative on so many levels:

At an organisational level, the Orchestra’s employee understanding of disability and inclusion has doubled and the BSO has seen a 20% increasein disabled visitors in its audiences during the last year.

It has also raised the bar within the orchestral sector:  the creation of the world’s first disabled-led ensemble delivered as a core part of a professional symphony orchestra and another world first with its debut performance at the BBC Proms in 2018, has demonstrated what can be achieved with determination to remove barriers to engagement for musicians and artists with disability.

And of course, BSO Resound captured the attention of the world. The ensuing whirlwind of national media attention BSO Resound attracted has helped to inspire a new generation of disabled musicians and young people about what is possible. I heard how one young pupil seeing BSO Resound perform for the first time said,

 “I didn’t know people like me could do things like that for a job. It makes me think I could do anything I want in the future”.

BSO Resound inspiring the next generation of musicians . Photo credit Deep South Media


BSO’s Change Makers programme and BSO Resound’s impact has been immense.  The BSO was thrilled to learn that BSO Resound has been nominated for a 2019 Royal Philharmonic Society Award for:

Best Ensemble: The outstanding quality and scope of the performances and work in any context of a group of musicians, no fewer than three, in the UK between January 2018 and June 2019.

And Change Maker Programme and BSO Resound for:

Impact: For an outstanding initiative or organisation which, between January 2018 and June 2019, set out to engage and have a lasting positive impact on the lives of people who may not otherwise experience classical music

Whilst we will have to wait until the 28 November to know whether be will be award-winners, we are of course delighted to have been acknowledged in this way.

There has been significant impact here in the UK too.

Arts management companies have asked to meet with us to discuss how they can be more diverse in their approach to musicians with disabilities. The BSO and BSO Resound have been invited to present and perform at conservatoires of music, for example the Royal Northern College of Music, and major conferences including the Inclusive World Conference and Fast Forward Festival in February 2020.

An exciting development in the UK has been the creation of the National Open Youth Orchestra, the world’s first disabled-led national youth orchestra, of which the BSO is also a project partner. This organisation is a national resource for the development of young disabled musicians and a vital chain in their progression. This will undoubtedly give rise to a swell of young and ambitious disabled artists looking to pursue their artistic promise and aspirations.

The sector talks of wanting to make our music accessible to all but until the music profession is accessible for disabled musicians and artists we are failing.  

BSO Resound is just the beginning. 



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