Cumnock Tryst 2019 Artist Q & A - Jennifer Martin

Continuing our series of Q & A’s with artists and participants of The Cumnock Tryst 2019, we asked Jennifer Martin, Senior Producer of the Tryst, a few questions to get to know her a bit better and see what she has planned for this year’s festival.

Jennifer Martin. Photo Credit - Jen Owens

Jennifer Martin. Photo Credit - Jen Owens

Hi Jennifer! Would you mind explaining your involvement in the Tryst up until now and what your current position involves?

I’ve been very lucky to have been involved with the Tryst from the beginning.  Several years ago now, James MacMillan rang to say he’d had an idea and could I pop round for a chat. It transpired that his idea was the setting up of a festival in his home town of Cumnock. As the Cumnock Tryst evolved, I joined the Board, helped recruit staff and contributed to the education programme and fundraising. Last year I ran our first composition project for senior school pupils in Doon Academy and at the beginning of 2019, James asked if I’d run the company with him. Not surprisingly, I said yes! So now I manage a team of 4 part-time staff who will deliver the four-day festival in October. I fundraise for our work, broker new partnerships and also support James in the development of the organisation. 

Can you tell us a little more about your career in music thus far?

I started out as a composer, writing for professional and amateur musicians, which, time-permitting, I still do, but I have always worked in education, teaching composition in schools, universities, adult training centres and prisons. After 10 years working freelance, I took on a new role with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, where I devised and managed an education programme that took me from China to Venezuela, across Europe and the UK and on to the BBC’s airwaves. I then worked as a consultant for a wide range of arts organisations across the UK, devising education programmes, running creative projects and mentoring young musicians entering the profession. 7 years running Hebrides Ensemble then followed, before I took up this Senior Producer role at the Tryst.

Yourself and Sir James MacMillan will be mentoring a group of young people from Auchinleck Academy in composition as part of the Flow Gently? project. Can you tell us a little more about the project and why you think it is important?

 This project is a celebration of The Bard, Robert Burns. James and I will be running weekly sessions for senior composers at Auchinleck Academy, who will each take an element from the life of Robert Burns and write a new piece based on an event, a character or a simple moment, for the wonderful musicians of Mr McFall’s Chamber. We will be joined by a team from The Citizen’s Theatre in Glasgow; actor Martin Docherty who will play Burns, writer Martin Travers who will write his script and director Guy Hollands. Four student composers from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland will also be mentored by James and I over the course of the project and the finale at the Tryst will also include young string players and dancers from the RCS Hubs at Dumfries House. With 14 world premieres, it doesn’t get much better! 

 It’s so important for young musicians to have access to the creative process and to experience the impact of hearing their self-expression come to life through professional performers. Often they have no idea of their creative potential until they are given the space to try out their ideas. Not only do we support the youngest composers still in school, we’re also supporting teaching staff and the composers of the future. The project has been designed to have real legacy for those involved.

As someone who has been involved in the Tryst for a while, what are some of your favourite moments from festivals past?

Goodness, there are so many! Gabriella dall’Olio performing James MacMillan's Interlude for solo harp from Since it was the day of preparation… ; the choir of Westminster Cathedral at St John’s (I can hardly believe I’m writing that!); The Sixteen; our Patron Nicola Benedetti’s solo recital; and of course, the premieres of 8 new works by our cohort of young composers from Doon Academy for The Chronicles of Cumnock project 2018. Not a day I will forget in a hurry!