Do you remember the first time?
We’re well into Proms season in London, with the Royal Albert Hall showcasing the finest orchestras from around the world. There’s always a mix of old and new at the Proms. New pieces of music receive their debuts. Orchestras who have never performed at the event have their first opportunity to shine on a London stage. And of course the old Elgar favourites will be sung with heart and vigour on the Last Night.
The Guardian recently published a piece about the ten orchestras making their debut at this year’s season: the musicians speak with a mix of pride, honour at being invited, and awe at the challenge and the privilege of playing for such a well-established audience.
Giving something new, or someone new, a chance is a bold move. There are times when it would be entirely wrong to disrupt what has stood the test of time for something new. Imagine the outrage if there were no Land of Hope and Glory sung on September 13! But without space for innovation, experimentation, and nurturing of new talent, then even the most successful of longstanding practices will begin to falter.
The Proms season beautifully models that balance between what always works, and being brave enough to see what could work. It’s a model that, built into business practice, can futureproof your organisation.
A great example of this was a story in the news recently about teen violinist Roberto Ruisi, who plays in the National Youth Orchestra, being entrusted with a Stradivarius worth £1 million, after its owner veteran violinist John Ludlow, noticed similarities between his life and Ruisi’s. Loaning the precious violin was both a risk, and a signifier of how profoundly committed to investing in the future of his profession Ludlow is.
Contrary to being a threat to the old, nurturing the new, by raising leaders and giving people opportunity to shine, can be one of the greatest affirmations of the success of an established team. Worth remembering as we all join in the chorus of Rule Britannia in a few weeks’ time, that there must have been a time when Elgar’s Nimrod variations were also new – newly composed, newly performed, new to the Proms – and whoever gave him his chance to shine, changed the course of our history.