Ask the Expert is Riot’s monthly interview slot where we chat with people we admire working in the world of arts, culture and entertainment.
Today we’re speaking with Shannon St Luce. Shannon has been an Event Coordinator at the BBC Proms for the past two years, whilst freelancing for the rest of the year in producer, Orchestra Manager and Arts Administration roles. We asked her how she got to where she is, her top tips for freelancers, and what the BBC Proms means today.
Describe your job in one sentence.
Co-ordinating, planning and running concerts, and liaising between all kinds of teams to make it happen.
You’ve had a range of roles within the music industry. How did you end up where you are today?
Growing up, I’d always had a strong interest in music but decided early on that I wasn’t good enough to perform, and at the time I didn’t realise that there are so many alternative roles to get into. At university I studied animation and was set on a career in that field but found it difficult to find work upon graduating. Instead, I got a job with Hertfordshire Music Service and I’m so fortunate that it was a co-ordinator role where I could really develop my skillset in the industry that I love; all my roles since draw upon things I learned in that first job. Whilst I was there I managed to get a shadowing opportunity with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; this gave me the courage to go for jobs with arts organisations where I could work with professional musicians, which is what I really wanted to do. Since then, I’m fortunate to have worked in so many great places, building up my experience and network over time.
What are your top three tips for people when it comes to event coordination?
- Organise and prioritise your work in a way that makes sense to you; you’re usually juggling multiple things, so refine your process so that you have a solid workflow.
- Try to envisage the event you’re planning before it happens, and think through what is needed to reach your final outcome. You might not think of everything (and even when my planning is seemingly flawless, a hiccup somehow arises on the day!), but knowing what you’re aiming for helps you to work out the potential kinks.
- Trust your process and don’t panic; in planning and in delivery things can get busy and chaotic, and I find it helps to always be the calmest person in the room.
As a freelancer, you’re often moving from working with one organisation to another. How do you establish yourself in new spaces over a short period of time?
I tend to go in with an open mind, with the initial aim being to absorb as much as I can about the job and the team. I’ve built up confidence in my own strengths over time, so that when I go into freelance/short-term roles I know what I bring to the table. For some freelance jobs I’m only there for a few days and it’s just a case of leaning on knowledge and past experience.
This is your second year returning to the BBC Proms. What are some highlights of working there for you?
Some of my earliest orchestral memories are of the Proms, so I still can’t believe that I work there! The biggest highlight for me is the added broadcasting element on top of working on a concert. My favourite part of the job is concert managing a Prom, where you take the lead in running the concert on the day alongside television and live radio broadcasts; equal parts exhilarating and terrifying!
What do you think the significance of the BBC Proms is in the UK’s current arts and culture landscape?
The Proms are so important in terms of showcasing the breadth and quality of classical and orchestral music, serving faithful followers and making it accessible to new audiences. Across the 8 week season there’s 71 concerts in London alone, and many more across the UK, all to either attend in person or catch up with on radio and TV – for me, the significance is that there’s something in there for everyone!
As a freelancer, do you have any advice for building and maintaining networks of contacts?
I think the two things that have helped me the most are doing the best job that I can, and chatting to people whenever possible. It’s hard to advise on this one because I’ve personally found that things happened organically and opportunistically, but I think if you do what you do well and try to expose yourself to different kinds of situations then gradually you will build up your network.
Biggest pinch-me moment of your career?
Definitely meeting the composer Danny Elfman last summer, whose music I’ve been listening to literally my whole life. It was only 30 seconds in the backstage corridor of the Royal Albert Hall, but I’ve got a signed programme and a photo to prove (mostly to my starstruck self) that it happened!
What’s on your radar? Could you share what you’re listening to, reading and watching at the moment?
I like my own consumption to be quite chilled and familiar to counteract the noise of day-to-day life, so it’s all easy and simple stuff. Recently I’ve really enjoyed watching Only Murders in the Building and Abbott Elementary on Disney Plus, and I religiously watch Taskmaster when it’s on. Listening-wise, I mostly have my Motown and Soul playlist on repeat, but I sift through quite a few other genres alongside that – at the moment I’m rediscovering Green Day’s earlier stuff, particularly Dookie which is the album I loved as a teen. I don’t read much but I do love a podcast; currently working through episodes of Toni and Ryan for laughs, and One of Us is a Filmmaker which taps right into my ‘90s/’00s nostalgic film memories.