School of Music alumni Christopher Young. Christopher stands against a grey background and is looking to the left of the frame. He is holding his trumpet and wears a blue shirt and dark blazer.

Christopher Young

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your current career?

Growing up in rural Northern Canada, I started playing trumpet and studying music generally through the local school district band program when I was 12. I have a Bachelor of Music with a concentration in Trumpet Performance from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. Before attending the University of Leeds, I worked exclusively as a self-managed freelance musician: I was the featured artist in several community orchestras performances across Western Canada, I gigged with the trumpet section of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, and I managed a brass chamber music ensemble, amongst a multitude of other musical opportunities.

I am currently the Digital Experience and Content Marketing Manager for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and VSO School of Music. The VSO is the largest performing arts organization in Western Canada, and the VSO School of Music is one of the first music schools in North America associated directly with a professional symphony orchestra. My role is responsible for communicating the multitude of stories across both organizations to our community of audience members, donors, funders, and the public through digital channels, and to help envision the future of the organization within a digital context.

Please tell us about any other roles you’ve had since graduating from Leeds.

Prior to my work with the VSO, I held the position of Executive Director with the FSJ Curling Club. My primary responsibility was to assist the board of directors through the initial aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. This included finding new sources of revenue by leveraging their entire facility as a pillar of the community. I brought additional sports and wellness organizations into the building to complement the primary mission of the organization, including vital community programs like Meals on Wheels.

How do you think the skills and knowledge you developed at Leeds helped with your career success?

My time at Leeds has been vital to the success I have seen in the 3 years since graduating. As an international student, I was able to juxtapose the systems and policies in place for arts organizations in England against those I was familiar with in Canada. Now as a manager for one of the largest performing arts organizations in the country, I have a wider, more diverse knowledge base of policy and procedure that I can pull from. I was also able to work with several renowned arts organizations including Opera North, Leeds Lieder, Leeds Baroque, and the Leeds International Piano Competition and dive into the differences in operations as revenues scale.

Perhaps the most influential aspects of my time at Leeds though were the opportunities to take courses outside of the School of Music, in the School of Business and the School of Performance and Cultural Industries. There, I was able to expand my knowledge of the business side of the arts, and realize the importance of the audience relationship to the success of arts and cultural organizations and to the success of artists in general.

What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?

As an entrepreneurial artist, I realized that my time as a music performance student did not prepare me for the challenges and opportunities that would arise in my career. I wanted to improve my understanding of the business end of the arts so I could give myself the best chance to succeed in any role—whether that be as an individual artist or as a member of a larger team—while also pushing myself as an artist. The MA in Music and Management at Leeds allowed me to fully pursue both goals without compromise.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?  

As someone who was approaching my studies from a Western Art Music perspective, it was refreshing and enlightening to work with peers from across the world who were pursuing different avenues: popular musics, museums, theatre, amongst others. The conversations that we were able to have in our courses and outside of class time brought new knowledge and new perspectives that challenged me and have ultimately made me a better arts marketer and artist.

What would you say about the learning and the support facilities in your School and at the University in general?

The School of Music is home to a wonderful team of lecturers and support staff that are always willing to assist students to achieve their goals. It was easy to access any resources I needed across the University, and opportunities to attend events that complemented my studies were well promoted so I never felt like I had missed out. The library facilities were great and made it easy to explore and find resources that I needed for my studies. And since graduating, the Careers Centre successfully helped me through my job search and job application processes.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

The University of Leeds is an amazing space to work in and learn about the arts and cultural industries. If you want to learn about how to approach audience development and engagement, the business side of music as an artist or as a member of an administrative team, and the joys of creating music—all in a supportive and passionate environment—you will find everything you could want and need at Leeds.