We are delighted to confirm that Paraorchestra Artistic Director, Charles Hazlewood, is to become Sky Arts Ambassador for Music, marking Paraorchestra as the channel’s flagship orchestra.

As part of this appointment, Sky Arts will invest £60,000 over two years in Paraorchestra. This will create a musicians-in-residence scheme that, under Charles’ support and mentoring, will enable us to cultivate some of the extraordinary D/deaf and disabled talent within our orchestra.

Charles is one of five Ambassadors for Sky Arts, each charged with championing emerging talent in their own disciplines, in a move from the channel to invest further in UK arts, enriching the cultural conversation of the country.

I caught up with Charles to get an idea of what the Ambassadorship means to him, and to Paraorchestra, and what opportunities he hopes it may present:

“This is an utterly thrilling opportunity for Paraorchestra. Obviously, the bursary is an absolute golden ticket, a chance to really invest in, and nurture, some of the remarkable musicians in our orchestra. But the Ambassadorship also gives us agency to create some really big, experimental work with the support of a major media company.

“It’s also an opportunity for us to do much more television. At this particular time in our world’s history, it’s an amazing way for us to make work without worrying about keeping audiences safe.”

One such project is Beethoven and Me, a documentary commissioned by Sky Arts marking the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth. With his 5th Symphony at its core – performed by a 38-strong ensemble of Paraorchestra musicians – Charles explores his own very personal relationship with Beethoven, and the abuse and health conditions – and likely personality disorders – that influenced the composer’s work.

“I’ve had an unbelievably lumpy, stormy, difficult relationship with Beethoven all these years – every piece of his I have ever conducted has brought about such trauma for me. We were both abused as children and I have always suspected that’s why I find his work so, tormenting, like wading through hot oil. Somehow it re-triggers my own trauma. I’ve also suspected for some time that Beethoven’s struggles were not solely related to his deafness. When you look at his huge volumes of sketches for the 5th Symphony, the turmoil, the obsession as he writes and rewrites, loses heart, scratches through three pages with his pen, (so furiously does he cross out) – it feels very much to me like, what we would now term, multiple personality disorder. And I wanted to explore that.

“I am tremendously grateful for Sky Arts’ courage and for their trust in me and what I needed to say in that piece. I don’t think that film could have been made with any other broadcaster.”

Beethoven and Me will air on free-to-view Sky Arts at 9pm on Tuesday 16th February 2021.

“Since I formed Paraorchestra in 2012 there’s been an amazing steep upsurge in terms of what our orchestra is, what it means to people, how much reach has, and how very seriously it is now taken. So, for a premium, international broadcaster like Sky Arts to invest in us – financially and artistically – is an amazing vote of confidence in what we are and what we stand for.”

“But of all of this, all of the fortuities this role can, and will, bring about, perhaps the key thing is that it will raise the profile of each and every one of our musicians. It will help take us one step further to achieve what I always have wanted, to prove that disability is in no way a barrier to world-class music making”.