Dr Michelle Castelletti is a conductor, composer and interdisciplinary artist with a passion for cross-art and site-specific curation. After leaving her post as music lecturer and conductor at university, as well as the running of Sounds New Contemporary Music Festival, Michelle became the Artistic Director of the Royal Northern College of Music, as both an Arts Centre, and as a Conservatoire. She has been been a speaker at national and international conferences and has worked for audition and jury panels, including the British Composer Awards, European Capital of Culture and Venice Biennale. She has created and developed significant national and international partnerships and feels privileged to have worked with exceptional artists in her life. Michelle recently finished her tenure as Artistic Director of the Malta International Arts Festival, with a remit to lead towards European Capital of Culture 2018. She is now Director of Oxford Festival of the Arts.
Michelle’s latest conducting performances was Mozart’s comic opera, L’Impresario in a new production for children in a splendid 18th century theatre. She opened the 2019-20 season for Malta’s national orchestra with a free outdoor public concert of the President of Malta in Valletta’s main Square. Past personal favourites include conducting at Birmingham Symphony Hall, Richard Strauss and Mahler in Canterbury Cathedral, Carmina Burana, conducting with Carmine Lauri (co-leader of the LSO) at the Valletta International Baroque Festival, the privilege of conducting the Canterbury Cathedral choristers, conducting Arvo Pärt’s music for Arvo Pärt himself, Stravinsky’s Firebird, and a production of Sweeney Todd.
Michelle loves creating interdisciplinary projects in atypical spaces. Her performances, projects, curations and festivals have received 5* reviews and awards, one of the most prestigious being the award of the Times Higher Education Award for Excellence and Innovation in the Arts. Michelle has curated study days at Wigmore Hall and taken performances to the Southbank Centre. Other projects she was involved in include BBC R3 Young Artists Day, BBC R3 Live In Tune and Music Matters programmes and BBC Proms Portraits. She has been interviewed extensively on various channels on the BBC. She recently welcomed Krzysztof Penderecki as resident composer/conductor, culminating in the UK premiere of his monumental Seven Gates of Jerusalem, which received a five-star review from The Guardian. Michelle feels privileged to have nominated and presented Penderecki with an honorary degree.
Michelle is on the Board of Directors of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, Trustee of the ISM Trust and of ORA Singers, Governor on the Board of the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She is published by Universal Edition Vienna and has been broadcast on several channels (including the digital World Concert Hall), and is recorded by BIS RECORDS and ARS PRODUKTION. The BIS/ Storgårds recording has been receiving double 5* 10-10-10 reviews, across the board. It was No. 1 Orchestral Choice of the Month, on BBC Music Magazine – The Proms Edition, July 2019. The ARS Produktion recording is planned for a Spring 2020 release.
In her younger years, Michelle has acted as a repetiteur, pianist and/or accompanist and still loves chamber music very much. She is a Soprano and loves lyrical dramatic roles (when she has time!). Michelle is enamoured with history and material culture and is thrilled to have read for a Masters of Studies in Literature and Arts at the University of Oxford, based on interdisciplinarity between the Arts: a liberal degree which seemed to encapsulate everything she loves, based on interdisciplinarity, and the beautiful encounter between academia and creativity. In another life, she would have been an architect building cathedrals or a scribe illuminating manuscripts. Michelle loves being surrounded by art, her music and books. See Michelle’s answers to our Difficult Dozen Questions here
I knew I wanted to work in the arts from a young age. My grandfather had been a professional actor, and my father, a keen amateur dramatics actor, filled my young life with theatre, musicals and concerts. Drama college seemed an obvious next step. I secured a place at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and after a year of acting, dancing, designing (and having way too much fun), I decided that the next best thing to being a performer, was being a stage manager, and as well as studying plays and theatre practitioners, that’s what I worked on.
Having written to literally every theatre in the UK, I was lucky enough to be taken on as an ASM (and given the vital Equity card) at Welsh National Opera. I didn’t even have to move from my flat in Cardiff! There I disregarded the famous saying, ‘Never work with children and animals’, and worked on operas containing both (yes, clearing up after the goats in The Greek Passion, was one of my jobs). I worked with such luminaries as Peter Stein, the great German director and the late Sir Charles Mackerras, and whilst the work was hard and the hours were long, I loved every second of it.
Life then took over and after having three children, I looked for work that fitted around their needs. Having worked in a school for children with emotional and behavioral issues, I found myself an administrative job at The Oxford Playhouse. It was perfect – a few hours a week and back in the theatre saddle. This developed quite quickly into a full-time position and I was also able to use my stage/company management skills on the theatre’s own productions. The most memorable was The Dumb Waiter and other Pieces, with Toby Jones and Jason Watkins (before they were famous). Pinter himself came to rehearsals, so I met yet another of my heroes, whose plays I had studied at college.
I then worked for OUP, as administrator and picture researcher for the Children’s Books design department. The main pattern of my working life has been working with creatives and this was no exception. Whilst a lot of artwork is becoming digital, there are still those who draw and paint traditionally, and to handle and work with pieces from illustrators such as Korky Paul and Tony Ross, to name but two, was a huge privilege and pleasure.
And now, I am working with Michelle and Alexis on the Oxford Festival of the Arts, which has grown and flourished over the years. It’s great to be working with such passionate, dedicated people and no two days are ever the same, be it liaising with the Civil Aviation Authority or organising site visits for large-scale events. I’m currently getting my theatre fix from various online offerings and my new favourite evenings are Thursdays (National Theatre at Home). At the moment, there are many wonderful missives from friends in the arts on social media, and I will leave you with this one: ‘As the world shuts down and people turn to film, television, music, podcasts, and books for entertainment, comfort and sanity, I hope most people take note, that we do in fact, need the arts.’ Find Karin’s answers to our Difficult Dozen Questions here
Festival Marketing and Sponsorship Manager
I started my career in commercial radio working for the London station LBC. I worked in the publicity and promotions department and my experience in radio has centered around marketing, sponsorship, and branding. In 1989 I moved to the yet-to-be-launched Oxford radio station FOX FM. I was the second person employed and because our building (Brush House on the Horspath Industrial Estate!) wasn’t ready, the MD and I worked for 8 weeks in a caravan in the car park. I was Promotions Manager at FOX FM and although I wasn’t a broadcaster I somehow got the job of doing the live traffic and travel reports from the station’s ‘Flying Fox’ helicopter for a couple of years alongside the day job. What an experience that was, I still have a great love of helicopters, although not of reading the roads from 1500 feet up! The listeners of Oxfordshire and West Bucks really took FOX FM to their hearts and we won the coveted Sony Radio Station of the Year Award and started great community initiatives like the Christmas FOX BOX Appeal. From Oxford and FOX FM, I moved back to the Big Smoke to run Promotions at London Radio, then went on to EMAP On Air working with some of the most prestigious London ad agencies. I was then offered the role of Managing Director and the great opportunity to launch a new radio station, Bath FM, in the beautiful city of Bath. My last radio job was as Regional Manager Director for Bauer Yorkshire where as well as my responsibilities for six radio stations and a team of 85, I presented a series of creative thinking workshops throughout the national business.
Cooking and all things foodie have always been my great passion and in 2008 I took part in the BBC’s MasterChef programme. It was an amazing (and terrifying!) experience and it gave me the impetus to change my life. I decided to leave radio and I went on to study and gain my Cordon Bleu diploma. I launched my own cookery school called Dancing Trousers (ask me for the story behind the name if we meet), based in my home on the Oxfordshire/Gloucestershire border (yes, I’d loved Oxford so much the first time round that I came back!).
I ran Dancing Trousers for 10 years teaching everything from knife skills to patisserie for everyone from complete beginners to accomplished cooks and from small groups up to parties of 20. My youngest customer was 4 and my oldest was 86! I gained industry awards, and for many years running, the coveted Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence voted for by my customers. I’ve done live cookery demonstrations at food festivals and even in the office of a large estate agency! I also joined the QVC television channel as a guest presenter for Joseph Joseph kitchen and homeware.
In 2018 I started to wind things down with teaching courses and look for a new direction. I was delighted to join OFA in February 2019. One day I could be meeting a local business to create a sponsorship package for them, the next I’ll be liaising with our designer about the brochure. I love the variety and the chance to discover and meet so many wonderful artists and performers. I’m really proud of what OFA achieves, it’s a big, ambitious festival with a small, passionate team who make it happen and we really have become a part of the cultural calendar of this wonderful city of Oxford. Find Alexis’ answers to our Difficult Dozen Questions here