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4th Week MT23 Newsletter Interview - Erin Townsend

Each week, the OUMS newsletter features an interview with someone who positively contributes to the Oxford music scene. This week, we sat down with the OUMS Access and Outreach Officer Erin Townsend to ask her about her new role as conductor of the Oxford University String Ensemble (OUSE)!

Erin Townsend (she/her)

Conductor, Violinist, Violist, and Access and Outreach Officer for OUMS

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I'm Erin, a second-year music student at Somerville. I like performing, conducting and reading/writing about music (definitely picked the right degree there then!) and on the rare breaks I get from rehearsals and concerts, I also enjoy reading, baking, going on walks/coffee dates with friends and doing yoga. I come from a state-school background in Brighton and grew up through my county youth orchestra scheme so I'm really passionate about access in and into music - which if you know me, you'll know I don't stop banging on about!

What are you currently working on?

I'm lucky enough to have just been appointed principal conductor of the Oxford University String Ensemble (OUSE) and it's been really great to get started with the lovely people there on this term's repertoire. As a string player, string ensembles hold a special place in my heart so it's wonderful to have the opportunity to conduct. Keep your eyes peeled for our 8th week concert, featuring music by Peter Warlock and Arcangelo Corelli, amongst others, with a healthy dose of Christmas carols and a suite from The Snowman (and follow our new Instagram, @ou_stringensemble, for updates)! If you're a string player, we always welcome new members - you don't have to audition, just turn up to our rehearsals every Sunday 11-2 in the DAH.

In my capacity as OUMS Access & Outreach Officer, I also arrange regular outreach concerts, such as the one last week which we did at a small scheme for older people in Cowley. They're a great way to see the impact our music can have on the wider community. I also think it's refreshing to do community music because it totally changes your perception of performance: it's so easy to get bogged down with being perfect, especially at Oxford, but when you're performing to people in a community setting, it doesn't have to be polished as the fact you're even performing at all is a real gift to those people. We welcome anyone whose interested (or just wanting a casual opportunity to perform to an appreciative audience) to get involved, with regular opportunities posted on our Facebook group.

What has been your favourite musical experience at Oxford so far? Since I started at uni, I've had the opportunity to do more chamber music which has been wonderful! I've particularly enjoyed playing in a wind quintet last year, and a woodwind quartet this year. I love the democracy of chamber music and the musicians at Oxford are genuinely all so talented that working with them is a dream. In our quartet, we were lucky to have a workshop with the Castalian String Quartet last week which I found incredibly inspirational and gave me a lot to think about - made me definitely want to keep up chamber music in future!

Where do you envision yourself heading in the future?

Being completely honest, I have no idea at the moment... I love being a student so have always thought I'll end up studying a masters after my undergrad, whether that be in Oxford or somewhere further afield. I'd either like to pursue academic music or maybe music therapy at masters level, keeping a healthy amount of performance up on the side of course!

Could you provide us with a music recommendation?

Such a difficult question! I'm cheating slightly by picking two: first would be anything by Manu Chao. How he can go from joy to heartache and back again in Sibérie m'était contéee or create such a fun, distinctive groove from samples of the Madrid metro in Próxima Estación: Esperanzameans I will never tire of his albums. More in keeping with being a classical musician, I also adore anything and everything by Caroline Shaw. If you listen to just one of her pieces, make it and the swallow - such a breathtaking, beautiful piece.

For tickets for the upcoming OUSE concert, click here.

To find out more about the OUMS newsletter and our interviews, email Christopher at


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