• Sarah Goddard

The orchestra and the event manager

On Saturday I had the honour of event managing Musical Chairs a fundraising event for the charity Orchestras for All.


Events is where I started and so event management will always hold a special place in my heart – especially when it’s for a small charity.


At Musical Chairs, 50 participants learn a new instrument over eight weeks, and then come together for the first time as a group for a full day of rehearsals before performing in a concert that evening. They’re helped along the way by fantastic conductors, tutors and most importantly – young people who have been working with Orchestras for All who become the teachers for the day.


A Keelie Makolay sheet music

For anyone who’s ever run an event at a small charity, you’ll know that there isn’t a large and experienced events team ready to run the whole thing. It’s very much a case of “all hands to the pumps”. And I saw that on a regular basis during the preparation and running of Musical Chairs.


The team at Orchestras for All are small but very effective, and work extremely well together. Everyone pitched in to play their part, even with many of them also taking part in the event too.


The thing that really struck me was that the few external volunteers that came to help, were actually friends or family members of the staff. That’s a real mark of how passionate the staff are and how inspiring the charity is.


Now I have the musical aptitude of a table, however even I was able to pick up a few things, and I saw a lot of parallels between the orchestra that formed throughout the day, and a team that makes an event happen.


  • Preparation is key. If every person knows what they’re doing ahead of time, and a chance to run through it, they’ll be much more prepped on the day. Whether that’s six weeks of rehearsal on the clarinet or a thorough briefing and briefing document in the days running up to the event….be prepared!

  • Everyone plays their part. The music for Musical Chairs was thoughtfully arranged to make sure all aptitudes, abilities and experience was catered for, and everyone had a chance to play a part that added significantly to the overall piece. Exactly the same for events. A great event team is one where each team members skills and expertise is taken into account and their role assigned accordingly.

Conductor Sian Edwards at Musical Chairs
  • You need one person to bring it all together. Our conductors on the day were amazing. They were able to identify multiple small areas where improvements could be made to improve the whole piece overall, give individual instructions, delegate the sectional rehearsals to the tutors, and bring it all together into one seamless piece. And it’s the same with events. You need one person as an event manager who can be both in the detail and have oversight of the whole thing, and make sure it all comes together at the right time and in the right way.


Throughout the day, many people took the time to tell me that the day ran seamlessly and they were so pleased with how well-organised it was. That was so lovely, because as an event manager I don’t always have a “participants view” of the day. I’m just madly paddling under the water to make sure everything happens. And if what the participants saw was a calm swan and had a great experience then I’ve done my job well!

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