Creative Retreat for Adult Musicians 2020

Exploring Group Creativity

Led by experts in group creativity, this weekend is for able adult musicians who want to learn more about how to co-compose, collectively improvise and work creatively in ensembles, as well as facilitate that work in others.

Practical workshops will include:

  • Collective memorisation and trusting your ear
    Pete Churchill, Head of Jazz Composition RAM
  • Artistic leadership and collective composition
    Sigrún Griffiths, Leadership course leader, GSMD
  • Re-inventing the score
    Dr Jonathan James, freelance workshop leader
  • Spontaneous and creative performance
    Andrew Quartermain, CEO Pro Corda

It is an ideal opportunity for professional development for any musician involved in either facilitating creative groups — in the classroom, community or conservatoire, for example — or who wants to develop their own skills as a creative musician in a small group context.

The retreat will comprise seminars, group reflections and practical workshops, with the aim of getting you playing and experimenting as much as possible together. You’ll learn strategies to help you with:

  • Collaborative improvisation
  • Collective composition
  • Creative performance
  • Creative response to scores

The work will go across lots of different musical styles, so all musical backgrounds are welcome.

However, we do need to restrict the course to acoustic instruments only. Pianos are available on site, but we can only accommodate three pianists on the course.

You don’t need to be a brilliant improviser to take part, but you do need to be open to giving things a go and working with a group.

Aside from making music together, there will be plenty of opportunity to enjoy the surroundings and take time out and reflect on your practice.

As part of the retreat, you will create a piece in small groups together that will be shared at the end in an informal performance.

Important information

Age range: Adults

Entry requirement: Grade 8+

Course length: Thurs 17th – Sun 20th Sept 2020

Cost: £495 including all events and full board accommodation.

Deposit: Non-refundable deposit of £200 required to secure booking

Location: Leiston Abbey, Suffolk

To apply: Send a brief musical résumé, as well as the reason you are interested in the course to

Covid-19 considerations
  • The studios and workspaces are all large enough to allow for good social distancing, given the small number we are admitting on the course.
  • Unfortunately singers will not be able to take part in this year’s programme due to increased risks of contagion when singing.
  • If required, meals can be picked up and eaten either outside or in separate spaces.
  • All governmental guidelines will be strictly followed, including frequent use of hand disinfectants and immediate isolation should symptoms surface.
  • You are encouraged to use private transport.
Dr Jonathan James, Course Leader


  • Unpacking theories of group creativity and assessing their relevance
  • Re-inventing the score: collective creative responses to notated works

Jonathan is a creative workshop leader, conductor and presenter who has freelanced for the past twenty years for orchestras (e.g. RPO, BSO, BBC NOW, LPO, Czech Philharmonic, RTE symphony) and musical organisations and venues (e.g. Guildhall School of Music, National Children’s Orchestra, Pro Corda, Bridgewater Hall, Cadogan Hall, St David’s Hall, National Concert Hall Dublin).

He runs his own series of adult creative workshops in Bristol, where he also directs the Bristol Pre-Conservatoire, an evening school for talented young musicians. His work is informed by his PhD research into collaborative creativity, which looked at helping advanced classical and jazz students to improvise together.

Although his focus is now on enabling creativity between advanced musicians, he still does a lot of community and school work and enjoys the different challenges that presents.

He leads an acoustic quintet of improvising musicians and continues to conduct choirs and orchestras. He is also in demand as a pre-concert speaker, presenting for orchestras and BBC Radio 3.

Andrew Quartermain is CEO and Artistic Director of Pro Corda Trust, one of the largest music charities and course providers in Europe.

As a pianist, Andrew has collaborated with some of the world’s leading artists and was a prize winner at the Guildhall where he studied after Cambridge.

His work as a teacher takes in a rare spectrum of areas and focus that stretches from coaching some of the UK’s most gifted instrumentalists to specialist work for children with autism (where Andrew has written and launched a number of innovative education programmes and publications) through to an international Piano Film series for Adult Learners.

Andrew has composed a number of works, including music theatre and a new version of “Scrooge!” for schools. He adjudicates at Festivals and competitions throughout the country.

Andrew Quartermain, joint lead and CEO, Pro Corda


  • Creative Ensembles: Inspiring the excitement of chamber music and small ensemble playing from the classroom to the conservatoire. How to experience spontaneity of ensemble performance from the building blocks of each ensemble outwards, and how to teach this concept to all levels.
Pete Churchill, tutor


  • The key to collective memorisation and learning to trust your ear.
    No music, no fear!

Pete is a pianist, singer/songwriter, composer/arranger and educator who has gained an international reputation for working without notation, especially with large groups of singers and instrumentalists.

Having completed almost twenty years teaching at the Guildhall School of Music, he is now Professor of Jazz Composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London whilst running the jazz choir at Trinity College of Music.

As an educator and choral director, Pete is very much in demand abroad – teaching regularly in Australia, including a spell as visiting Professor at the Kodaly Summer School in Brisbane. He has given Jazz workshops for the ABRSM in the Far East and has been a guest lecturer at the Sibelius Academy in Finland. Each summer brings regular courses in France, Spain and Italy.

Nearer to home Pete is recognised as being at the forefront of Jazz education in this country. Pete has also established a national reputation for his work with Primary schools all over the country. His ‘Groove’ Oratorios at the Albert Hall have enjoyed regular performances, combining massed Primary school choirs with Youth Orchestras and guest soloists from the worlds of Jazz and Musical Theatre.

Sigrún Sævarsdóttir-Griffiths is a musician, educator and music leader, working within higher education as well as specialist artistic and community contexts across the UK, Europe, the US and Asia.

For eleven years, Sigrún was Course Leader of the Masters in Leadership Programme at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she still continues to lecture, lead electives and artistic work.

Sigrún is a visiting lecturer at the Iceland Arts Academy and leads creative music projects internationally, in a vast range of community contexts, particularly with vulnerable adults and children. She is founder and artistic director of MetamorPhonics, a community interest company establishing musical bands in collaboration with higher education institutions and homeless charities around the world.

She is artistic leader of The Messengers, a recording and performing band, delivered in collaboration with the Guildhall School and St Mungos Homeless Charity.

Sigrún Sævarsdóttir-Griffiths, tutor


  • Composing in the moment – artistic leadership and collective composition