Ella Lee on Her Upcoming "Classical Circuit" Podcast
With the launch of her upcoming podcast, Lee will interview industry professionals to get a better look inside our world
We had a chance to talk with Ella Lee, who will launch her new classical music podcast, "Classical Circuit" later this month! Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts, the first episode will be released on January 31.
Can you tell us about your podcast series and the inspiration behind it?
The Classical Circuit is a podcast that deep-dives into the world of classical music, and all that comes with working in it. In each episode I’m joined by a guest from the industry, discussing their best career high, their worst career low, and other things that might show you a different side to the one you’d find on their website.
The mission is threefold. Firstly, to shout loud and proud about as many different jobs in the industry as possible; secondly, to get to know the people that keep our industry ticking over; and finally, to discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly (rather than just the shiny bits). I’m an ardent podcast listener myself, and I love talking to people, so it’s been really fun and rewarding to bring this project to life.
Tell us about yourself, what is your background with music?
That’s a funny story. I started playing the piano when I was seven, strictly as an extra-curricular activity – half-hour lessons, minimal practice, ABRSM grades, you know the drill. My life was geared towards becoming a doctor, but at seventeen, I decided it wasn’t for me and applied for auditions at some UK conservatoires (the night of the deadline, naturally). I got a few offers and decided on the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, having loved the atmosphere there.
It’s amusing to look back at how little I knew – about the piano, classical music in general, what it takes to be a serious musician – I’d never even been to a concert before. Needless to say, it was a culture shock. But my teacher at the time, Victor Sangiorgio, was so talented, unwaveringly patient, and very direct in a way that was also encouraging. It made for fast progress. One lesson, about a year in, he sat down to demonstrate something in the opening of Liszt’s Les Cloches de Genève, but then carried on playing (which he never usually did), talking me through the piece as he went. It was amazing. Something clicked for me in that moment – it sparked a real love for the piano and a hunger for music that continued to grow over the years. Victor is the kind of teacher who teaches you how to play and think for yourself, rather than how to play and think exactly as he would, and for that, I will always be grateful.
I ended up studying through to Masters level, and amidst all that I did a lot of teaching, worked in artist management, and later in programming and events. I now work in radio as a music producer and love it.
What are you most interested in when you interview someone?
The person themselves: who they are and how they think.
Why is it important to you to show a different side of your guests?
Biographies, sparkly websites, and superlative-filled social media posts are part and parcel of this industry. All necessary, of course, but I’m a bit bored by all the official stuff. I’d like each episode to be akin to the conversation you might have over a drink – more candid, more human.
What is most fascinating to you about the classical music industry?
The music is at the core of it for me. Closely followed by the people – I always find people fascinating. In terms of the industry, though… there’s a big shift happening at the moment. Classical music is more accessible than ever, which is brilliant, and yet the music itself sometimes falls far down the list of priorities, beneath numbers of streams, size of online presence, etc. People who don’t adapt to this new digital-first landscape are getting left behind, but in a lot of cases ‘adapting’ can look a bit like jumping through hoops, rather than a more authentic evolution. I’m interested to see where we’ll be in a few years’ time.
Do you have a favorite episode that you recorded so far?
I left my chat with Christian Thompson (Artistic Director/Orchestre de Paris) feeling particularly inspired. That being said, every guest has brought something different to the table: profundity, hilarity, vulnerability, curiosity, and – most importantly – candor. I’ve enjoyed the recording sessions immensely.