MY STORY Mister More Music, Pete Moser
Twenty-five years ago Pete Moser founded More Music in the Lancashire seaside town of Morecambe as a hub for the then new concept of community music. But now he is stepping down as artistic director and CEO.
Why have you decided to leave?
I still love my job here – almost every bit of it – and that would seem a good time to go. But the main reason is that I want to spend more time as a musician – composer, performer, facilitator, songwriter and one man band. Over 25 years as I have grown the organisation with the incredible team here, I have inevitably ended up as a strategy person, a fund raiser and as the leader of a business with everything that involves.
What were you doing before you founded More Music in 1993?
I spent the 80s working for Welfare State International (the experimental theatre group) as a technician, musical director and performer. They were an amazing celebratory arts company who were “civic magicians”, pathological optimists and “engineers of the imagination”. I toured and made work all over the world ending with a three year residency in Barrow-in-Furness. When that finished I moved here and …
What were the founding principles of the organisation, and to what extent have you fulfilled them?
The aim was always to provide new opportunities for music making for people of all ages and backgrounds and to use music and events to try and support the regeneration of a resort – that in the early 90s was not doing well. We have always been about making amazing and beautiful music and also changing the world. As I reflect over these months I am very happy in what we have achieved and know that we have made a significant difference to people’s lives and to the whole spirit of Morecambe.
When we moved from Barrow it could have been Glasgow or Kendal, but we somehow ended up with a house here – close to motorways for good touring and working away. And then when I wanted to focus on less travelling Morecambe seemed to be a better and more interesting challenge than Lancaster. There were clearly enormous social issues and a real lack of direction and confidence.
You were a pioneer of community music. Has your lead been followed elsewhere and what more needs to be done nationally?
The community music world has grown in amazing ways over the past 30 years, and the number of inspiring projects and musicians and research is world beating. There are huge projects that are making strategic shifts for the whole music education world, and individuals just getting on with their own locally based projects. We are also at a point where the work we are doing in creating an inclusive offer is moving into the mainstream, and we have a huge opportunity nationally to change the whole world of music making for young people.
Since 1996 you have had your own home, Hothouse. How essential to the work you do is it to have your own venue?
This building is fantastic playspace for all of our musicians and all the hundreds of people who come in every week. We started in a corner of the building and now run a venue with 8 different sized workshop spaces including a world class venue that seats 140. It is fully accessible and everyone who comes here says it is a great welcoming space. I am so proud of what we have been able to do here.
Having our own space means we can make so many things happen in a space that we have created and that is fit for purpose. A quality space that we control and in which we can model our values and vision. At the same time it enables us to go out to work with people where they are. The balance of the two aspects is vital.
What else has made it possible for you to fulfil your dreams here?
The key has been having an inspiring team of people to work with. Starting with Kathryn MacDonald (development director) who has been at the heart of everything here for the last 21 years and brings such thoughtfulness and care to everything she does. Then the office staff, project managers and musicians who all have such a commitment to what we do here. I will really miss this group of friends – we have shared so much together over the years and their understanding of our vision and values is brilliant.
How is More Music funded and what grant support do you get?
We have built a broad base of funding from Arts Council England, Youth Music, Music Education Hubs, trusts and foundations, and earned income from box office, workshop subs, partnerships and commissions. This is how we survive. Recently we have been working to increase funding from the private and corporate sector with more sponsorship and personal donations. It is a good mix, and I am leaving More Music in a very healthy state.
How are you celebrating?
With music and food ! I have set up and curated four party nights at the Hothouse, bringing back some of my favourite musicians to play and collaborate in true More Music fashion. Each one has a different focus and many of my friends and collaborators are coming along – I am really enjoying making these gigs happen! You can see the story here https://issuu.com/more.music/docs/issu_brochure
What’s next for you?
I am busy with a few things up until July when I am co-chair of the Community Music Conference in Tbilisi, Georgia, for ISME (International Society of Music Education). Then a six-month sabbatical – emptying out my brain, practising the trumpet and spending with my two grandchildren. And then who knows what will drop in. I am trying hard not to imagine the future – I will never stop being a musician and I will always want to contribute so I’m unlikely to spend much time sitting round.