Alumni Spotlight: Johannes MnichWed 2 May 2018
Music alumnus Johannes Mnich has been appointed Artistic and Executive Director (Intendant) of The TauberPhilharmonie, Weikersheim – a new concert hall in Southern Germany that is due to open in 2019. We caught up with him to find out about his life as a Trinity Laban student and how he got to where he is today.
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
I started playing the piano aged six, but it was really the kind of people I met throughout the years – who were open-minded, curious, and sometimes a little crazy – who made me fall in love with music and want pursue a career in it.
What was your experience of studying at Trinity Laban and how has your training prepared you for your career?
I initially came to London as an Erasmus student, and the atmosphere and opportunities at Trinity Laban made me come back for a MMus course.
What really made Trinity Laban stand out for me was the emphasis on versatility and the acknowledgment that today’s careers in music are not solely based on practice hours and technical expertise.
Whilst studying I had the opportunity to do accompaniment, feature in various orchestra and chamber music projects, learn about research and public presentation, and even work in the stage crew. And, obviously, having teachers like Philip Fowke or Eugene Asti also had a major influence on me.
Trinity Laban helped me to get a broad insight into various aspects of being a musician that enabled me to follow various paths whilst ultimately pursuing my goal to become a cultural manager, and the strong support from the conservatoire made this one of the most vital years of my life.
Though you are still a performing musician, your career is primarily in Culture Management. Tell us what you did after graduating and how you shaped your career trajectory.
I guess I always wanted to transfer my knowledge as a pianist and performing musician into organising concerts and festivals as I know what it feels like to be on stage. As a concert organiser, one of your key tasks is to have happy musicians and it really pays off to have experience as a performer.
I started working in Culture Management whilst still being a student – I was part of stage crews, which helped me understand the logistics of concerts. During my masters at Trinity Laban, I started managing the Shipley Arts Festival in West Sussex under the artistic direction of violinist and Trinity Laban professor Andrew Bernardi. I learned a lot about how to manage different musicians and venues.
After graduating from Trinity Laban in 2011 I continued working for the conservatoire as an official accompanist and was also teaching, doing solo performance, and started various musical projects with fellow alumni including chamber music with Daniel Broncano, and singing work with Sean Webster.
In 2012, I accepted a position at BASF Cultural Management in Ludwigshafen, Germany, where I was involved in promoting their cultural programme and was responsible for booking artists for both piano and chamber music concerts.
Then, in November 2015, I moved on to Heidelberger Frühling, one of Germany’s biggest and most vibrant festivals for classical music which features around 100 concerts – from solo recitals up to large orchestras – every year over a five-week period. A truly amazing experience.
As project manager, I oversaw the Festival Academy with artistic directors such as baritone Thomas Hampson and pianist Igor Levit. I was programming concerts for children, in charge of an award-winning youth project, and also became manager of Das Lied International Song competition which took place in Heidelberg in 2017.
I’ve always tried to learn as much as possible from any professional opportunity and I have been challenged different ways: from a simple artist transfer to organising a world premiere with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (the BASF’s 150th anniversary event), with the German head of state in attendance.
It obviously took a lot of time and effort to shape my career – spending hours practising, organising concerts, teaching, setting time aside for running a festival, and working as a freelancer for a concert agency – but I feel it was truly worth it. My jobs have enabled me to work with world-class international artists, and being responsible for successful concerts with happy audiences and donors is a wonderful feeling.
I can’t say I get a lot of piano practice done these days and my sleep patterns are suffering here and there, but I wouldn’t change a thing and as long as I still get to play some concerts and enjoy attending them, I know I made the right decisions.
Tell us about your forthcoming role as Executive & Artistic Director of the TauberPhilharmonie, Weikersheim
Today was my first official day in the new job (2nd May 2018). I’ve had a look at the building site, and can’t wait to get started!
This new position is well and truly one of the most important steps of my life! The decision was made in Weikersheim to build a designated concert hall with world-class acoustics and a spectacular look. The two halls will enable both classical music and various other genres, from jazz to pop, from theatre to comedy. Being able to shape this building and its cultural impact from the very start is a huge task and a most wonderful challenge that I’m very excited to take part in. I will oversee all artistic planning, lead the team and be part of a unique adventure where culture and music will not happen in a major city but in a beautiful, picturesque atmosphere and surroundings. Together with the Jeunesses Musicales, one of the world’s most important organizations for musical training, this promises to be quite simply amazing!
Any advice to those wishing to pursue an arts-admin / management career?
Be versatile! Use your time at university to try out things. You don’t learn your craft simply by studying charts and numbers, so being part of a festival or concert series is absolutely vital to understand how artists feel and how an audience and donors can benefit from your efforts. And make sure you have a good network of contacts. It also helps to listen to concerts and get to know out-of-the box repertoire – when you get a job in booking concerts it really pays off to not only know your Beethoven, but also Kapustin or Collier…
By Robyn Donnelly (Press & PR)
(Headshot: Johannes Mnich, image credit: GT Photographie | Concert hall artist-impression: HENN Architektur München)