How many artistic directors does it take to run a mini festival? Three, in the case of the RSAMD's Summerfest, which formally opens next Monday and runs for just five days.

Even with the addition of a pre-festival launch concert this Friday, that might seem two artistic directors too many for such a modestly-scaled festival in these downturned and hard-pressed times.

But there is something rather unusual in the make-up of the artistic directorship of Summerfest. All three directors are young. They are not students: their graduations are but a memory. But neither are they RSAMD staff, through they all work there. They are a hybrid species occupying a hitherto unknown region somewhere between academe and the world of work. They are the emergent leaders.

Loading article content

Before this begins to sound like the plot for a futuristic tale about megalomaniacs aspiring to world domination, I'd better come clean.

The whole concept of emergent leaders comes from RSAMD principal John Wallace, and is an attempt to address a serious issue: if you have outstanding young people in your care, people with confidence, conviction and command, how do you nurture that potential?

How do you give them significant real-life training in their specialisms, which will prepare them for application of their unique talents and give them a strong foothold in reality when they are out there, beyond studenthood and knocking on doors, looking for a job?

Three likely candidates were identified and appointed by Wallace and his management team in the academy. They are Bede Williams, a New Zealand-born conductor, trumpeter and composer; Ani Batikian, a superb Armenian violinist, and Fraser Gordon, a bassoonist and motivator.

They were each given a stipend for a year. The figure is confidential, but across the three of them it amounts to a salary.

With Wallace as their mentor, they were told to get out there and enhance academy life: add value.

There was no specified catalogue of achievements expected, no specific list of tasks to be undertaken. Bede Williams, probably the most visible of the three in the last year, put it rather adroitly when he summed up the position this way: "The job will be defined by what we do."

The one precise instruction they received was this: whatever else you do, devise the programme for Summerfest and develop its potential. Be artistic directors of the festival.

Throughout the year the three young musicians have worked collaboratively towards the mini-fest, while each developed their role as emergent leader. "We've all gone about it quite differently," says Bede Williams, who is 24.

"Ani has seen it as doing a lot of teaching at the junior school on Saturday mornings, with undergraduate string players, and one on one teaching and coaching. Also, early on, she put together string ensembles, and she'll lead all the Summerfest programmes as concert master."

Fraser Gordon, who, as a student, organised the symphonic storming of Holyrood by the RSAMD orchestra, has already received an award from principal John Wallace for his "contribution to the corporate life of the academy". Much of his emergent leadership work has taken place outside the academy, out in the field, including starting a relationship with St Mary's Music School.

"Fraser is determined to get out there and drive for recruitment to the woodwind department," says Williams. "For one reason or another, a lot of young musicians who study at the RSAMD Juniors, and who are very promising, tend to go elsewhere.

"Fraser has taken it as his mission to get that talent to stay here and train.

"At the same time, collectively, the three of us have decided that all the money raised by donations at the free Summerfest concerts will go towards creating a first-year scholarship. If we can entice just one player to come to the academy, it's been a success.

"It might be an outstanding young musician who needs assistance, or it might be someone, who, for financial reasons, wouldn't be able to come here at all. That's our communal goal: to make the difference for one individual who might thus come here next year."

Williams is modest about his own emergent leadership role. "I've been working more inside the academy, more with groups and doing some teaching. In some ways mine has been the easiest job: by conducting you're working with something that is leadership-orientated anyway."

The easygoing young New Zealander is selling himself a bit short. He has been a driving force in the establishment of the RSAMD Music Lab, which has produced visionary work with the toughest music of Stockhausen, Jonathan Harvey and others.

And it was Williams who had the job of getting John de Simone's colossal 50-minute symphony off the page and into existence. And it is also Williams who will conduct the spectacular orchestral finale to this year's Summerfest programme.

That programme, which, in some respects, stays fluid and organic until the last moment while the three leaders pick up musicians staying in Glasgow or passing through Glasgow, does have some fixed points.

It opens on Friday with a pre-Summerfest lunchtime concert, and a meaty one at that, which is all their own work. They will couple Bach's First Brandenburg Concerto with a sibling from another era, Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks Concerto. They will also mark James MacMillan's 50th birthday with his Three Dawn Rituals. And their academy colleague, the composer Marcos Fernandos Barreros, will throw in a brand new work written for the same instrumentation as the Stravinsky.

The three emergent leaders have done all the work themselves, recruiting the musicians and organising the music. Ani Batikian will lead the band and Bede Williams will conduct.

In the first programme proper on the Monday, the emergent leaders have reinvented the format and have asked all the category winners (strings, wind, brass, percussion and chamber music) in the Governors' Recital Prize to "present themselves for a high profile solo recital concert". Higher profile than you might think: they will all be recorded by BBC Radio 3.

There will be a staff/student collaborative chamber music concert the next day, and a pot pourri concert on the Wednesday, with a mixed programme including one of the Glasgow Sequenzas that slipped through the net in the Plug 2009 festival because the player was ill. There will also be a selection by Academy Brass from their tours to Canterbury and the Faroe Islands.

Thursday's programme is the only one that is not theirs. Head of opera Tim Dean is staging a programme based on Monteverdi's Songs of Love and War.

The closing event, conducted by Bede Williams and led by Ani Batikian, will feature a massed staff/student symphony orchestra in a display programme that opens with Sibelius's Finlandia, drives into Bizet's Carmen Suite, takes a characterful diversion through Malcolm Arnold's Scottish Dances, then heads for home with the blistering finale of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony.

Bede Williams and his fellow emergent leaders intend going out with a bang, and they intend to get it right. "We've allocated six hours rehearsal for the Friday finale, and it's all music which allows the players to get right into it."

He wants them all off the leash, in end of term mode, and liberated. "I personally believe that if you set the bar for everyone to be outside of themselves, it makes for a much more exciting concert. And we're going to try and be white hot at this one." Summerfest: June 26 - July 3.