Sumita Menon (2009)

I grew up in Townsville, North Queensland and when I moved to Melbourne, I didn’t know anyone. Queen’s quickly felt like a second home as the community was so warm and welcoming. I felt like I found a place I could do everything I loved (rowing, singing, performing, helping on committees) and was encouraged to get involved in as many things as possible. Some of my best friends now are Queeners as well.

I’ll never forget being a fresher and all second and third year Queeners knowing my name when I had only been there a few weeks and always saying hi wherever you saw them. It’s a funny thing you take for granted and it always made me feel so at home especially living in London now, where the British can be very sombre.

I was in the 2nd rowing team in my first year and that year, we won all four races for the first time ever in history. That was a pretty epic day.

In second year, I shared a ‘wiveing’ door with one of my best friends at Queen’s which was such an amazing year. I also used to go into her to take some baked goods when her mum had stopped by (thanks Julia) They were the best cookies. 

I sang in the chapel choir and we had a brilliant choir director, Matthew Champion. One year we did a concert of Faure Requiem and it was one of the most beautiful concerts I’d ever sung in. 

From a professional capacity, I was really involved in the various committees like SAC, Ball committee and MADS. I loved that organising side of things and after finishing my degree wondered, ‘How do you organise an orchestra?’ I feel that the experience at Queen’s definitely informed my steps after university and 10 years into my career, I am thankful for that. I feel lucky to have a job where I get to be creative, work with such a wide range of people, create formative musical experiences and be around some of the best musicians in the world.

While I was at Queen’s I was one of four music students in total. Our music tutorials were some of the loveliest, and had a supportive atmosphere (shout out for Gladys Chua (2005)). We were encouraged to make mistakes and be vulnerable. I think back on these and feel they were quite formative in a personal and professional way. For anyone I manage and work with now, I always try to encourage that mistakes are good and help you learn. 

There was a ‘lads’ culture at Queen’s when I was there and I hope that that has stopped now and women are treated with more respect. 

I also saw the Johnson wing will be renamed which is good and perhaps there will be more recognition of brilliant women from Queen’s on buildings? What about all buildings named after women? It is called Queen’s College after all. 

We need more affirming of women as we are underrepresented, especially for people of colour from underrepresented backgrounds. More consideration is needed as to what degrees are being undertaken, and how scholarships could be used to help balance and ensure greater diversity. 

I work for the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) in the music education team, LSO Discovery, as the LSO Choral and Schools Projects Manager. LSO Discovery is the learning and participation team and we run one of the biggest music education and community programmes in the United Kingdom. I oversee two strands of activity – the LSO Sing programme and Schools and Family concerts. The LSO Sing programme is made up of four choirs and often culminates in large singing events such as a Gospel Symphonic concert with c. 350 singers, full orchestra and international soloists. The Schools and Family concerts are focused on introducing the orchestra and classical music in a fun and engaging way. Through this programme, we meet over 22,000 young people each year and also work on resources for teachers which are freely accessible. I also oversee regional partnership work which connects the LSO to local communities outside of London and I produce the yearly LSO Discovery showcase featuring all elements of education work. It’s a very varied role and this week I ran five school concerts and a youth choir concert. 

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