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Get to know our adjudicators

Luan Shaw will be adjudicating music classes at WCAF this year. Read on to learn a little bit more about her and find out about her Minecraft cats and her fantastic advice for preparing for the festival.

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Dr Luan Shaw



Dr Luan Shaw has been an adjudicator member of the British and International Federation of Festivals since 2001, initially as a woodwind specialist, and since 2005 as a generalist, adjudicating across all disciplines.

Luan's portfolio career spans 30 years, involving solo, orchestral, and chamber music performance, recording for television and radio, instrumental, classroom and ensemble teaching. She has delivered hundreds of music workshops and interactive performances in nurseries, primary schools, special schools, hospitals and care homes and has conducted choirs and instrumental ensembles in her local community. Luan was Head of Instrumental Studies at Hallfield School in Birmingham from 2000-2008 and a Moderator for AQA's A-Level Music examinations (focusing on performance) across 2008-10.

Luan worked as a Diploma examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music from 2008-22, and was a recording artist for their 2018-21 clarinet syllabus. In addition to performing with the CBSO, Manchester Camerata, BCMG, Opera North and Longborough Festival Opera, Luan was Co-principal Clarinet with Orchestra of the Swan from 2007-2021.

Luan is now Director of Postgraduate Studies (Music) at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, where she has taught since 2011. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and was made an Honorary Member of RBC in 2001. In her former role as RBC’s first Head of Pedagogy (2011-2018), she led the significant expansion of provision for instrumental teacher education across the RBC curriculum. Luan has also previously held the position of Interim Vice Principal, with oversight of learning and teaching in Music. Luan is passionate about helping students to build their portfolio careers. Her doctoral research, completed in 2022 focused on facilitating the transition from student to professional through instrumental teacher education in conservatoires and she now publishes and presents her research via international journals and conferences. Luan received a National Teaching Fellowship from Advance HE in 2023 in recognition of her outstanding commitment to music education and her championing of instrumental teacher training.

We caught up with Luan to find out a little more about her:

What are your top tips for preparing for a performance at a festival?

1. Ensure that you practise performing your piece all the way through without stopping several times in the weeks leading up to the festival. This will help you to build up stamina and concentration. Perform to family, friends, teddy bears, pets - whoever will listen!

2. Each time you do a complete run through, make a note of any errors so that you can go back and attend to these. Practise tricky rhythms or finger patterns out of context several times. Then cover these tricky bits by running through shorter sections of 1-8 bars, gradually returning to full run-throughs, until you can play your piece without tripping up. 

3. If you can practise with an accompanist before the day, do take the opportunity. At the very least listen to a recording, following your part through and learning how the accompaniment fits with your part. Practising counting bars rest is also important here!

4. Always remember to communicate character throughout your performance. Ensure that you observe and interpret the composer's tempo and style markings and exaggerate dynamic contrasts as much as you can so that you make your performance interesting and engaging.

5. Take plenty of time to tune carefully before you start, and adjust your music stand so that you feel comfortable on stage. You need to be able to see your accompanist and ensure that your audience can see you!  

6. Remember that the audience and the adjudicator are looking forward to hearing and seeing you perform and have come to the festival to have a good time. They are not sitting there hoping you'll mess up! So enjoy yourself!

7. Do take a bow at the end, and thank your accompanist!

Who is your favourite composer/performer and why?

This is an impossible question to answer as I love so many different styles of music! However, I am extremely fond of Harmoniemusik - music for large wind ensembles. Mozart's Serenade for 13 wind instruments and Dvorak's Wind Serenade are particular favourites, as well as the Harmoniemusik arrangement of Beethoven's 7th Symphony.

What is your first memory of performing at a festival yourself?

My very first experience of performing at a festival was at the age of 12. I entered four classes and was inspired by hearing older, more advanced players. This spurred me on to learn new repertoire I hadn't previously heard of. I also learned how to bow and remember bring very embarrassed about doing it, but it became easier with practice!

What is your advice for dealing with nerves?

Before you go on stage, take several slow, deep breaths in and out, whilst reminding yourself you CAN do this because you love the music and want to share it with everyone! Of course, preparing thoroughly and practising carefully (with an accompanist if possible) all helps with building confidence. While you are playing, focus on enjoying playing and sharing your music.

What is your favourite food?

All the things I probably shouldn't eat!

Where is the most exciting place you have adjudicated?

Adjudicating is always exciting! It doesn't matter where it is! I get a real buzz from hearing young people making music and trying to help them further their musical journeys.

Do you have a pet? If so, what is it and what is/are their name(s)?

I have two nine-year old cats called Pretzel and Cornflake. They are named after two ocelots created by my younger son on Minecraft!

Tell us a little-known fact about yourself...

After having my first clarinet lesson at the age of 10, I went home and asked my Mum if I could be a clarinet teacher when I grew up. I never looked back!

Thanks so much for letting us get to know you a little better, Luan! 

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