Creative Culture column: MK City Orchestra success is music to Damian’s ears

Richard Bateman, Creative Director at creative agency, westfourstreet, has joined Celebrate:MK as a columnist. He starts off with a Q&A with Milton Keynes City Orchestra’s Music Director Damian Lorio to discuss the orchestra’s cultural impact.

You’ve been music director of MKCO since 2014, but your history with the city pre-dates this?

Yes, a long time before that. I used to attend concerts as a child at Stantonbury Campus. Both my parents played in the orchestra, so we’re going back almost 40 years. My parents started not long after the orchestra was founded.

I’ve tried to bring in as many players as possible with some kind of connection with Milton Keynes. Many of our players have either been brought up in the area or have relatives living here and to have that connection is wonderful.

You’ve travelled the world and performed at many different locations. What’s special about Milton Keynes?

Here in Milton Keynes it’s quite incredible what happens. There is a different expectation from the public and, as music director, I also have to understand and respect that and there are two parts to that.

In many ways we play music that people want to hear but at the same time, in the arts, you can’t just sit back and follow. You have to also lead.

What about your audience?

We have a strong following here in Milton Keynes but not enough to sustain the orchestra, which is why it’s important to reach beyond the local area. We’re noticing a much younger audience too, which is fantastic.

Having music in schools and exposing local students to music will help bring about a more cultural society with a greater appreciation of their culture and heritage.

For a city which has only just celebrated its 50th year, how do you see MKCO contributing to the city’s culture?

I’ve been thoroughly impressed with what I see around me in Milton Keynes. I’m so impressed with the energy and the drive of people in the city and there is a desire which I find just fantastic. It’s what’s required to push the evolution of culture in a young but flourishing city.

What needs to be done to safeguard the future of MKCO?

A lot is down to funding and reaching out to businesses as well as philanthropy. And in this country, interestingly, philanthropy is the one that really pushes the arts forward.

As for the strategy – the Chairman, Marian Livingstone and the Board of MKCO are responsible for the strategic direction of the organisation and I feed into the creative, performance and education narrative. This all helps achieve a sustainable organisation which adds value to the culture of MK.

Which events can we look forward to this year?

Every concert is a highlight for me. Chloe Hanslip, a major UK violinist will be here this month (February). The MK youth orchestra will be performing Finlandia playing side by side with our professional musicians in the same concert, which will be fantastic.

In March we have one of the world’s greatest pianists coming, Stephen Hough, who plays around the world. Please come join and enjoy the concerts.

Visit for further information.

This column was published in the February 2018 issue of Celebrate:MK lifestyle magazine. Read the full magazine above or by clicking on this link.

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