Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

BSCP Story of Us

The Crimson wrote of us many years ago, calling the Brattle Street Chamber Players, "An electrifying mixture of zaniness, bombast, and the finest individual musicianship that Harvard has to offer." 

Founded in 1998, the Brattle Street Chamber Players (known affectionately as "Brattle" or "BSCP") is Harvard's only conductorless all-strings ensemble, comprised of around 15 violinists, violists, cellists, and bassists. Without the leadership of a conductor, as is customary for classical music ensembles, the BSCP is run through processes of collective decision-making among the members of the ensemble. The group is committed the purest of ideals of music making and provides Players with a unique musical experience not found elsewhere in Harvard arts. The ensemble performs on a semesterly concert cycle, which typically involves several shows. Each semester has a main performance, which occurs in Paine Hall in the Music Department. The program features an hour of music selected by the ensemble at the beginning of the semester, typically two or three works. BSCP also frequently collaborates with other performing arts groups in their performances. This past season, members of the BSCP performed with the Harvard Ballet Company for a custom choreographed dance with live music. The BSCP also participates annually in the ARTS FIRST festival presented by the Harvard Office for the Arts. In years past, we have been featured during the ARTS FIRST kickoff event as well as special collaborations with visiting artists.

The leadership structures and practices for the Brattle Street Chamber Players have experienced a few iterations in recent history. Although the ensemble is conductorless and the musical decision making process in rehearsals is open for everyone in theory, in years past the practical realization of this ideal has taken a few forms. Most recently, the ensemble is run by a multi-person Brattle Board, which is comprised of 3-5 Players who are selected by the previous Board on an application basis. Among members of the Board, tasks are roughly divided and no formal named positions are assigned. Everyone is considered a Board Member. Typically, Board takes care of concert planning, publicity, finances, and other logistics, in addition to planning rehearsal schedules and taking the lead in rehearsal when there are moments of less participation. However, prior to the formation of a Board in 2018, Players who were in the senior class, and thereby more experienced would take on a de facto role as leaders of the ensemble due to their seniority. In some years, this meant one individual took on the primary leadership role for the entire ensemble, taking care of all logistical and administrative items as well as serving as the driver during rehearsals. This often meant being the voice of reason and voice of ground truth when the ensemble was in disagreement or unsure of how to move forward. A core aim of this action research is determining what works and what doesn't in light of what the ensemble has tried before, and what current members of the ensemble think is the best way forward.

Some archival reviews from the history of the ensemble:

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