In Your Own Words: Else Torp, soprano and ensemble manager
What were you like when you studied at CBS?
I was all over the place. I soaked up knowledge from every course like a sponge – even the textbook “Gunnar Riis’ Sausage Factory”… discussions on pre-stressed concrete, shipyard aid, and other topics.
SPRØK was like landing in Paradise. I could not decide on what I wanted to study, but in the Cand.Merc.int. programme I got all in one. Per Kongshøj Madsen on macroeconomics, Hjalte Rasmussen on international law, and for my Master’s it was Strømgren and Elbeshausen’s double lectures on European identity/philosophy – it was a great inspiration.
I was a generalist with a capital G, and what I did not get in my studies, I found in my student jobs as a researcher for Piet van Deurs, as debt collector at BRF Kredit, and chairwoman/fundraiser for the Copenhagen University choir ‘Lille MUKO’. The day must have had more hours back then!
How did you get your first job after graduating from CBS?
I took a position as maternity cover with responsibility for the administration at ‘Den Anden Opera’ - The Other Opera, which led to a lot of jobs in the cultural sector.
Which moments in your career have been defining – and how?
I am fortunate to have been involved in many different types of productions and projects – where many tasks and individuals have meant a great deal to me. But I will pick three:
First: 2005 was the bicentenary of the birth of Hans Christian Andersen. One of the projects in the celebration was called Symphonic Fairytales - hosted by the music publisher Edition-S. Based on my experience as a festival organiser for ‘Dansk Komponist Forening’ - Danish Composers' Society, I was hired as project manager. I travelled around the world five times establishing more than 70 symphony orchestra concerts with new Danish music based on texts by Hans Christian Andersen. I actually didn't have the courage to do it – but I had an incredibly knowledgeable board of directors and a daily manager, who sent me off with full confidence that I could do it. That experience has been invaluable.
Secondly, after a number of years during which professional singing had taken up more time than administration, I was hired as Artistic and Managing Director for Danish Radio's choirs in 2013. As something new the position was to encompass the entire internal food chain of singers – from the choir school to the professionals. The job was like finding a treasure, and I could make use of my area of specialisation in ‘Management of Professionals,’ economic and artistic planning.
Unfortunately, after nearly two years the position was restructured—as a result of the 'DR Underholdningsorkestret' (Danish National Chamber Orchestra) being shut down— and I chose to return to music life outside the big organisation. That decision took a lot of thought, but my positive and negative experiences alike forced me to revisit the purpose of my work life, which has always been to further music and bring it to as many people as possible. Then you have to pick your tools and framework so that they best fit your temperament and purpose.
My third point is that today, I am a singer by deliberate choice (with Nick Cave, among others!) and manager for Theatre of Voices (TOV) – a vocal ensemble nominated for Nordisk Råds Musikpris and 2010 Grammy winner. TOV is led by the English conductor Paul Hillier, who creates the artistic profile and directs the group in a series of different projects – everything from film music (Jóhann Jóhannsson, David Lang, Arvo Pärt) to early church music and participation in large orchestral productions.
Direct communication with the public – the people who are there to experience art and gain from it – is essential for me. Music is a defining part of our human life and an important element in creating and maintaining cultural cohesiveness.
What is the most valuable experience you gained at CBS that you still use in your daily work?
That problems should always be seen in their cultural context and from several perspectives.
That communication, humane and carefully considered, is a key element in determining whether or not projects succeed.
And that SPRØK’s entire construction was a cure for narrow-mindedness – a toolbox to discover the world and approach issues with an open mind.
Have you maintained a relation to CBS since you graduated?
Not as active a relation as I would have wished, but fortunately I still keep in touch with some old friends – and I am always delighted when I look back on my time as a student!