Dr Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey

Dr Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey is the Director of Performance at St Catherine’s College, holds a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the University of Sheffield and is Associate Conductor of the Orchestra of St John’s. She holds postgraduate degrees in orchestral conducting, percussion and musicology.

Publications include ‘The Body Orchestral’ (2018), a book chapter exploring the cognitive mechanisms underpinning co-performer communication, ‘Digital Methods in the Study of the Nineteenth-Century Orchestra’ (2020) in Nineteenth-Century Music Review, ‘Technologies for investigating large ensemble performance’ in Together in Music: Participation, Coordination, and Creativity in Ensembles (in press), and ‘Agency, Creativity and (Inter)action in Orchestra Performance’ for Making Music Together: Analytical Perspectives on Musical Interaction (forthcoming).

My research is focused on the social-psychological and socio-political aspects of orchestral music-making – from the intricacies of co-performer communication in modern and historically informed contexts, to the politics of participation and orchestras’ geo-political significance.

I explore these questions through a blend of practice-based research and empirical investigation – combining my work as a conductor and performer with my academic pursuits. A focus of my work has been to develop new technological solutions for addressing methodological hurdles in orchestral research, such as gaining access to performers thoughts and experiences while engaged in the act of performance and capturing micro-timing data from large numbers of orchestral players simultaneously.

My doctoral research at the University of Oxford studied creativity and authorship in orchestral performance by investigating the influences that shape orchestral players’ musical ‘decision-making’ in rehearsals and performances while my postdoctoral work on the AHRC-funded Transforming 19th-Century Historically Informed Practice studies the consequences for performers and listeners on experimental approaches to 19th-century style, with a focus on the effects of ‘expressive asynchrony’.

Two recent initiatives which combined my role as associate conductor of the Orchestra of St John’s and my research interests have been in collaboration with composer/researcher Toby Young: Displaced Voices and Journey: Bridging Cultures Through Music. Both funded by Arts Council England and The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, they explore the impact of intercultural socio-musical initiatives on musicians, participants and audience members, through a mixture of artistic practice and empirical data collection.

In March 2021 I began a three-year Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the University of Sheffield focused on current and historical orchestral activity in Afghanistan.