The Oxford Festival Orchestra has two distinct aims: 1) to raise funds for charities supporting talented young musicians from deprived backgrounds; and 2) to give Oxford student musicians the chance to play with world-leading professional musicians. On 25 November they will perform Beethoven and Bruch to raise funds for the Davison Young Music Fund, which provides grants and scholarships to underprivileged young musicians. We spoke to current Medic student Arsh Patankar about his role in the Orchestra.

How did you get involved with Oxford Festival Orchestra?

Oxford Festival Orchestra’s Manager Felix Kirby and I knew each other through Oxford University Music Society (OUMS). While he asked me to play percussion for Dvorak in Hilary, we quickly became friends — at which point he realised that his orchestra and charity could greatly benefit from my experience in digital marketing. I’m hugely looking forward to seeing what we’re able to accomplish this term! I am currently building a custom emailing platform and we are planning how to expand Felix’s current online audience through short-form content.

Every penny from the ticket sales of your next concert is going to the Davison Young Music Fund.  Can you tell us a bit about what this charity does?

This charity is about giving underprivileged young talents a leg up in the music world through grants and scholarships. A past winner was voted BBC Young Musician of the Year title in 2022. Recently, the charity now aims to hand out awards totalling £4k every four months.

What do you play in the orchestra and how did you first get into playing music?

I was summoned on the day of the concert last Hilary to take over some percussion instruments – cymbals and triangle – which we managed with only a few problems. The main difficulty with these was counting and staying in time which I could handle from my experience in Grade 8 Drums and Grade 5 Piano. Having never read the music for either of these instruments, Felix quickly taught me so I could fit into the orchestra.

How do you balance extra-curricular commitments like the concert with your Medicine degree?

It just all seems to fit together wonderfully really. Currently I am only working in the ‘backroom’ on marketing with Felix. Our backroom could include a piano or (more likely) dinner and a bottle of wine. Felix has his engaging personality and incredible conducting skills that have already has brought in over 6 million views online and we plan to increase exponentially.

What area of Medicine interests you in particular?

Neurology is very essence of what makes us human — our memories, emotions, thoughts, and even our consciousness yet it is not completely understood. I would love my career to be in part of an area that is complex and currently developing rapidly – a part that is also currently under threat by competition with AI. I partly believe that the brain is comparable to a complex algorithm that has had millions of years to develop and, given the rate of progress of AI, we will soon have to find some kind of mutualistic relationship between the two. They are both a constant enigma and I hope I can be a part of future scientific progress.

What’s your favourite thing about Queen’s?

Queen’s does a lot of things very well, from our unique buildings to our welcoming community. I think especially our neoclassical Front Quad has a design that feels both grand and welcoming. It strikes a balance between grandeur and warmth. Beyond its structures, the diverse and spirited community within ensures that the College’s allure is not just in its majestic buildings, but also in the sense of belonging.

Arsh Patankar