• WOMEX 20 Digital Edition
  • 26-29 MAY 2021
  • ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
Interview with Belle Chen

Show Them Your Best

What does it take to put together a successful showcase and what opportunities lie ahead for those who take to the stage at Classical:NEXT? One showcase artist offers insight into her preparations and shares her experience.

Classical:NEXT caught up with 2018 Showcase Artist Belle Chen at the Southbank Centre in London. Following her tour of Sweden and publication of her guest article in Gramophone magazine, both of which were results of her Classical:NEXT performance, we wanted to find out her top tips for preparing and executing a successful showcase. Overlooking the Thames, Belle explained the multi-prong approach she used to make the most of her Classical:NEXT experience.

“After finding out that I was one of the Showcases, the first thing I did was figure out what a Showcase actually is. I perform solo concerts normally, but showcases are shorter and so I did research on what format it is and what kind of audience would be there.” Classical:NEXT showcases are 30 minutes each and therefore need careful preparation. “I spent the weeks before designing a showcase set that would grab attention by the minute. I wanted to bring my highlights, the best of, as opposed to just playing repertoire or a more paced out show as I normally would. I work a lot with sound and I do a lot of improvisation as well, so what I did was start to video myself actually and I had session fillers and I would watch myself and try put myself in the shoes of the industry, of people just coming in and out, asking myself all the time ‘If I came in at this point, would I stay or would I leave?’ And I kept polishing.”

I spent the weeks before designing a showcase set that would grab attention by each minute. I wanted to bring my highlights, the best of, as opposed to just playing repertoire or a more paced out show as I normally would.

Belle Chen about being chosen as a Showcase for Classical:NEXT

“What was really useful for me was reaching out to the Australian export body, which is Sounds Australia, who was able to give me the insight on how to design the show and what to prepare.” Music export offices can provide Showcase artists much support both before, during and after an artist’s performance, from funding and financial support to on-site promotional help. Belle received helpful support from Sounds Australia and was told to come with a good amount of promotion material, including flyers, posters, CDs, USBs and importantly, an image that will grab the attention of the delegates. The promotional material can be made available at the Expo stands and handed out throughout Classical:NEXT.

Before arriving in Rotterdam, Belle also added a personal touch. “I went through the Classical:NEXT database and the Who Is Coming list and I wrote everyone a nice short email, just to say this is who I am, this is what I do.” The preparation was key to the success of Belle’s showcase. By getting in touch with the tech team at De Doelen ahead of the performance, Belle was able to walk on stage and know she felt comfortable and was in a good place.

Once Classical:NEXT has begun, Belle recommends the following: “Make sure that the industry can contact you. If it’s too hard to contact you, you might have a brilliant showcase and everyone will be talking about it, but at the same time, after they go back home to their countries, they just forget about it.” So, what is the best thing to do? Make sure your phone number, email and social media links are all on the flyer you produce, that also has a photograph and information about what it is that you do.

As for Belle’s top tips, they are:


  • Show them your best.
  • Be prepared – get to know who will be there. People are friendly in the industry and they want to be advocating for you.
  • Have fun!


Belle Chen just premiered her solo show at King’s Place in February 2020 and will perform at London’s Southbank Centre in May 2020.