Meet Jonathan Chapman, a Masters Music student who will perform for the last time as part of the RCS Symphony Orchestra on Friday 27 April before he finishes his studies and graduates.
Jonathan talks to us about how his musical horizons have been broadened from studying at the RCS and gives an insight into what it is like to be a part of the RCS Symphony Orchestra and play alongside internationally-renowned professionals such as Alpesh Chauhan and Eric Sammut.
What does it mean to you to perform as part of the RCS Symphony Orchestra?
The three Symphony Orchestra concerts are the highlights of the year for me and many others in the School of Music. Putting into practice the work that I have done in my own practise time is some of the most invaluable experience I have gained from my time at RCS.
Simulating the environment of a professional orchestra also helped inform me about the lesser known but still crucial aspects of working alongside almost 100 other people from day to day, including everything from time-keeping and other “administrative” considerations to social intelligence.
When did you first become a member of the Orchestra?
I have been fortunate enough to have played in Symphony Orchestra concerts since the beginning of my first year at RCS. I played Bass Drum in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier Suite, and immediately had my musical horizons broadened far beyond anything I had experienced in high school.
Playing in the percussion section alongside students during my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees have set a new bar for the levels of focus, discipline, and musicality that have been expected of me for the entire six years I have been a student here.
Do you have any warm up techniques that help you prepare for the concerts?
I think just about every musician that wants to pursue performing as a career has a personalised routine to warm themselves up. Due to the variety of instruments under the purview of Timpani and Percussion, my preparation includes everything from scales and arpeggios to playing rhythmic rudiments with a pair of cymbals. I have even known someone to bench-press a xylophone, so whatever works for you I suppose”¦
In terms of preparing for a Symphony Orchestra programme, however, one of the most effective forms of preparation that we undergo as a department collectively is the study of the repertoire in classes taken by Timpani and Percussion faculty members. These are opportunities for us to ask the questions we could or would not ask in rehearsal, familiarise ourselves with the piece, both as a whole and from the perspective of our section, and to draw on the vast expertise of our teachers. We never reach the concert platform without being 100% confident and considered in what we are about to do.
What advice would you give a student that is just starting out in the RCS Symphony Orchestra?
There is much more to learn from playing in this Orchestra’s concerts than the notes on the page in front of you, so take as much from them as you can.
Do you have any other highlights from your course?
The Symphony Orchestra also performs a concert specifically for fellow students to play various Concerti with an orchestra. I was extreme lucky to be given the chance to perform Joseph Schwantner’s Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra in March 2018, and it was something that I will be benefit from for the rest of my career. Learning to play as a soloist, work alongside one of the Leverhulme Conducting Fellows, and perform under increased pressure are just some of the positives afforded to me by that opportunity.
Our departmental concerts with International Marimba Fellow Eric Sammut offer huge amounts of the same benefits as the Symphony Orchestra, except with the added focus on percussion. Playing heavily involved and exposed chamber music may seem totally disconnected from orchestral parts that are sparse and seemingly insignificant, but music is music and you can never be too musical.
How has your course helped you prepare for working within the professional industry?
I participated in the apprenticeship schemes for both the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and both proved to be extremely valuable exposure to the professional world and professionals alike. I have also taken part in numerous side-by-side opportunities with Scottish Opera and the RSNO.
Lectures and presentations given by the heads of large artist and musician management firms have also resulted in many valuable freelancing opportunities.
What has been the best thing about studying at RCS?
With regards to the Timpani and Percussion department, I do not know of anywhere else that has such a high ratio of facilities to students. For the best part of six years, I have had essentially a free run at however much practise I wanted to do – something not many other places in the world can boast about.
Having somewhere like this to study in a city as vibrant as Glasgow, and in a country as beautiful as Scotland, is a combination that is pretty hard to beat I reckon.
See Jonathan perform in the RCS Symphony Orchestra, tickets are available at our Box Office.