Graduation – Principal’s Speech
Catch up with anything you missed from our autumn graduation ceremony by watching the live stream and read the closing speech from our Principal, Professor Jeffrey Sharkey.
Honoured Guests, Graduates, Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you all for being part of what is always a special moment for us at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
May I start by offering my warmest congratulations to you, The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Class of 2018. We are immensely proud of each and every one of you.
I’d also like to add my congratulations to our new honorary doctors Frank Quinault and Tim Smith. Frank, you have been such a thoughtful and learned friend to the conservatoire Your work helping us with our undergraduate review was timely and full of warm encouragement. And although Tim was unable to be with us I trust that, Jim, you will convey to him the esteem in which he is held by this community and the excitement we share to honour such a creative musician.
It’s also a great pleasure to welcome Gavin Reid as a Fellow for his service on our Board and his partnering with so many RCS students during his former time at the BBC and now with the SCO. Andrea Gajic as a Professor of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland for your important commitment to pedagogy and the outstanding work with students of all ages. Thank you both for your service and commitment to this community.
We’re all gathered here today for a number of reasons: To mark & celebrate achievement, to reflect on the impact that time here has had on each of us and, perhaps, most important of all for those of you graduating today, to look forward and outwards, to life beyond these walls.
What a time to be in the Performing Arts!
Every day, if we can bear to watch the news, we see reasons why we need to be better at being human. This is why creative, empathetic, thinking people like you are needed. You are bridges to society, showing what we can be, or a mirror to what we have been.
If experts are to be believed we sit on the cusp of a 4th industrial revolution. This time it’s a cognitive revolution; one in which robots and AI will eventually undertake all but a few functions and tasks, the ones that require the very human qualities of emotional intelligence, empathy and creativity.
So what must you do to have impact and thrive in this fast-changing environment?
Work hard at own craft, be open to sharing and learning from other disciplines, be aware but not afraid of the world as it is, be optimistic about what it could be
All our arts rely on connections between moments – movement in time. We are not a static object like a painting (though even those can have a movement).
A single word, a single gesture, a single note, a particular lighting moment in and of itself does not make our art come to life – it is the joining of the notes, the lines, the gestures, the scenes that creates the flow and conversation on needed to make our art.
In these challenging times of conflict and change – embracing the strength and importance of your art will be essential. You know that. But many schools, authorities, governments the world over have forgotten what the Western, Eastern, African cultures knew thousands of years ago – that artistic education is not simply a luxury, but an essential for a healthy society.
“societus” in Latin means comradeship, companionship, friendly association and bond between peoples. Can you imagine that being achievable only with finance, engineers, and computers?
So I urge you to continue to develop your talent to its fullest potential. Open your mind to new possibilities and share what you learn. See how your art can make you a relevant and valued contributor to your society.
In this the centenary year of his birth, composer Leonard Bernstein is as relevant and resonant as ever in defining what this means and I’d like to end by quoting him. He said:
It is the artists of the world, the feelers and the thinkers who will ultimately save us; who can articulate, educate, defy, insist, sing and shout the big dreams.
So as the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Class of 2018, be true to yourself, remember why you came here. And whatever you do next – leave this place shouting those big dreams.