Class of 2020

Class of 2020

Published: 02/07/2020

From a global TV star, arts leaders and broadway legends: the messages of inspiration and hope for Scotland’s national conservatoire’s Class of 2020

A Hollywood and TV superstar, a Broadway icon, an internationally acclaimed opera singer and the legendary composer of musical Wicked are amongst a cast of leading lights in the arts world who have delivered special messages to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Class of 2020.

Alumni, staff and industry figures also shared heartfelt words of hope, inspiration and congratulations to graduating students in a special online celebration, on the day that Scotland’s national conservatoire was due to hold its summer graduation ceremonies (July 2).

In a day of activity across RCS’s social channels, with a piper and the premiere of a newly commissioned ballet work created in lockdown, famous alumni toasted the next generation who hope to follow in their footsteps. Here’s a taste. (Scroll down for the full-length video).

Sam Heughan, the Hollywood actor and star of hit TV series Outlander, said he would ”˜raise a glass’ to the RCS Class of 2020.

He said: “I know that the time I spent at the Royal Conservatoire really helped me in my career and I hope that when you look back, you too will be able to draw upon the experiences and great tutors that you had.

“Right now, I know times are challenging but hopefully the beginning of a new normal and new future. You will be instrumental in forging this new world so there’s a lot to be excited about and to look forward to. Enjoy yourselves; I hope you get to celebrate with your friends and family.”

Alumna Karen Cargill, one of the world’s leading mezzo-sopranos who has graced the finest stages from the Metropolitan Opera in New York to London’s Royal Opera House, encouraged students to ”˜tell their stories’.

“Huge congratulations to the Class of 2020 on completing your degree and going out into the big wide world to create your art. We are living in a strange time right now where everything is unsure and uncertain. Yet these are the times that great art is often created. You have fresh voices, perspective and talent in order to make us all reflect on who we are as humans and this world that we live in.

“Focus on your voice, your strength, know who you are and teach us something about ourselves. Music, art, dance it’s all conversation and more than ever now we need to talk to one another. Be strong, be brave, know your worth and tell us your story.”

Sam and Karen were joined in the exclusive twenty-minute video by Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Principal, Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, playwright Bonnie Greer, musical theatre icon Donna McKechnie and Scottish Ballet CEO and Artistic Director Christopher Hampson, who paid tribute to students’ resilience, commitment and creativity during the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Addressing the Class of 2020, Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “The RCS community is incredibly proud of its Class of 2020 and it has been a privilege to be part of their artistic journeys here in Scotland.

“As human beings, we’re the author of so many of our own problems but as artists, we’re the author of so many of those solutions. Human beings will always need art, they will always need to have their stories told and shared, and they will always need and have this desire for self-expression and shared expression.

“I’ve seen some amazing work during the time that we were together physically but also during the lockdown period. Some of the work produced individually, or within cohorts, in every one of our genres, has been incredibly powerful, uplifting and moving.

“I very much hope and expect that the adaptability that you had here at the Royal Conservatoire genre fluidity, collaboration between the arts and the spirit of sharing that is part of Scotland’s make-up, will be part of them forevermore as they go on into the world with our love and congratulations.”

Broadway icon Donna McKechnie, who visited RCS in summer last year to launch a musical theatre scholarship in her name, sent her good wishes from New York City. Donna, who starred in the original Broadway production of A Chorus Line, said: “I want to congratulate the graduating class of 2020 you have worked so hard and accomplished so much to be where you are at this moment in time.

“It’s just the beginning of what I hope is a long, happy and successful life in the performing arts. You will be defining the future for all of us and I have great faith in you. The time will come when we can be together again so keep the light on, one step at a time.”

Playwright and author Bonnie Greer OBE, who received an honorary doctorate from RCS in 2018, said: “I have no idea how the future is going to proceed although I can tell you that I write plays because that’s what I am, I can’t help it. You write plays because that’s what you are and you direct, dance, compose and design because that’s what you are. I believe that the thing that you are, what you are, will find the space in the audience, in the moment. Break a leg.”

Christopher Hampson, CEO and Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet, added: “Huge congratulations to you for all of your hard work. You’re graduating into a year that is quite extraordinary and I’m excited for your generation. Be brave, be curious and be strong.”

The multi-award-winning lyricist and composer Stephen Schwartz, whose theatre credits include Wicked, Godspell and Pippin, introduced a video of the graduating BA Musical Theatre class who performed four songs from musical The Baker’s Wife.

The premiere of a new dance film, Bound, was shared with online audiences. Created by final-year students of the Modern Ballet degree programme and renowned choreographer Diana Loosmore, Bound reflects the journey of lockdown and the commitment and need to continue to dance. The dancers filmed their performances at home from the UK and Ireland to Australia and Cyprus using their own mobile devices via Zoom.

The annual Principal’s Award for All-Round Excellence was jointly presented to BA Acting student Felixe Forde and Bachelor of Music student Christopher Michie.

Felixe, who was part of the UK theatre tour of Pride and Prejudice (*sort of) said: “RCS has been a huge place of growth for me, for which I will be forever grateful. I’m extremely surprised to receive this award.”

Flautist Christopher, who won the Governor’s Solo Woodwind Recital Prize in 2019, said: “I’m incredibly honoured to receive this award, it means a lot to me and my family. RCS has truly changed my life for the better and propelled me to achieve my dreams. I’ve been incredibly lucky with supportive parents, family, friends and teachers, all of whom I can’t thank enough. This award is as much mine, as it is theirs.”

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Watch the full-length video below

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