Tell us about your background
I was born and grew up in Aberdeen. I began playing clarinet when I started high school, and within weeks, was removed from group lessons to have individual lessons because I was moving through the beginner book faster than the others.
There weren’t lots of kids playing instruments at my school, so I had to go elsewhere to join ensembles, and I started in the Aberdeen City Youth Wind Band first, and then joined the Aberdeen City Youth Symphony Orchestra. I absolutely loved both and it was then I decided this is what I wanted to pursue. I moved to Glasgow in September 2000 to study at RSAMD, and 23 years later, I’m still here!
What sparked your love of the arts?
I started piano at about age seven, but I didn’t stick it out because I was more obsessed with being an actor! I took part in all the musicals at primary school, then when I got to high school, did everything from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie to My Fair Lady.
The final show we did in 6th year was Bugsy Malone and they thought I was maybe too old (rude!) to be in it, so I joined the orchestra instead and I absolutely loved being in the pit. I would describe my musical tastes as ‘eclectic’. I love rock music just as much as classical!
What was it like training at the RSAMD?
In my first year I felt very out of my depth. I could play pretty well but my technique needed a lot of work. After year one, I did a year of continuing education to focus on technique. All I had were lessons and practise time, and that was the time I really needed, and it was great that the RSAMD had that option to support students who just needed a bit of extra help.
Everything at school was so rushed, lessons were short, and we were always preparing for the next exam. After my year on continuing education, I felt more confident and I knew I was a more rounded player. I was involved in so many projects like Symphony Orchestra, Opera, Side by Side projects, Big Band and I even did a concerto with the RSNO. I completed my MMus with Distinction in 2007 and was ready to face the world.
Who was your most inspirational teacher?
I first started with John Cushing, who was at that time the principal clarinet of the RSNO. I listened to countless recordings where he was on it and his playing was sublime. He was supportive and knowledgeable, he really nurtured me through my undergraduate.
In my postgrad I moved to Maxi Martin, who is the principal clarinet of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. He knew I could play, but he really wanted me to PLAY! He’s such a fantastic performer and he passed on so much knowledge to me. It was taking it off the page and performing no matter what.
In my final recital at RSAMD, I turned the page of our last piece, Poulenc Clarinet Sonata and I threw it off the music stand. I tried to play it from memory but it wasn’t happening, so I calmly stopped and picked up my music, while my accompanist kept going, and I got back to it in good time for the big ending. I got an amazing mark for that because it’s genuinely something that could happen in the profession, and the exam panel felt I dealt with it well. I think that was down to Max. I could hear him in my head saying, ahhh whatever, keep going!
What has been your most memorable moment from your career so far?
This was quite different a year ago, but this academic year I’ve had the pleasure of working on GRIT, with our orchestra, singers, trad musicians and jazz musicians. The first concert we did in December 2022, finished our 175 anniversary celebrations, and it was some of the best music making and audience reception I’ve seen at RCS, ever.
The students were ‘all in’ led by the brilliant Greg Lawson. He facilitated us, through his vast contacts, to perform it again as part of Celtic Connections, performing on the final weekend at the RSNO New Auditorium. Again, the students were sensational and the sold-out audience reception certainly backed that. Dedicated, committed, and just having a lot of fun, which to watch is incredible.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
Don’t dwell on things you can’t change. Learn from the past and use it positively to move forward. You never stop learning and it’s ok to admit you got something wrong.
What do you love most about your job?
The students. Everything we do in our department is with the students in mind. We care so much about them and ensuring their experiences are positive. When you have watched a student walk in, aged 18 and leave aged 21/22, playing their instrument professionally to an extremely high level, it makes me so proud. I feel like their mum!
I also love working in the Artistic Planning Team. I think we’re a hardworking and passionate team that will go out of our way to help anyone who asks for it. The team are also the funniest bunch of people you’ll ever meet and working with them all every day is a total joy. That’s what makes me love my job.