Visionary conductor and cultural leader Marin Alsop receives an honorary doctorate from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Visionary conductor and cultural leader Marin Alsop receives an honorary doctorate from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Published: 07/06/2022

Marin Alsop in gown and holding scroll in her official portrait upon receiving an honorary doctorate from RCS

A pioneering musician and cultural leader, considered to be one of the finest conductors of all time, has been honoured by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Marin Alsop, the first woman to lead a major American orchestra at the Baltimore Symphony and the first woman to conduct Last Night of the Proms in 2013, was presented with an honorary degree in music from Scotland’s national conservatoire, named one of the world’s top five destinations to study the performing arts*.

As well as the United States, Marin is the first woman to serve as the head of a major orchestra in  South America, Austria and the UK. She is internationally recognised for her innovative approach to programming and audience development, her deep commitment to education, and her advocacy for music’s importance in the world.

Marin was recognised by Scotland’s national conservatoire not only for her outstanding musical career but for her commitment to music as a powerful enabler of change. She is the Founding Director of OrchKids, the music programme designed to create social change and nurture promising futures for youth in Baltimore City neighbourhoods.

Due to orchestral commitments, Marin’s degree was conferred in London and recorded. The video was shown today at a special day of celebration at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland for the returning classes of 2020 and 2021, who missed out on their graduation ceremonies due to the pandemic.

Tomorrow (Thursday, July 7) is RCS’s summer graduation where more than 300 students will graduate across three ceremonies. The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland will also present honorary doctorates to actors Ncuti Gatwa and Sam Heughan, both graduates of RCS’s BA Acting programme, and composer Errollyn Wallen CBE.

Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “Marin Alsop is an extraordinary musician and cultural leader. Her CV is, by any standard, stellar and is accompanied throughout by the sounds of glass ceilings being shattered and history being made.

“She is, without doubt, one of the finest conductors of her generation, leading many of the great orchestras of Europe and the Americas in live performance and recordings.

“What makes Marin truly exceptional is the leadership she has shown in enabling music to be a vehicle for transformational social change. Not only is she the first woman to conduct a top-flight American orchestra at Baltimore Symphony, she also established the groundbreaking OrchKids programme, designed to nurture promising futures for youth in Baltimore city neighbourhoods. OrchKids has gone on to transform so many lives and is now a much-copied model around the world.”

In her video message, Marin said that as artists and creative thinkers, graduates are ‘exactly what the world needs right now’.

Marin Alsop said: “You bring beauty and emotion to a world that desperately needs both. Never forget what a privilege it is to be an artist and I hope you will feel the same amazement I first felt when I actually got paid to do what I love to do.

“Please always bring your best selves to your work, always support each other — there’s room for everyone in the arts. I’m counting on you to be the great future citizens of the world, the future is whatever you choose to make it. It’s your own destiny.”

Marin currently serves as Chief Conductor of the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, the first Music Director of the University of Maryland’s National Orchestral Institute + Festival (NOI+F), and the first Chief Conductor and Curator of Chicago’s Ravinia Festival, where she curates and conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s summer residencies.

She is also Conductor of Honour of Brazil’s São Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP) and holds the title of Music Director Laureate and OrchKids Founder at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, after recently concluding a 14-year tenure as its Music Director.

As well as enjoying long-standing relationships with the London Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras, she regularly guest conducts such major international ensembles as the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Orchestre de Paris and the Cleveland, La Scala, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Philadelphia and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestras.

An ardent champion of new composition, she was Music Director of California’s Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music for 25 years. Last season, in collaboration with YouTube, Google Arts & Culture and a host of the world’s leading arts organisations, she spearheaded the #GlobalOdeToJoy, a crowd-sourced video project to celebrate Beethoven’s 250th anniversary and amplify his Ninth Symphony’s call for tolerance, unity and joy.

The first and only conductor to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, Marin has also been honoured with the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award and numerous honorary doctorates. Recognised with Grammy, Classical BRIT and Gramophone awards, her extensive discography includes recordings for Decca, Harmonia Mundi, Naxos and Sony Classical.

To promote and nurture the careers of her fellow female conductors, in 2002 she founded the Taki Concordia Conducting Fellowship, now renamed in her honour as the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship.

The Conductor, an award-winning documentary about her life, debuted at New York’s 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.



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