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Graduate Destinations: First jobs … where did you go from here?

Adam Lee

Bachelor of Music – Clarinet, 2021

Principal Clarinet No.2, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

RCS Woodwind Ambassador

What are you working on at the moment?

At the BBCSSO, we’re fast approaching the end of our 2023/2024 season and beginning to look forward to an exciting Proms and Edinburgh Festival season in the summer. I also have some upcoming solo appearances which I’m very excited about, performing two of my favourite concertos – Mozart and Copland!

What were your first jobs after graduating?

After graduating in July 2021, I went on to study at the Royal College of Music until July 2023, which is when I started my current job as Principal Clarinet No. 2 at the BBC SSO.

Any career highlights?

I’ve been very fortunate to have so many incredible experiences. Some that immediately jump to mind are a memorised performance of Shostakovich’s 9th Symphony with Aurora Orchestra, James MacMillan’s clarinet concerto Ninian at the RCM and an electric Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony with the BBCSSO and Ilan Volkov at the 2023 Proms.

How did RCS prepare you for the industry?

The sheer variety, amount, and quality of music that I got to play gave me so many opportunities to develop my skills and push myself outside my comfort zone. Orchestral repertoire classes helped me build a solid foundation in playing as a wind section in an orchestra.

I developed and honed my skills in performance classes and orchestral, chamber and contemporary projects. The key takeaway for me was that all my experiences at RCS helped me ensure I could rise to any technical, musical or professional challenge.

What did you enjoy most about your studies?

The highlights were my weekly lessons with my teacher, John Cushing – we covered a huge amount of repertoire in the most inspiring, exciting and encouraging ways. John helped me realise what I wanted to achieve and gave me the tools to go and do exactly that.

Does anything stand out from the training that you’ve carried into your professional life?

My teacher, John, knew how to push me to achieve my potential but he could also tell when I was pushing myself too much. And so, he helped me to “learn when you need to take a break”. It can be tempting to fill every gap in your day, especially when you’ve got a lot coming up, but I realised over time (and wish I had sooner!) that you achieve less if you’re not in the right physical or mental state. It sounds obvious to say but it can be easily forgotten when you’re faced with a lot of work and practice.

What would you say to those thinking about studying at RCS?

Choosing to study at the RCS was one of the greatest decisions I have made, both professionally and personally. When I look back at the course of my career so far, my studies at the RCS were a time of exponential growth and personal development.  The nurturing environment is such that I was able to rapidly develop as a musician, but also as a person thanks to the supportive staff and students around me. It’s a wonderful, inspirational place to learn.