Principal’s Graduation Address

Principal’s Graduation Address

Published: 08/07/2016

Lord Vallance, Honoured guests, Graduates, ladies and gentleman

Thank you all for joining us on this very special day.

May I start by offering my warmest congratulations to you, the members of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s ”˜Class of 2016’.

Every one of you sitting up here with me should be incredibly proud of what you have achieved. I’d like to thank you all for you’ve contributed to our community, inside and outside of these walls, through what you have, dreamed created and shared.

We’re also delighted today to have been able to celebrate and honour our new professors and our supportive friends (the Companion Emeriti)

  1. And it would be remiss not to add a very special word of congratulations for to our newest honorary doctor. Or, on this occasion, our new Doctor, Doctor.

David, we’re just thrilled to have you here. Your inspired work on the 3 great platforms of stage, film and television serve as a touchstone for all of our actors – and you were the reason my daughters allowed us to move to Scotland, knowing you were an alum of RCS. Thank you for your thoughtful words earlier.

  1. Sir Matthew – we are inspired by your visionary and pioneering work in dance, and I can see some of your influence in our own student dancers who are now making their own choreography more daring and personal –
  2. Ralph – I am honoured to call you a friend – you are an inspiration for us all as the virtuosic artist and teacher – one who makes no distinction between those pillars of artistry – and who inspires us into developing our own teach arts for Scotland Programme

Now back to you, the Class of 2016.

You have shown yourselves to be great citizens of the conservatoire, of Glasgow and of Scotland. As you go from here to be citizens of the world, it is with our love and encouragement to be the best that you can be.

In thanking you and celebrating your achievements, there’s a group of very special people that you and I also have to thank for the part they’ve played in supporting you and that’s your family and friends here to share this moment with you today and those not able to be with us today.

Graduates, just as they are celebrating your achievements can I ask you to be upstanding and to applaud your audience – as a way of saying thank you for being here and thank you for everything they have done to make your journey to the RCS possible.

Thank you to our family and friends.

Given recent events and given the great uncertainty which now seems to be a permanent but ever-shifting fixture in all our lives, I don’t mind saying to you that giving advice feels, at times, like a pretty tough and almost impossible task.

Like many of you I’ve felt great moments of anger and despondency over the last few weeks, probably more intensely than any time I can remember before.

I’m worried that so many of the values that you and I share and cherish like those of equality, of empathy and of breaking down rather than building up barriers – are being callously disregarded wherever we care to look.

It truly saddens me that in the last few weeks alone we’ve seen horrific violence in Orlando, Turkey, Bangladesh and Baghdad just to name a few. In the US presidential elections and then”¦.here in Britain’s post Brexit febrile environment, we’ve seen too many examples of Jonathan Swift’s aphorism – “Falsehood flies and the Truth comes limping after it”

As human beings who live for creativity, empathy and collaboration, this is not a world we choose to recognise. As we see people retreating into prejudice, tribalism and intolerance we should be reminded of the words from the recently deceased Nobel Prize winning author Elie Wiesel. He warned us all that “the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

On behalf of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland community I say to all of you that we are and remain resolutely international and people-centric in both our community and our outlook. We exist to break down barriers and find the places of meaningful connection between people, between places and between art forms.

Every person with the greatest potential to thrive here is welcome here regardless of the colour of their national flag or their skin; regardless of their faith, economic background, gender or sexuality. As Scotland’s national conservatoire, this has been our mission, it is our mission and will continue to be our mission, regardless of those who say and do otherwise in this world. Ladies and gentlemen, the world is always welcome here at Renfrew Street. And we are all the better for that.

So, as the new graduates of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland you now go out into these uncertain times. I encourage you to use everything that this place and the people you have encountered here in this city and this nation has given you over the last few years.

Use your art. For it is art that enables us to express love and all ranges of emotions more deeply, more effectively, than simple written or spoken words – far more than ephemeral posts, texts and snapchats

As our populations grow, as different peoples, formerly kept apart, come together – art builds bridges, explains actions and motivations, and shares joy

At a time when too many people feel they have no voice – that they are at the mercy of events and decisions beyond their control, at the point where they just might lose hope – we artists give them voice and perhaps, with a fair wind, restore their hope.

We articulate what people find too painful to say, we speak truth to power, we convene ideas and we create communities when forces have set them asunder. We also capture joy, imprint memories and reveal hidden truths

In short – the world needs us needs you perhaps now, more than ever.

As the world reeled after the death of President Kennedy in 1963, the great Leonard Bernstein called on artists everywhere to respond by making art more intensely, more beautifully and more devotedly than ever before.

I send you from here with that same mission across arts forms, across communities and across nations wherever your life leads you next.

Name the unnameable, communicate the unknowable and help us all find a way to a better, and kinder future.


Thank you

Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, Principal

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