Spotlight on Samantha McShane

Sam returned to RCS eight years after graduating from the BMus programme to head up the Artistic Planning team. Here, she shares some of her highlights of the past year.

What does the Artistic Planning team do at RCS?

Team AP is, quite physically, the central hub of the School of Music. We work closely with every department, all music students and industry partners across Scotland and beyond.

Our role is two-fold: Looking forward and planning exciting, collaborative projects that will inspire our students and audiences, and the care and management of every music performance from that initial booking right through until the last note has been played,

It can be tricky to find a balance between planning long-term – booking big artists two/three years in advance – and reacting to what is happening in the industry now. It’s so important that we are aware of the current professional environment and finding ways to reflect this in our programming.

Within Team AP, we all have different roles but everything we do is driven by creating the best performances opportunities for students, identifying repertoire that students will both love and be challenged by. I constantly ask myself “Who can we collaborate with next?” and it’s these creative possibilities that gets us exited for the next season – and the season after that!

As a graduate, what’s been the most surprising thing you’ve encountered returning to RCS as an employee?

Without a doubt, the thing that’s surprised me most is how much everything has grown. I was away from the conservatoire for eight years and in that time, it’s changed so much. From the physical campus, to degree programmes, to the ambitions and reputation of the Royal Conservatoire – it makes me proud to work for one of the world’s best performing arts education institutions.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see how well RCS does to keep up with what the professional industry needs, and how the curriculum reflects that; there’s not many places that have been so quick to do this and it makes our student experience so much more relevant.

Finally I think I was taken aback at just how much went on behind the scenes. When I was a student here, I was very much focused on my own practice and rehearsals; I didn’t realise how much of a machine the conservatoire was and exactly how much work went on to make each performance a success.

It’s exciting for me to be back and be a part of this great machine!

What have been your performance highlights of the year?

The Day After – Not only did the students do an incredible job but seeing this production in such an intimate venue as the Alexander Gibson Opera Studio made it such a powerful experience.

Decibel Ensemble – They opened the Plug Festival and performed some of Ed Bennet’s work alongside the compositions of our students. Seeing such passionate performers play new work by our students was a real highlight.

Last Futures – This was the first big collaboration I was involved in and I was amazed at how much the students from all departments embraced the theme and worked together to create this new performance piece.

For Sylvia – This was one of the most powerful performances I’ve ever seen and took place during the Plug Festival. It was so intimate and raw, and the musicians used movement and dialogue in a way I’ve not seen before. You could tell how much the piece meant to the students and I thought it was an incredibly brave performance.

Favourite moment of 2017/18?

Highlights of the past year include Symphony Orchestra, and seeing the students come off stage with the feeling of excitement and sense of achievement from the performance, as well as our innovative Plug Festival.


What performances can we look forward to from the School of Music next year?

We can’t wait for Malcolm Martineau to return in January with a new series of A Life in Song – kicking off with Catriona Morison.

And last but definitely not least, we’re thrilled to have Sheku Kanneh-Mason join us in February to open our new Cello Festival.

And that’s just a taste of what’s to come!

Seeing the students come off stage after so many hours of practice and rehearsals, and playing on the edge of their seats for the whole symphony – there’s no better feeling.

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