Born in London, John Cushing grew up in Liverpool. He began playing the clarinet at the age of thirteen and, after leaving school, studied with Sidney Fell at the Royal Manchester College of Music, where he was awarded the Hiles Medal. He later continued his studies in London with John McCaw.
After five years as Principal Clarinet with the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera, John was appointed Principal Clarinet with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in April 1978, a post he held until September 2014, 36 very happy and fulfilling years. He has appeared as soloist with the Orchestra on very many occasions, and has an extensive Concerto repertoire, including Sir James Macmillan’s clarinet concerto “Ninian,” which was written for and dedicated to him and recorded by John on the Bis label. In other concertos John has appeared as soloist with conductors as diverse as Rattle, Berglund, Bamert, Gibson, Jane Glover, Takuo Yuasa, Weller, Lazarev, Walker and many others.
John has given many other World and Scottish première performances of works for solo clarinet and chamber ensemble, most recently pieces by John Adams, William Sweeney, Ted Kirk and again James Macmillan, this time a piece for clarinet alone – From Galloway- which is also dedicated to him.
As a guest orchestral player John has performed as Principal clarinet with many of the British symphony orchestras.
John Cushing has a particular interest in chamber and contemporary music and over the years has been a member of and guested with a multifarious variety of Scottish and UK based ensembles.
John has taught clarinet at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (formerly the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama) since 1978 and gives masterclasses and recitals throughout the country, primarily with pianist Scott Mitchell. He is Director of the Harrogate Summer Clarinet School.
He was very proud to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate from RCS in July 2014 and in 2015 was the recipient of the Royal Philharmonic Society Salomon Prize. John is a trustee of the RSNO Foundation.