Emily has a MA (Hons) in European Studies from Aberdeen University and a PGDip in Performance (violin) from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD). She is currently first violin tutti for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
When I graduated, I moved home to Glasgow and worked for two years in a field related to my first degree. During this time, I started taking violin lessons again as it was something I had done from a young age; I had played at a high standard before university, had been a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland and attended the junior department of the RSAMD.
My teacher was a principal player in the Scottish Opera Orchestra. He was very encouraging and got me freelance work with the orchestra. I loved this experience and it inspired me to continue practising although it was hard to find time alongside a full-time job. I decided to hand in my notice at my job and do a one-year postgraduate degree in performance at the RSAMD.
I did various auditions for orchestral jobs to no avail, until I sent a recording off to the Orquesta Sinfonica de Tenerife. I worked there for almost a year before deciding to return to the UK and freelance, while having more lessons in Glasgow and London. I began to get more freelance work with various orchestras including the BBC SSO until one day they offered me a trial for a vacancy in the violin section. After a few months I was given the job and have been there ever since!
Every few weeks we do performances in other cities around Scotland as well as in Glasgow. Other weeks there may be a series of children’s concerts, or a radio programme such as Discovering Music for Radio 3. We have recorded TV programme soundtracks and occasionally play live film scores along with a film screening. Roughly once a year the orchestra will go on tour; this year we will go to Germany and Orkney. We also play at the Proms in London every summer.
As a tutti section player your job is to learn notes and play them! You are expected to be able to do that well from day one, so as such there is no development in your core job. How much you develop your role outside the day-to-day work is up to you, there are opportunities for performances outside the orchestra, in chamber groups or in solo recitals. There is also the possibility of getting involved in education work or tutoring the orchestra’s amateur partner ensemble, Merchant Sinfonia.
I love the fact that I am lucky enough to have a job doing something that I enjoy… it sounds like a cliché but, especially having worked in another field first, I realise that, although it can be hard work sometimes, it is a privilege to play and share music with each other and with audiences.
Whether you’re in a full-time job or freelancing, working in this sector is always exciting; there are always new challenges and you never know what you’re going to end up doing, whether it’s travelling to China, or being booked to play on stage with Bill Bailey or Kanye West.
If you want to perform, the only way to do it is to work as hard as you can, to practise for hours every day and to get lessons from the best possible teachers, attend chamber music courses etc; take initiative and do as much as you can.
It can be very challenging and competitive when starting out, but if you are willing to work hard, and if you are motivated to put in the hours of practice, and not be put off by rejections when you first audition for jobs, then it’s all worth it in the end.
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