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Alumni speakers gathering before Music Alumni Day 2016
From left to right: Christopher Bell, Katie Overy, Peter Nelson, Vicky Arlidge and Suzanne Parry
Image courtesy of Anna Cervinkova

We were delighted to welcome five Music alumni who returned to Alison House to talk to current students and staff about their lives and careers since graduating. Dr Katie Overy ran the first Music Alumni Day in 2012 and there has been a repeat event every two years since. The event is an opportunity to celebrate the many and varied successes of Music alumni through the years, to find out what people have gone on to do, and to provide an insight for current students into how they might approach their careers after graduating.

Each of the alumni spoke for about twenty minutes, talking about how their careers unfolded, the opportunities that arose, the challenges they faced, and how they have approached their working lives. One recurring theme throughout the talks was how opportunities that arose did not always take the form that might have been expected.

The returning alumni were:

Vicky Arlidge, BMus, 1993

Vicky is a composer, musician and musical comedian, who has written music for television, theatre, audiobooks, children’s concerts and radio for over twenty years. She has also performed at Glastonbury and the Edinburgh Festival. Vicky has been nominated for many awards and has enjoyed a successful career, and was interested in giving students "an honest account of the highs and lows of trying to make a living as a composer".

Christopher Bell, BMus 1983 and MMus, 1984

Christopher is Chorus Director of the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago, founder and Artistic Director of the National Youth Choir of Scotland, Chorus Master of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, and Director of the RSNO Junior Chorus. He was named Scotsman of the Year for Creative Talent in 2001 and in 2003, and has been awarded honorary doctorates at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the University of Aberdeen. In 2013, Chorus America awarded him the Michael Korn Founders Award for the Development of Professional Choral Art.

Peter Nelson, MMus, 1977

Peter is currently the Professor of Music and Technology at Edinburgh College of Art. His compositions have been commissioned internationally by, among others, the BBC, Radio France, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Dunedin Consort, Teatro la Fenice, MusikProjekt Sachsen and Edinburgh International Festival. Between 1977 and 1979 he was a Forman Fellow in Composition at Edinburgh and then worked in community arts at the Anderston Arts Centre in Glasgow. He then went on to briefly study at the experimental music studio of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and afterwards began his career as a lecturer at the University of Glasgow and the University of Nottingham, where he was director of the electronic and computer music studios.

Suzanne Parry, PhD, 2012

Suzanne studied composition at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and her Masters was supported by a PRS Foundation scholarship. Her portfolio was recorded by BB National Orchestra of Wales. Through winning the Conservatoire Composers Forum she made her London debut in the Purcell Rooms at the State of the Nation Festival. She was invited to pursue a PhD in Edinburgh by Nigel Osborne, who she met during her time as Associate Composer at Music Theatre Wales. After her music was featured in the opening of the International Conference on Music Since 1900, Suzanne has worked widely in theatre, dance and concert music. The focus of her recent work has shifted away from the established concert platform and onto arts, heritage and public engagement.

Isobel Waller-Bridge, BMus, 2007

Isobel is an award-winning composer for film, television and theatre, whose work includes Fleabag (BBC/Amazon), War & Peace (BBC, Emmy Nominated for Best Score), Frozen Planet (3 BAFTA wins, RTS nominated), and True Appaloosa (BBC4). Isobel has won a number of prestigious awards, including Best Composer at the BAFTA-recognised Underwire Film Festival, and winner of Best Sound Designer at the Off West End Theatre Awards. Last year, Isobel was commissioned to write a large scale work for orchestra, choir and electronics for Durham Lumiere, the UK’s biggest light festival. She recently released her debut album, Music for Strings, a symphonic album of works for string orchestra.

We are very grateful to our five alumni speakers for participating, and look forward to the next Music Alumni Day.