Philip Carne

Philip Carne

Scholarship Donor Philip Carne talks about the enjoyment he gets from his new “extended family” of RCM Scholars…


What is your musical background?

My musical background is zero. I went to a small grammar school on the Welsh borders, which didn't have a music programme, so I never had the opportunity to learn an instrument. But in my formative years I would listen to the radio a lot, and music became a great passion, which has stayed with me all my life.


How did you come to the Royal College of Music?

I retired to London 10 years ago after more than 30 years overseas, and we bought a flat here in South Kensington. When I discovered that the RCM was a 10 minute walk from our flat, I came to some concerts and immediately loved it. It's a wonderful time of life to indulge my passion for music.


How did you come to give an RCM Scholarship?

At someone's final recital here at the RCM, I found myself sitting next to [RCM Director of Communications] Sue Sturrock. We got chatting, and she told me of a couple of foreign students in financial difficulty, so I said I'd help out. I then followed up these young people and went to their concerts, and found it so rewarding that my wife and I eventually decided to set up a trust to help students in the performing arts. Through our trust we now support annually more than 20 students of music and drama across various institutions in London.


How does the scholarship work?

The RCM, which is the largest beneficiary of our trust, each year suggests five or six postgraduate students whom we might support. This year in addition to the two original beneficiaries who are now doing postgraduate study, there is a superb Chinese pianist, a wonderful cellist from Belarus, and a talented clarinettist and tenor from Wales.


Do you keep in touch after graduation?

Yes, it's rather nice when they keep in touch with us. They often email me, and tell me about their future performances, which we try to attend. There are so many ways we can continue to help them as they struggle with their careers. For example, we are funding a concert at the Purcell Room for a young Malaysian violinist, we have covered costs of recording sessions and bought instruments for others; we even helped someone with an emergency medical problem. It's all about “making a difference” to their lives.


Why choose to help people with their education, specifically?

There has always been a reverence for education in Wales, and I am of that generation when that was how people from ordinary backgrounds could progress in life. I was fortunate to grow up after the war when university education was free - had it not been so, I could never have studied at Cambridge, which was such a life-enhancing experience.

These days, everyone has huge debts, so there's an even greater need to help talented students. Of course, I recognise that many of them will not achieve their ambitions, because they are entering such a competitive world, and there are so many talented people out there. But at least it gives them a chance to succeed.

Frankly, as a non-musician I am in awe of their talents; it's humbling yet exhilarating to see how good they are. People say “isn't it noble what you are doing?”, and well, it may be so, but it's also intensely rewarding. My wife and I have the most wonderful time seeing these young people grow and flourish. They are like an extended family to us.


And it’s not just financial help you give, I gather?

My involvement is very personal - getting to know them individually, providing not just financial support, but moral support too - giving advice when asked, going to concerts, telling them that we believe in them, which can be very important, particularly if they are far from home and family.


Are there any other benefits for you?

Well it’s a wonderful opportunity to enhance my own musical education and knowledge. I have grown to appreciate early and Baroque music through our sponsorship of harpsichord and recorder students, and my knowledge of the chamber music repertoire has expanded enormously. Not only do I attend concerts at College, but I look out for recitals by RCM students at churches and concert halls throughout London.

The RCM is like a spiritual home, and I look forward to many more years of continued involvement with its talented students and its extensive musical programmes.

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Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BS. Tel: +44(0)20 7591 4300 Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BS.
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