A man in graduation robes outside the Royal College of Music

Principal positions in top UK orchestras won by Royal College of Music woodwind graduates

Thursday 5 October 2023

Five Royal College of Music clarinettists have secured positions with the UK’s leading orchestras.

Clarinettist Adam Lee joined the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra as Principal Clarinet no 2 in July 2023. His first performance with the orchestra took place at the BBC Proms less than a month after graduating from the Royal College of Music’s prestigious MPerf course with the Tagore Gold Medal. 

Elliot Gresty, who graduated from the same course in 2020, was appointed Principal Bass Clarinet of the BBC Philharmonic earlier this year, while the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra has appointed MPerf graduate Emma Burgess as Principal Second Clarinet, a role that she began last month. Jonathan Parkin, who completed both his Bachelors and Masters programmes at the Royal College of Music, has been appointed Second Clarinet in the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and BMus graduate William Knight is Sub-Principal Clarinet at the Welsh National Opera Orchestra. 

This quintet of recent clarinet success follows on from Matt Glendening’s appointment as Principal Clarinet with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in 2021, the year after graduating from the Royal College of Music BMus programme.

Adam Lee comments: ’The Royal College of Music helped me to take massive strides towards pursuing a career as a professional clarinettist. Whilst there, I was surrounded by a supportive community of staff and students who helped each other to reach their full potential. Having the privilege to study at the College gave me access to world-class teaching, orchestral projects with renowned conductors and inspiring classes which enabled me to reach new professional and personal heights. Through the College, I was introduced to a wide network of musicians and cultural organisations which expanded my horizons and professional work prospects significantly.’

Marie Lloyd, Royal College of Music Head of Woodwind, comments: ‘I’m delighted that musicians graduating from the Royal College of Music are acknowledged to have the qualities valued and sought after by the music profession, both in these recent fixed position appointments and also the myriad of freelance work offered to our exciting students and recent graduates.’


RCM woodwind players have also been awarded places on leading training programmes and fellowships, giving them a valuable springboard into professional orchestral life. All five woodwind positions in the 2023–24 London Sinfonietta Academy scheme have been awarded to RCM musicians including current BMus student and oboist Alex Franklin, alongside 2023 Masters graduates: flautist Cara Houghton, clarinettist Rowan Jones, saxophonist Sophia Elger and bassoonist Amy Thompson.

Clarinettist Méline Le Calvez has been awarded one of only four places on the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2023–24 Emerging Musicians Fellowship, alongside fellow graduate double bassist Danny Cleave. Furthermore, 2023 graduates Francis Bushell (MMusPerf) and Amy Thompson (MPerf) have been selected for the two bassoon positions in the Southbank Sinfonia, an orchestra made up of the world’s most promising graduate musicians. 

The London Philharmonic Orchestra’s Foyle Future Firsts programme also helps bridge the transition between education and the professional platform. Recent graduates including flautist Marie Sato, clarinettist Méline Le Calvez and bassoonist Bruce Parris benefitted from the programme over the past year, with current student Maria Filippova joining the scheme for 2023–24. 

Find out more about the RCM Woodwind Faculty which nurtures students in a supportive environment, enabling them to grow into confident and imaginative performers. Students enjoy a wide variety of performance opportunities throughout the year, and all woodwind students have the opportunity to play in RCM orchestras and work with some of the finest visiting artists in the world.

This news item appears in the 2023 Autumn edition of Upbeat magazine.

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