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Music at St Andrews: the best of all worlds

Fiona Croal (MA 2019) discovered that St Andrews offers the best of both worlds to those who are passionate about music: she was able to graduate in Economics while still enjoying all the wonderful opportunities and modules that the Music Centre here has to offer. She describes how these experiences have shaped her future career.

Fiona on Graduation Day 2019 

I came to St Andrews to study Economics, but halfway through my degree I realised that my passion and desired career lay instead in music performance and administration. I therefore decided to commit to what I had started and pushed on with my degree, while also making the most of the many musical activities on offer at St Andrews.

In my final year of university, I became President of the University of St Andrews Music Society, when I gained extremely valuable experience in managing and coordinating musical projects. I was also given permission to take a music performing module which counted towards my degree classification. This gave me the opportunity to perform Elgar’s Cello Concerto with an orchestra – something I would never have dreamed that I would get the chance to do!

As a result of all these musical experiences at university, I applied successfully to become the Graduate Trainee post for 2019-2020 at the University’s Music Centre. This is run in collaboration with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) – the University’s Orchestra in Residence since 2009. The SCO come to St Andrews over the course of each academic year and perform two lunchtime concerts and five evening concerts, as well as giving two masterclasses to students, delivering a workshop in local primary schools and performing Big Ears, Little Ears concerts for babies/toddlers and their parents/carers.

Nikita Naumov (Principal Double Bass, SCO) performing at the Byre Theatre with university students (Fraser Band photography)

My traineeship with the University’s Music Centre and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra has been a fantastic experience. I have been involved in so much activity with both organisations. Highlights have included working with the SCO’s Creative Learning department on a number of projects, including ReConnect for patients in dementia wards, Big Ears, Little Ears for children aged 0-4 years old and managing StAFCO (St Andrews and Fife Community Orchestra) which is an unauditioned group for players of all ages and abilities.

Luxmuralis at Holy Trinity Church with The Gesualdo Six

Another highlight was the St Andrews Voices festival which took place in October 2019. Throughout the festival, I worked closely with Luxmuralis – a team of artists who set light projections to music around St Andrews. This was unlike anything I had ever done before, and it was so interesting to be involved in.

I have learned so much from this role, including what I want my future career path to be. When I first started this job, I wanted to become the orchestra manager of an established British orchestra. However, since my time with the Creative Learning department, I have realised how much I enjoy working with children and that I would love to continue doing so – whether it’s in a musical capacity or otherwise.

The Music Centre and the SCO were preparing for an extremely busy March and April, with numerous concerts and projects occurring. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, all of those plans were unfortunately cancelled and everyone is now working from home. I am sad that my internship has finished without being able to properly say goodbye to all of my wonderful colleagues at St Andrews and SCO! It can be scary to think that I have no employment lined up and that no jobs of interest are being advertised due to COVID-19, but I know that this internship has given me incredibly valuable experience, and I can’t wait to see what comes next – whenever that may be!

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3 thoughts on "Music at St Andrews: the best of all worlds"

  1. Good Luck Fiona! It was a pleasure to work with you on several extremely successful and enjoyable projects in Holy Trinity Church. Your commitment, efficiency, patience(!), sense of humour (!!) and willingness to roll your sleeves up were invaluable. I still have the StAFCO biscuits (now out of date so destined for the birds) and may you never have to move another pew….
    With good wishes,
    Callum
    Callum MacLeod MA Music 1982
    Provost
    The Royal Burgh of St Andrews

  2. I agree with Callum, Fiona: you’ve clearly got what it takes for a successful career in the arts and/or working with children. I hope you don’t have to wait too long for new openings to appear again.

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