By Michelle Keong
Over the summer, Doctor of Musical Arts student Kristen Cooke received an opportunity of a lifetime.
As the first winner of the Royal Over-Seas League UK Scholarship for a BC Emerging Musician, the UBC oboist got a taste of professional music life in the UK, working with British and Commonwealth musicians, and performing at London's Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and British Isles Music Festival.
The Royal Over-Seas League (ROSL) has had a long history of supporting and nurturing talent from Commonwealth countries. Along with existing scholarships for aspiring professional musicians from Australia and New Zealand, ROSL has now offered their first musical scholarship in Canada. Each scholarship package includes an incredible itinerary of performing concerts at iconic venues and attending coaching sessions with prominent musicians in London. To top it off, recipients enjoy an all-expenses-paid trip with time to explore.
“We are thrilled and grateful that the Royal Over-Seas League has generously offered this opportunity to a UBC student,” said Richard Kurth, director of the UBC School of Music.
“ROSL provided Kristen with a wealth of artistic experiences that were wonderfully multi-faceted, carefully tailored to her needs, and comprehensively transformative for her professional development. The ROSL Arts programs, under the leadership of Geoff Parkin, are very impressive indeed. And much credit goes to Elizabeth Murray, president of the BC ROSL chapter, and to local members, for creating this wonderful opportunity for UBC Music students!"
In addition, Cooke received complimentary tickets to attend some of the finest concerts of the season, including a BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall, featuring a new work by Mark Simpson.
“It was a reminder that classical music is relevant to our time and appreciated by millions of people around the world,” said Cooke of Simpson’s The Immortal. “The combination of the crowd’s energy, the brilliant performance, the iconic, massive beauty of the hall is something I will never forget.”
Here are excerpts from an interview with Cooke, fresh from her month-long UK tour:
How has the ROSL UK Scholarship for a BC Emerging Musician supported your learning as a doctor of musical arts (DMA) candidate and prepared you for a career after graduation?
Going to the UK as a BC Emerging Musician contributed to my confidence as a performer, my awareness of the greater musical world, and my development as an artist. As a DMA candidate in oboe performance, I have spent the last several years refining my playing while deepening my understanding of my instrument in a historical and cultural context.
I gained a greater appreciation for the history of classical music; it’s one thing to read a textbook and quite another to stand in the church frequented by Handel! I made connections that I hope to maintain with colleagues from 70 different countries. Most of all, I was reminded that art has the ability to cross the borders of countries, languages, beliefs, and even time to bring the world closer together.
What was the most memorable experience from the tour?
My most memorable moment was warming up before my final recital of the tour at St. Martin-in-the-Fields church. I was nervous for this performance: it would be my biggest audience by far, and the venue was so iconic (St Martin’s is a popular tourist destination and a big name in the classical music world, famous for its acoustics, architecture and central location in Trafalgar Square).
As I ran through the repertoire with fellow ROSL scholars, people from all over the world began filtering in. I was struck, in that moment, by the absolute beauty of what we do as musicians. It’s easy to forget, given the often competitive nature of our field and the solitary hours spent in the practice room, but the main point of all of this is to connect with our shared humanity. It was this connection that I felt at St. Martin’s that day, and I hope to remember it as I go forward in my career.
Any final thoughts?
I would first and foremost like to thank the BC chapter of the Royal Over-Seas League, and in particular Elizabeth Murray, president of ROSL’s BC branch, for starting this excellent scholarship program. I’m also grateful for the ROSL ARTS team in London. They were the primary organizing force behind my visit. I felt warmly welcomed at every stage of the trip, from offers of concert tickets to suggestions of what to eat in Scotland! Finally, a big thank you to Dr. Richard Kurth, director of the UBC School of Music, for helping to bring this opportunity to UBC performers. I sincerely hope that the UBC-ROSL relationship can continue for many years in the future.
Auditions for the 2018 Royal Over-Seas UK scholarship happen on Jan. 20th, 2018. They are open to the public.
To learn more about ROSL, visit https://www.rosl.org.uk/rosl-arts.